NORTHERN PERU. SECOND PART: TARAPOTO – CAJAMARCA

The north of Peru, much less frequented by travelers than its southern counterpart, has it all too: charming cities and towns, landscapes of all colors and unique archaeological sites of pre-colonial cultures. There are amazing places everywhere, so it is essential to visit its jungles, mountains and coast. Precisely, the fact of being less visited is what makes it more special, since you will have the opportunity to share with the Peruvians in a more intact way and scenario than the one in the southern zone. What beautiful people live in Peru.

 

In this second part, you will go up little by little in elevation: beginning in the Amazon Basisin, followed by the eyebrow of the jungle and finishing in the high Andes. The range of landscapes is, therefore, huge. The following places stand out:

 

  • Around Tarapoto

  • Pomacochas Lagoon

  • Gocta Waterfall

  • Cohechán and surroundings

  • Chachapoyas and Kuelap

  • Cajamarca

Around Tarapoto

The most populated city of the department of San Martin does not have much to offer in itself... The surroundings, on the other hand, are full of beautiful places. This area, in the middle of the jungle, houses waterfalls, lakes and tropical vegetation in abundance. Highlights:

 

  • Laguna Azul (Blue Lagoon). Approximately one hour south of Tarapoto is this beautiful lagoon. It is a place to enjoy gorgeous landscapes and relax for a whole day (or several). You can take a boat ride on the lake.

  • Ahuashiyacu Waterfall. It is located a few kilometers from the city, in the Cordillera Escalera Regional Conservation Area. Apart from its great beauty must be added that are easily accessible (20 minute walk from the entrance), which makes it a pretty tourist site.

  • Waterfall of Huacamaillo. Beautiful hiking route to reach an equally beautiful waterfall. You will pass through paths surrounded by dense Amazonian vegetation and you will have to cross a river on several occasions. The journey takes about two or three hours (one way), but it is really pleasant, making stops whenever you want for resting or taking dips in the river. You can also cool off in the final waterfall and its deep pool. Unlike Ahuashiyacu, there are not many tourists here, only locals, which makes the place even more magical. It is ideal to spend a night in your tent.

  • Other great waterfalls: Carpishuyaco Waterfall and Puyacaquillo Waterfall.

Pomacochas Lagoon

In the department of Amazonas, about 4 hours from Tarapoto (3 from Moyobamba), this beautiful lagoon lies at an elevation of more than 2250 meters above sea level (the scenery from Tarapoto is wonderful), enjoying a perfect weather. Whether you come from the jungle or from the Andes, this will be an idyllic place for you to recharge your batteries. Besides strolling along the lake, you can take boat rides with the boatmen of the dock.

Gocta

One of the most incredible places in Peru. This waterfall, near the small town of Cocachimba (department of Amazonas) was "discovered" and opened to tourism recently (2006). Before that, an impenetrable jungle closed any way to it and not even locals tried to get close (partly also because of the legend of a wicked siren). Now, a beautiful path leads to the waterfall, and more and more people do not want to miss this natural gem. Ranked neither more nor less among the five-tallest free-leaping waterfalls in the world (540 meters). The landscape up to the waterfall is spectacular. If you can, bring your tent and camp in front of the waterfall, it will be magical.

Cohechán and surroundings

Fabulous rural, little tourist area in the mountains where native authenticity, different landscapes of Peru and mysterious archaeological sites converge. Transport services in the area are zero, so the traveler must get around/travel by taxi or hitchhiking. Even so, it is worth a detour to get to know this special corner in the department of Amazonas. Some of the places that should be visited are these:

 

  • Valley of Huylla Belén. A valley of green pastures through which a beautiful river traces a blue zigzag “path”. There a few cows live happily. Perfect to cool off and relax.

  • Sarcophagi of Karajía. These funerary relics of the Chachapoyas culture are located 2 km on foot from the interesting little town of Cruzpata, "hanging", literally, from a mountain wall overlooking a deep canyon. Amazing surroundings.

  • Quiocta Caves. At 11 km from Lamud (accessible by car) and after a short walk, these deep caves house several rooms with magnificent stalactites and stalagmites as well as skulls and human remains.

Chachapoyas and Kuelap

Chachapoyas is a pretty colonial town with beautiful views of the Andean highlands (interestingly, it is the capital of the department of Amazonas). However, it is its strategic location with many attractions around what makes this place being so popular for travelers in this northern part of Peru. To the north are Cohechán, Gocta and Pomacochas, among others (further away, the Tarapoto waterfalls); to the south, the main attraction is the Fortress of Kuelap.

 

Kuelap. Impressive archaeological site, height of the Chachapoyas civilization. It is huge (largest stony structure in South America), very well preserved and, best of all, receives few tourists. One of the best kept treasures in the country. The fortress is located on top of a mountain, at 3000 meters, with fantastic views of the mountains and valleys. To get here you have two options (both departing from Chachapoyas): by combi/bus directly to the entrance; after a hard trekking uphill from Tingo (around four hours).

Cajamarca

In a valley surrounded by mountains, at 2750 masl, stands the capital of the homonymous department. One of the most important centers of the Andean area... And one of the most beautiful cities in the country. However, if there is something for which this city is known it is because it was here where the last Inca king, Atahualpa, was captured (and murdered) by Francisco Pizarro. You can visit La Habitación del Rescate (The Rescue Room), where Atahualpa spent the last seven months of his life. Apart from the beautiful center with a handful of stately buildings, there are other interesting places to visit nearby: the Baños del Inca, famous for the hot springs where the Inca used to bathe; the Ventanillas de Otuzco, a group of crypts that once served as funerary enclosures (50 a. C. - 500 d. C.).

 

By the way, the road that links Leymebamba, south of Kuelap, with Cajamarca goes through unforgettable Andes.

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