Mocoa is a small city on the fringe of the Amazon jungle in the department of Putumayo. It’s an unattractive and rather unfriendly place, which is understood given its difficult history with guerrilla forces (it’s safe now). As unappealing as my description may sound, a couple days in this city on the road to Ecuador is worth the trouble – not for the city, but for the natural beauty and wildlife around it.
Fin del Mundo
The top attraction sits just 6km outside of town. Fin del Mundo, which translates to “End of the World”, is a small nature park with a beautiful waterfall and swimming hole. To get there, you can take a camioneta (truck) bound for the town of Villagarzón. It can cost anywhere from COP$1,000 to $3,000, depending on the honesty of the driver. It’s best to go earlier in the day and leave in the early afternoon, but there’s a hostel inside the park (Huaca Huaca) and another just outside if you would like to stay longer. Also, you’ll probably have less of a crowd if you go on a weekday. We went on a Sunday and the place was jam packed with people.
Some people reported needing a guide to do the trail. It’s not necessary at all, but if you want to venture further into the jungle or do some extreme sports, you’ll need one. Ask your hotel to recommend a guide and you can hire one with a day’s notice.
Entering Fin del Mundo
Once you arrive at the entrance to the park, you walk down a path to a bridge. Cross it, turn left, and follow the river. Enter a small gate, keep walking uphill. You’ll pass a waterfall, small lagoon, hostel, and finally you’ll come to a structure where you register for the park. Admission was COP$2,500 per person plus a refundable deposit of COP$5,000 for plastic bottles and bags we carried into the park. We had to return with every item we reported to get the deposit back.
From the registration building, the real hike up to Fin del Mundo starts. It can be muddy, slippery, and sometimes dangerous. Bring good hiking boots, a lunch and snacks, and lots of water. There is a small restaurant along the way if interested. The path varies between pure mud, smooth rock, and slippery wood blocks and logs. It took us almost two hours at a decent pace to reach the end of the trail.
Near the end of the trail there are steep steps down to the falls and swimming hole. Be VERY careful here. It’s extremely slippery. Once you get down these steps and see the natural pool through the clearing, you’ll realize it was worth the effort!
A river with a small waterfall and swimming hole awaits those who finish the hike. The water is cold, refreshing, and crystal clear. The hike continues from there to another taller waterfall, but we decided to relax and enjoy a nice swim.
If you thought going up the trail was difficult, going back down is worse. Lots of people walking down the steps and back down the trail fell very hard. It took about an hour to descend. When we got back to the main road, it was nearly 5pm and there were tons of people trying to find a camioneta back to Mocoa. We waited almost an hour because they were passing completely full. This is why I say it’s best to go early and leave early. You’ll beat the crowds.
There are other waterfalls and hikes in the area, some needing guides and others you can do alone. Ask your hotel for suggestions.
Paway Centro Ecoturistico
Another great attraction in Mocoa that we didn’t have time for is Paway Centro Ecoturistico Amazónico. Paway is an ecological reserve home to several animals that live in the Amazon rain forest, many which are being rehabilitated. It gives visitors a chance to get to know some of the animals. It’s even possible to stay the night there. We were really bummed we couldn’t make it. Paway is located on the same road as Fin del Mundo, not too far away from the entrance.
In Mocoa, there is nothing to see or do. The main plaza is quite boring and lacks any wow factor.