Tarapoto, city of palm trees, is the capital of the high jungle, and the jungle is present in every step you take. Historically, the brave people of the Chancas, persecuted by the Incas, moved to the area of Lamas. In search of food, they descended to the valley of Tarapoto, where the affluence and fusion of families of ethnic groups became the basis of the socio-economic development of the region of San Martín, which is now noticeable in Tarapoto.
The city is a good starting point for a series of activities, both for a traveler with the soul of a nature explorer, one in search of adventure, and one seeking a mystical encounter. You can hire expert guides who will take you to every one of the city’s sights. You might want to see Lake Sauce, where you can find various tourist lodges. To cross the lake, you use floating wooden platforms with palm leaf roofs which pick you up and drop you off at artisanal ports. Another option is a visit to the Vaquero rapids: the Huallaga river is torrential and irregular, ideal for canoeing and fishing.. Lake Lindo is a little lake of great beauty thanks to its crystalline waters, surrounded by abundant vegetation which the lake reflects like a mirror.
Those who want to take a bath in thermal springs can choose between those of Chazutayacu or Achinamiza. Another attraction are waterfalls such as those of Tununtunumba, Huacamarillo or Ahuashiyacu, or you can enjoy the tranquility of the oval-shaped Venecia Lake, surrounded by aguaje palm trees and the typical high jungle vegetation. The Oros gorge in the district of Huicungo is one of the attractions of the Río Abiseo National Park. There are also interesting sites for explorers, such as the Polish petroglyphs you shouldn’t miss out on, rocks with bas-relief engravings representing animals and plants, and with holes engraved in two rows next to representations of snakes.
Walks, extreme adrenaline or total calm, a jungle town offers all these options. However, I will be focusing on cacao. As always, I recommend visiting the markets, and if you hire a local guide, all the better. Mine was Elia García de Reátegui, owner and chef of the restaurant Patarashca, with whom I visited the three most important markets to see not only cacao, but also be amazed by fruit with exotic names, colors and flavors, leaves, chilli peppers, fish, meat etc. which made me understand better the food Elia serves at her restaurant.
Whether you are looking for accommodation or want to choose an itinerary for your travels, with a good guide neither is complicated. Lluis Dalmau, a Catalan agro-industrial engineer who has been living in the region for 20 years, opened three different hotels after studying crops like palm shoots. From there, you can book tourist packages which take you to very interesting places where you can learn about coffee, cacao or tobacco. Anything is possible in this region, where people grow rice in the lowlands, cacao in the higher areas and coffee in the greatest altitudes.
Places to visit:
Restaurant Patarashca: The restaurant serves Amazonian cuisine, and many of Elia’s dishes include all parts of the cacao fruit, from the shells to the beans. Don’t miss out on the prawn cebiche with coconut and cacao pulp, among other delicacies. Each dish will surprise you, and the curious ones among you can ask about the place’s cooking classes. Besides, César Reátegui del Águila, Elia’s husband, is an expert guide and tour operator who organizes cacao tours and offers accommodation.
Café cultural Suchiche, owned by Cindy Reátegui García, offers all types of dishes whose protagonist is Cacao, and good music at night.
El Tucan Suites, located in the town of Tarapoto, is for those who can’t live without internet.
Those who want to completely disconnect can opt for Puma Rinri Lodge, an eco-lodge on the Banks of the Huallaga River, which has its own fish-breeding facility and offers delicious cuisine.
At Gocta you can see one of the highest waterfalls in the world from your hotel bed and explore the region of the Chachapoyas, situated at 1800 meters above sea level. The lodge’s cuisine uses the best ingredients of the area, and of course includes dishes based on cacao.
La Orquídea: Twyggie Annette Gronerth, the operations manager, explains that this is a chocolate factory which was born as an alternative project for the development of native communities using organic cacao grown on site. Visitors can observe the entire production process and later taste and buy bitter or milk chocolate in different variants.
Exotic chocolate: A boutique whose protagonist is Amazonian chocolate, located on Tarapoto’s main square. They make traditional truffles and others with ingredients like charapita chilli peppers or maracumango (passion fruit with mango), and even with basil.
Heladería Fruta y Café Misión:María Elena Achuy, a second-generation ice-cream vendor, prepares her ice-cream flavors with typical fruit from the region that she grows herself. All her ice-cream is organic. The flavors include cacao, cacao and peanut, lúcuma, camu camu, soursop, mandarin or majambo.
How to get there:
The best way of getting to Tarapoto is by plane. Daily flights leave Jorge Chávez International Airport, known as Aeropuerto Internacional Jorge Chávez in Spanish. This is Peru's main international and domestic airport. It is located in Callao, 11 kilometers from the Historic Centre of Lima and 17 km from Miraflores.
Restaurant Patarashca: www.lapatarashca.com
Café cultural Suchiche: www.suchiche.com
El Tucan Suites: www.tucansuites.com
Puma Rinri Lodge: www.pumarinri.com