It may rank on the smaller side of South American nations, but Ecuador packs in an incredible array of natural wonders. It’s home to Cotopaxi, one of the highest active volcanoes in the world; it encompasses the ecological haven of the Galapagos; it touches the equator; and it’s home to an astonishing number of waterfalls, or “cascadas”.
Whether they plunge in thunderous might, ripple in serene grace, or serve as an arena for cultural traditions, these cascades are as much a part of Ecuador’s identity as its people, culture, and heritage. From the mystical to the mighty and beyond, we’ve rounded up some of the best Ecuadorian waterfalls.
The Devil's Cauldron Ecuador
The Devil’s Cauldron, a spectacular phenomenon in Ecuador’s province of Tungurahua, captivates visitors with its powerful torrents. Officially known as Cascada de Río Verde, it gained its notorious nickname, Pailon del Diablo, due to the devil-like face formed by the rocks beneath its waters. This towering 262-foot wonder, the tallest in Ecuador’s Andes region, presents a three-tiered display of sheer force, encased in a lush jungle teeming with diverse fauna. Here, the waterfalls of Ecuador unveil their truly dramatic side.
The Virgin’s Hair Waterfall
The Ruta de las Cascadas is a trail just outside Banos that encompasses some of Ecuador’s best waterfalls. And, while virtually all the waterfalls of Ecuador’s top waterfall route lie on the outskirts of the city, there is one within its very heart. The Virgin’s Hair Waterfall or “Cabellera de la Virgen” tumbles down the hill of Cerro Bellavista, its crystalline stream appearing to flow like delicate locks of hair. At 160 feet tall, it’s visible throughout Banos and overlooks its famous thermal baths.
El Chorro de Giron
El Chorro de Giron, or the “Jet of Giron”, is another example of the extraordinary beauty of Ecuadorian waterfalls. Perched just north of Giron town, this 250-foot waterfall, housed within an ethereal cloud forest, plunges in two stages into a pool, guarded by a gorge cloaked in thick shrubbery.
Many of the waterfalls of Ecuador and around the world have religious or spiritual significance. In the case of Peguche Waterfall or “Cascada de Peguche”, it’s the ceremonial site in the traditional sun and harvest festival, with celebrants using it as a source of purification. At 50 feet high and enclosed within a perfect v-valley near the city of Otavalo, there certainly is a sense of magic and mystique in its bucolic beauty.
The Condor’s Nest
South of Quito, the Rio Pita river surges with icy waters from Cotopaxi’s peaks. In the Ruminahui Canton, it plummets 260 feet into a verdant ravine, forming the Condor’s Nest or “Cascada Condor Machay”, widely vaunted as one of Ecuador’s best waterfalls.
The Great Pita Waterfall
In addition to the Condor’s Nest, the Rio Pita carves yet more striking waterfalls in Ecuador along its course. Amongst the largest of these is the 200-foot high Great Pita Waterfall or “Gran Cascada del Río Pita”, a testament to the river’s awe-inspiring aquatic artistry.
The Chamana Falls, one of the more unique waterfalls in Ecuador, presents a stunning seven-fold zigzag descent in the Ulba Parish of Banos. This 138-foot slalom embodies the dynamic flow of the Chamana River, creating a riveting sight.
Mindo Waterfall Sanctuary
A waterfall sanctuary certainly seems like the kind of place one would go to find some of Ecuador’s best waterfalls and Mindo does not disappoint. There are at least seven waterfalls in this cloud forest park. Of these, Cascada Nambillo is the tallest at 50 feet high.
One of the biggest waterfalls in Ecuador, Cascada de Mundug is estimated to have a drop of over 390 feet. Nestled amongst the mountains of Patate in the province of Tungurahua, it splits into two determined streams, both of which resemble bridal veils.
Dropping 328 feet into a mossy gorge, Tatala Waterfall is among the tallest waterfalls in Ecuador. Located in the canton of Pedro Vicente Maldonado in the province of Pichincha, its imposing stature doesn’t intimidate the local birds, who can usually be seen perching on surrounding rocks.
The Tallest Waterfall in Ecuador
On February 2, 2020, the tallest of all Ecuadorian waterfalls, San Rafael, mysteriously disappeared, believed to be due to a sinkhole diverting its waters. Though this 492-foot giant is no longer present, the Cayambe-Coca Ecological Reserve, its erstwhile home, still shelters numerous stunning falls, including Rio Malo, a 146-foot spectacle that rightfully earns its place among Ecuador’s best waterfalls.
Waterfalls of Ecuador
It may have lost San Rafael, but Ecuador still thrums with magnificent cascades. The waters of this fascinating nation, as they tumble from mountain heights and forested hills, tell a captivating story of nature’s grandeur, weaving a memorable narrative of Ecuador’s geographic and ecological charm. From Mundug to Mindo, El Chorro to the Devil’s Cauldron, Ecuador is overflowing with cataracts of all kinds.