This place appears as if a South East Asian city has been teleported and plonked into Peru. It’s so hot and humid, super sweaty and when it rains it absolutely pours. There is the constant roar of scooters, motorbikes and taxis – more two and three wheeled transportation then cars. Welcome to the jungle, Peru style!!
Most gringos come to Tarapoto to get on the river boats to Iquitos. We had been umming and ahhing about whether to go to the worlds largest jungle city that can only be reached by plane or boat. After a day in the humidity and busyness of Tarapoto (population around 65000) we decided against Iquitos (population around 500000) and 4 days on a cramped river boat there and back.
Instead we stayed three nights in Tarapoto and discovered lots of things to see and do. For example –
Sample the medicinal and aphrodisiac liqueurs (3s a glass) at La Alternativa (cnr Grau and C Morey).
Enjoy a cheap and tasty Japanese – Peruvian fusion menu for lunch or dinner at a cute restaurant across the road from La Alternativa. For 7s you can enjoy an entree, main and the refreshing chicha morada drink. Absolute bargain we came here twice!
Take a motor taxi (Tuk Tuk, 3s) to the Tabacalera del Oriente Cigar factory (Martinez de Compagñon 1138). A lovely young lady will show you through the factory where the tobacco is fermented, sorted and rolled into top quality Peruvian cigars and exported worldwide. The tour was free and you can buy some cigars at the end – perhaps to enjoy with your liquers at La Alternativa?
Visit the dusty Museo Regional (2s – near the Plaza on Jr. Maynas 177-179). Here you can see lots of taxidermied jungle insects, fish and animals, skeletons and a mummy. Also fossils, plants and pottery.
Support the Urku Estudios Amazónicos – a animal rehabilitation centre. Entry is 6s which includes a volunteer guide to show you around. Wear enclosed shoes and mosquito repellent. It’s located out of town at Jr. Saposoa 181. To get here you can take a Tuk Tuk – 8s one way and we walked the 20 mins or so back to town).
Head out to the beautiful village of Lamas for the day. Grab a Collectivo (5s) for the half hour drive. Once you’re here there are plenty of things to do –
Explore the gorgeous Castillo de Lamas (6s). An amazing castle built in 2005 by an Italian man to stimulate the economy after an earthquake. The views from the top are spectacular, as is the reproduced art and rock sculptures.
Have a look around the small but interesting Museo Chanka entry 5s Jiron San Martin 1165). This museum has wonderful displays showing the indigenous cultures from this area.
Just up the road from the museum is Violeta’s snack bar where you can grab a Cremelada to cool down.
Take a Tuk Tuk (2s) up to the Mirador Natural for views over the village and jungle before heading to the right and walking down the steps down to the village on the lowest level then jump in a tuk tuk and back to town for lunch.
In the afternoon hop in a Tuk Tuk (25s round trip – ask the driver to wait for you) to the Cataratas de Chapawanki (3s) a beautiful waterfall where you can swim in the rock pools.
We definitely enjoyed a few hot sticky days here before getting on the overnight bus back to the coast.