Yumbilla Falls tumbles down over four tiers; in each the water cuts through the forest to momentarily pause in churning, rainbow-covered plunge pools before carrying on over the next rim.
From a distance, it looks like a sliver of silver parting the forest, serene and graceful. If you dare to get closer to a plunge pool, however, you’ll feel the raw power as the cascade batters the rocks, kicking up spray like a storm as it roars through the wooded landscape.
Yumbilla is the fifth tallest waterfall in the world. It’s tucked away in the Bosque de Cataratas Gigantes de Cuispes (“Forest of Gigantic Waterfalls of Cuispes”) near Chachapoyas, Peru. Watching the water cut down through the cloud forest for 2,940 feet is a stunning sight.
Though it’s beautiful, not many people have heard of Yumbilla Falls, and not many people have seen it—at least not in comparison to the far more famous and touristy Gocta Waterfall eight miles to the south. Both waterfalls are huge (Gocta ranks anywhere from 16th to a doubtful third tallest), and both were only recently made known to international audiences.
Yumbilla, despite outranking its neighbor in terms of height, wasn’t known globally until two years after Gocta gained widespread attention. For Yumbilla, international recognition came in 2007 following an expedition by the Geographical Institute of Peru. Researchers used laser instruments to determine its height. The locals, of course, have known about it for as long as anyone can remember.
Know Before You Go
You need a guide to enter the Bosque de Cataratas Gigantes, which you can arrange in Chachapoyas through Canyoning Explorer (an agency that specializes in canyoning and rappelling down Yumbilla and other nearby falls) or in Cuispes, the small town nearest to the falls. Once inside, a well-made circuit of trails takes you from one waterfall to the next. From Cuispes, you should be able to reach Yumbilla within two hours.
While trekking, keep an eye out for two of Peru's most fascinating birds: the marvellous spatuletail hummingbird and Peru’s national bird, the Andean cock-of-the-rock.