Tarapoto Travel Guide: our most original jungle destination in Peru

Discover Tarapoto, the enchanting city in north-central Peru. From its stunning natural surroundings and rich cultural heritage to its off-the-beaten-path tourism and diverse attractions, Tarapoto offers an unforgettable experience. Explore the captivating Cordillera Escalera Conservation Area, immerse yourself in the local Quechua-Amazonian communities, or indulge in the eco-friendly lodges. Don’t miss the unique traditions of Lamas, Chazuta and the breathtaking beauty of El Sauce or Blue Lagoon. Tarapoto has it all.

Key features of Tarapoto

Tarapoto (356 m or 1,168 ft ASL) is the largest city in the San Martin region in north-central Peru and has grown to become a main commercial, tourism, and transport hub. Its strategic location – connected to the Upper Amazon and the historic city of Yurimaguas – has contributed to its economic prominence. 

The city is a popular tourist destination due to its appealing geography, calid climate, and accessibility. The city itself is not very large, so it can be explored on foot. Beware of the soaring temperatures and ensure you keep yourself well hydrated and sheltered from the sun. Alternatively, moto-taxis are an inexpensive and speedy mode of transportation, although it’s worth noting that they create noise disturbances and often swarm the city streets.

People visit Tarapoto not necessarily for the city itself, but mainly for the beautiful natural surroundings. With its exuberant vegetation, scenic waterfalls, wildlife, and living cultures, Tarapoto offers many attractions for visitors.

Paradoxically, despite being the most deforested region in Peru, San Martin continues to attract visitors who are drawn to its natural beauty. This is precisely why the preservation of the region’s protected areas and their buffer zones is crucial in maintaining the vitality of tourism. Around Tarapoto, you can find the impressive Cordillera Azul National Park and the Cordillera Escalera Conservation Area.

A bit of History and Culture of Tarapoto

Echoes of ancient cultures continue to resonate in modern-day Tarapoto. Quechua, Awajún, Shawi, and even Chachapoya, have left a lasting impact on the region, contributing to the rich cultural heritage and diversity of Tarapoto. 

In the not-so-distant past, the region carried a stigma of being unsafe and afflicted by narcotrafficking and terrorism. However, times have changed considerably. Guerrilla cells have been eradicated or significantly reduced and today is considered safe for tourists. While the fight against narcotrafficking has taken on a more innovative approach by embracing alternative forms of economic development, such as cacao production in replacement of coca. 

Read our article: Coca: Something You Can Chew On


Originally named Santa Cruz de los Motilones de Tarapoto (now commonly simplified), this enchanting city was founded in 1782. It quickly outshone Moyobamba, its neighboring city and official capital of the region, the oldest in the Peruvian Amazon (1540). We will discuss Moyobamba at the appropriate time as it is as well an enchanting destination with its own charm.

The Natural World of Tarapoto

Tarapoto is nestled amidst three tropical valleys, boasting a unique location that nurtures an unmatched richness of biodiversity. From the lush rainforest canopies to the meandering rivers, each corner of Tarapoto abounds with nature’s wonders.

The region is commonly known for its majestic waterfalls. But it is more than that, it is a haven for wildlife enthusiasts. With a stroke of luck, you may encounter a medley of captivating species, from vibrant birds and endemic frogs to the unimaginable array of invertebrate life in the undergrowth. While the plant life in Tarapoto is as diverse as its animal inhabitants. Tropical rainforests, cloud forests, and mountain vegetation create a tapestry of stunning landscapes. Although plant species do not have the popularity of animals visitors can expect to be enchanted by the large tropical trees, climbing vines, and various ferns, and mosses.

Things To Do in and near Tarapoto

Urku Rescue Center (5-6 Km)

This is not a zoo. Despite showcasing the Amazon’s biodiversity, its main focus is the rescue, breeding, and reintroduction of wildlife species back into their natural habitat. The conservation of Amazonian plants and their associated secrets is carried out with a sustainable approach. Additionally, immersive ecotourism experiences are offered within 7 hectares of recovering forest. Alongside these efforts, the promotion of environmental education and scientific research is encouraged.

Lamas (20 Km)

A unique destination surrounded by various native Quechua-Amazonian communities, probably descendants of the Pocras and Chancas warriors. These communities still preserve their ancestral identity, and they are a living heritage of Peruvian history and culture.

Cordillera Escalera Conservation Area 

An impressive mountain range that’s home to some of Peru’s most diverse ecosystems. There are different ways of accessing it and different attractions to visit depending on the kind of experience you are looking for, for example, AKONABIKH (27 Km), a 30-hectare rainforest private property nestled in the buffer zone of the conservation area. This pristine reserve is a paradise for bird watchers and nature photographers alike, offering guided tours, meals, and lodging. 

Bosque Guardián Lodge (31 Km)

Located in the Tiraco river valley, inside the Cordillera Escalera Conservation Area, there is this piece of an Amazonian cloud forest that is permanently recovering from cattle farming, tree cutting, and other human destructions. But don’t get fooled by that, because this place is astonishingly biodiverse. When you stay at the lodge you will experience sustainable activities specifically designed for environmental awareness and adventure. Here activities are a la carte, but plan time enough to immerse yourself, learn, enjoy, and relax, all at once because everything is so well-thought and holistic that you will feel in perfect balance with the surroundings and its people.

Pumarinri Lodge (32 Km)

Located in a privileged location, nestled on the banks of the Huallaga River, at the confluence of the Cerro Escalera Regional Conservation Area and the Cordillera Azul National Park, this place is thoughtfully designed following environmentally friendly practices. The area boasts a rich diversity of birds, butterflies, and amphibians, which can be observed along the lodge’s trails or during excursions to the forest, waterfalls, or native communities (Nuevo Lamas and Shapaja).

Chazuta (46Km)

From the moment you arrive, you’ll witness the ancestral tradition of burials of this town. Observe this rich heritage displayed prominently at the main square or delve deeper at the local museum to unlock its fascinating secrets.

While their living tradition in ceramics is rooted in women and holds an extraordinary iconography with an ancient origin. This knowledge has been passed down from mothers to daughters, and they have managed to preserve their aesthetic values and social significance, which has earned them the declaration of being National Cultural Heritage.

Chazuta is also known for its medicinal plant tradition. Local healers use different species from the jungle to treat various ailments and diseases, and visitors can learn about these practices.

Here you can also visit the women-managed chocolate factory, or the Chacra Pasikiwi for agrotourism experiences.

Lastly, you can simply enjoy the natural beauty of the area, including the majestic Huallaga River and so many waterfalls with Río Bosque Mágico Chazuta, as the area is perfect for outdoor activities such as hiking, and birdwatching. 

El Sauce or Blue Lagoon

This is a very popular destination that can get crowded during peak seasons, with jetskies and banana boats that are probably not to your liking. Don’t worry though, when it’s not too busy, the lagoon truly shines like a hidden gem.

But to make your visit more meaningful and sustainable, head to Ecoparque La Soñada (60 Km). This place is all about responsible practices and preserving the beauty of the destination and its people. To get there, enjoy a delightful 20-minute boat ride with breathtaking views. Once you arrive, immerse yourself in educational and sustainable activities like exploring an orchid collection, attending a workshop on traditional plant medicine, making artisanal chocolates, discovering a salt mine, and marveling at exquisite statues representing different ethnic groups from the Amazon.

Volunteering here is possible. Bosque fluir is a permacultural place in El Sauce that face the challenge of protecting the forest from human threats and consolidating it as a space for harmonious coexistence with the Amazon. It is about opening the forest to explore and teach sustainable living alternatives. 

San Roque de Cumbaza (18 Km)

This is where our extraordinary 4-day experience starts guided by our dear Patty. Featuring a vibrant celebration of women, the itinerary offers engaging activities to keep you actively engaged while immersing you in the wonders of nature and culture. Explore the lush jungle, invigorate yourself in the refreshing river, listen to captivating stories, and even create your own unique crafts to cherish as mementos. Join us on this unforgettable journey and Connect with the Heart of Amazonian Culture.

How to leave a Positive Impact whilst traveling in Tarapoto

Respect the Local Culture: The Quechua-Amazonian communities in Tarapoto are a living heritage of Peruvian history. As a visitor, it’s important to respect their traditions and ways of life. Be open to learning about their culture, and remember to ask before taking photographs or entering sacred spaces.

Preserve Historical and Natural Sites: Tarapoto is home to awe-inspiring natural sites like the Cordillera Escalera Conservation Area and the Cordillera Azul National Park. Remember to follow the rules set in place to protect these treasures for future generations.

Support Conservation Efforts: Consider visiting organizations such as the Urku Rescue Center and the Cordillera Escalera Conservation Area. These organizations work tirelessly to conserve local wildlife and ecosystems.

Choose Sustainable Accommodation: Accommodations like Pumarinri Amazon Lodge and Bosque Guardian Lodge prioritize environmental sustainability and offer unique experiences that align with responsible travel practices.

Remember, travel is not just about seeing new places but also about making a positive impact. So, let’s explore the world responsibly and leave it better than we found it.

Practical Information to Prepare for your trip to Tarapoto

How Much Time to Spend in Tarapoto

Given all the options that we are displaying here, you can imagine now that spending less than 3 days in Tarapoto would be crazy. We want you to try to stay at least 6 and this way you will get a decent approach to the region, contribute significantly to its economy and really enjoy the destination.

When is the Best Time to Visit Tarapoto

From May to October is the best time given the lack of rain.

The rainy season spans from november to april (this is the same as for any Andean/Amazonian destination in Peru) and that could represent a bit of a challenge if you are on a tight schedule or planning to reach less accessible places (like Chazuta for example) but for the rest of options that we present here, rainfall is not a problem, you just have to adapt a bit to it. 

What’s the Weather like in Tarapoto

Let’s say that an average range goes from 30 to 10°C, considering a regular day and a cold-rainy night.

How to Get to Tarapoto

Tarapoto has excellent connectivity to other destinations in Peru. There are daily flights to Lima, as well as less frequent flights to other cities such as Iquitos, and with smaller planes to Yurimaguas, Pucallpa, and Chiclayo. You can also take a bus from Tarapoto to other nearby cities such as Moyobamba and even get to Leymebamba and Chachapoyas.

What to Pack when Traveling to Tarapoto

  • Travel First Aid Kit
  • Long-Sleeve Shirt and Long Trousers
  • Strong Insect Repellent
  • Comfortable Hiking Clothes and Gear
  • Original Passport
  • Light and Loose Long-Sleeved Shirts
  • Cotton Clothing and Comfortable Walking Shoes
  • Hat, Sunglasses, and Sunscreen

For additional information about traveling to the region, do not miss our blog What to pack when traveling to Peru and download our suggested packing list.

How to Stay Safe and Healthy in Tarapoto

Stay Hydrated: Tarapoto’s tropical climate can be quite warm and humid. Always carry a reusable water bottle to stay hydrated throughout the day. 

Protect Against Mosquitoes: Tarapoto is rich in biodiversity, including mosquitoes. Wear long-sleeved shirts and trousers, especially during dawn and dusk when mosquitoes are most active. Use a strong insect repellent for added protection

Respect Local Wildlife: Encounters with local wildlife can be thrilling, but remember to maintain a safe distance. Never feed wild animals or touch them without professional guidance.

Practice Safe Eating and Drinking: Enjoy the local cuisine but be cautious about where you eat. Stick to restaurants with good hygiene standards. Avoid tap water and opt for bottled or filtered water instead.

Road Safety: Be aware of your surroundings when navigating the city. Traffic can be hectic, so always use marked crossings and stay alert.

Where and What to Eat in Tarapoto

When trying to summarize the gastronomy options in Tarapoto, numerous thoughts come to mind as the local culinary scene also offers an abundance of opportunities for everyone to explore and savor. 

Street food

Every day, as the sun begins to set and the locals finish up their work, the streets come alive at the Partido Alto corner. Local women and their grills come out, creating a picturesque scene of street food and hungry locals. Whether you prefer a leisurely stroll to whet your appetite or a convenient ride, any driver will guide you to this vibrant culinary experience.

Try the tantalizing barbeque fish expertly wrapped in a fragrant leaf and the enticing “jungle pizza” that boasts a plantain base topped with cheese, dried meat, and the region’s signature sausage, there is a delightful adventure awaiting at every corner. 

Or explore the plethora of equally exceptional day-to-day options available from early hours and up to lunchtime at the local market.


Vegetarian/vegan

Although this eating style may not be widely practiced in Tarapoto, it is important not to underestimate the following options that are actually remarkable even when they are limited.

>Almázygo

Vegetarian and vegan food, biodynamic coffee, 2 rooms for accommodation.

Space for generating exchange or activities, where there is a shared benefit, for example: workshops, yoga classes, garage sales, small fairs, etc.

Address: Jirón Ricardo Palma 489, La Banda de Shilcayo, near Tarapoto.

>Arbolescencias

Alternative vegan bakery/pastry shop using local ingredients.

Also selling products from others such as handmade jewelry, natural health, and beauty items. 

Address: Jr. Camila Morey 462

>Mantra Alimentación Consciente

Vegetarian and vegan restaurant offering affordable daily lunches and Peruvian specialties adapted to conscious eating.

Address: Jirón Ramirez Hurtado 378


Special delicacies

Indulge in the irresistible delights of chocolate, a delicacy not to be missed as it is fresh and locally produced.

Additionally, make sure to savor the ice creams and juices made from Amazonian fruits. Some names to remember include aguaje, carambola, camucamu, pijuayo, pomarrosa, taperibá, and unguraui.

One big and successful business (because it is more than just a restaurant) is La Patarashca, where the fusion of traditional and modern cuisine yields exquisite dishes, often characterized by out-of-the-ordinary ingredients and intricate preparation techniques. To try these culinary delights, consider visiting it because despite being very commercial and popular, it is indeed an escape from the hot and loud city center. 

Looking for exquisite cocktails? Look no further than Suchiche bar, conveniently located at La Patarashca. Indulge in a delightful libation experience like no other (do it with moderation).


Get-aways

Seeking a quick respite from the bustling energy of downtown Tarapoto? Look no further than La Banda de Shilcayo, where you can relish in fresh air, tranquility, and a delightful cup of coffee. Stroll along the Cumbaza river waterfront and indulge yourself with a visit to a captivating shop or brewery that catches your fancy.

Shopping responsibly in Tarapoto

all in the same street

J Ā N E

Crafts and designs, made by hand, by women from native communities.

Address: Jirón Ramirez Hurtado 390


TINKU Multiespacio

Cafeteria and store of various natural products, accommodation, workshops, and events.

Address: Jirón Ramirez Hurtado 378


Mantra Holistics

Beauty and health products of natural origin.

Address: Jirón Ramirez Hurtado 384


If you see Madre Selva products (natural soaps and skin care products, repellents made from Amazonian oils and plants, available at different establishments) and you like them, buy with no regrets as they contribute with fair trading in the region. 

Tarapoto Accommodation Guide

Tucan Suites Apart Hotel: This isn’t your typical hotel. It’s a home away from home that offers a unique opportunity to live like a local and truly experience the Tarapoto way of life.

DM Hoteles Tarapoto: Renowned for its excellent service and comfortable rooms, this hotel ensures that every guest feels welcome and well cared for.

Posada del Angel Hotel: With its friendly staff and clean rooms, this hotel exemplifies the warm hospitality that Tarapoto is known for.

Colina de Montalva Casa Hotel: Not just a hotel, but a sanctuary. Here, you’ll find peace and tranquility amidst breathtaking views, giving you space to reflect and rejuvenate.

Green House Tarapoto: This eco-friendly hotel is perfect for the mindful traveler. By choosing Green House, you’re making a conscious choice to support sustainable tourism practices.

Hotel Boutique Papagayo: This boutique hotel offers personalized service that makes you feel more like a friend than a guest. It’s an authentic, intimate experience that can’t be found in larger establishments.

Custom trips to Tarapoto

Ready to dive deeper into the wonders of Tarapoto? While our website showcases a range of curated experiences, the magic doesn’t stop there. Our seasoned team of travel designers is eager to craft a custom-tailored itinerary that aligns perfectly with your unique interests and values. Whether you’re keen on wildlife photography, culinary adventures, or diving into local culture, we can design a Tarapoto travel experience that’s as unique as you are—all while upholding our commitment to responsible and impactful travel. So why wait? Contact us today to start planning your dream journey toTarapoto. Your extraordinary Peru adventure awaits!

Explore all our Tarapoto Tours

Click on the tour you like most to find all the information and book directly!

ABOUT IMPACTFUL TRAVEL 

Impactful Travel's mission is to empower transformative journeys through sustainable and responsible experiences, we are committed to enriching lives - both for travelers and local communities in Latin America.

We seek to connect meaningful tourism experiences with a committed global audience, enhancing communities and encouraging sustainable choices.

Together with you, we improve day by day, on the always-demanding path towards sustainability.

TOURS IN PERU AND ECUADOR

Eco-Adventure and cultural exchange in Iquitos

Hummingbird in Jardines de Mandor - Machu Picchu

The Route of Goodies to Machu Picchu

coca leaf

Coca Leaf Reading Counseling in Cusco

Fire Ceremony in Cusco

By giving advice, cleansings, and offerings to the visitors, the "maestros" follow their mission.

Mother Earth Pachamama Ceremony in Cusco

Ecuador and Galapagos: Quick Highlights Tour

Balanced Ecuador Expedition

Complete Ecuador Adventure: Nature and Culture

Impactful Journey to the Heart of Costa Rica

The Gocta falls (Chachapoyas) from a distance. Sustainable tourism in Peru with RESPONSible Travel Peru

Exploring Northern Peru’s Spectacular Wonders