If you’re on the hunt for a destination with interesting sites to see, an abundance of wildlife, adventure sports, and a great party, Tarapoto is the perfect place for you. Well-known for its nightlife, traditional jungle food, and awesome weather all year round, don’t miss out on any of the plentiful things to do in Tarapoto or its amazing attractions.
Facts about Tarapoto
Located in the northern jungle of Peru, Tarapoto has a population of roughly 180,000 people and is the largest city in the greater province of San Martín. The reason why the city holds the name Tarapoto is a bit of a local mystery, but two theories have been suggested. The first refers to a palm tree that grows by the river, Tarapotus. The second talks about the language used by the indigenous community of Lamas, around 30 minutes drive from the city. In the Quechua of Lamas, “tara” refers to fish or beans, and “poto” which refers to the shape of a huingo, a well-known jungle fruit.
Quick Tip: If travelling to or from Lima Airport, it is strongly recommended to use the luxury Airport Express Lima bus to get to or from your hotel. Safer and cheaper than a taxi with no baggage limit as well as free Wi-Fi and USB chargers onboard, it is ideal for travellers.
Things to Do in Tarapoto:
Entertain yourself at the Plaza de Armas: Tarapotos’s Plaza de Armas is a hotspot of activity of the city that you simply can not miss. The perfect time to go is around 6:00 pm, as almost the whole city is there. You can find people painting, drawing and even singers right in the center of the plaza. If you get a little hungry, treat yourself to some traditional snacks found around the Plaza de Armas. These include chifles, (plantain, sliced thin and fried). Mani confitado, (a type of sweet peanut), and cotton candy (you already know). If none of these tickle your fancy then don’t worry! There are plenty more things to choose from. Of all the things to do in Tarapoto, this is one that you will not miss.
Fill Up on Some Local Food: Be sure to visit some of the places that offer traditional food from the jungle! We talk about food a lot on this blog, but that is because the food from the jungle is so unique and delicious! No list of things to do in Tarapoto would be complete without including a sampling of the local cuisine, and no trip to Tarapoto would be complete without trying what the jungle has to offer. There are no (or barely any) formal restaurants serving traditional dishes, instead food stalls offering local food. This local food includes dishes such as anticucho (a small stick of meat and vegetable pieces), and cecina and chorizo (a type of smoked pork). You will find plenty of fresh barbecue and bananas (you HAVE to try the barbequed bananas) while you’re eating in the jungle! And the best part? It’s all very cheap!
Enjoy Ahuashiyacu Waterfalls: Just 20 minutes from the city, Ahuashiyacu waterfall is the most famous and visited fall in the whole region of San Martín. If you are looking for a peaceful and natural day out, you will definitely love this place. It has a small natural pool with clean and fresh natural water. Make sure to spend a little time looking out for the exotic birds and plants as well!
Try the Special Drinks: The iconic drinks in the jungle are very popular, and they have very appealing names. A few of the most well known are 7 raíces, a mixture of local roots and aguardiente. People used to drink this for health purposes, similar to emoliente, but now it is mostly just drunk for fun! Another one to try is uvachado. Uvachado is a sweet wine that is the most famous drink in the jungle. Be careful! These drinks are powerful, it only takes one shot and you’re ready for the evening! The drinks are a combination of alcohol, which is called “aguardiente” and made from natural roots and local fruits. They’re available in specific bars.
Bird-watching: If you love to get in touch with animals and nature, this is for you. A relatively new activity to Tarapoto, birdwatching consists of observing and studying wild birds. There are several routes for bird-watchers near the city. Two of the most popular are Circuito Ecoturìstico Alto Shilcayo and Bosques secos de Juan Guerra, but there are plenty to choose from. Keep in mind that there are a few guides around to help you. This is another great, free activity to do in Tarapoto. Make sure to pack a pair of binoculars if you want to have a go!
Happy Hour at Calle de las Piedras (Stones street): Calle de las Piedras (Stones street) is popular spot in Tarapoto. There are always plenty of tourists and locals alike, all enjoying the discounted drinks. What makes Calle de las Piedras a great place to visit is the variety of crazy drinks you can find in the many bars and pubs. The entire street is completely dedicated to the nightlife. Some bars sell only alcohol but others also offer food as well (just in case you get hungry). You will find a loads of recorded and live music in each bar. The local bands are bursting with talent, so try and enjoy some! There’s no debate, on this strip you will definitely find a place that suits you.
Discover the Castle of Lamas: This medieval castle was built by a rich Italian man. He used the natural stones of the region, and according to his memoirs, he molded the stones for the castle by hand. This beautiful creation is five floors high, and on each level, there is a magnificent view of your surroundings, including the valley of the Rio Mayo. Here is where two worlds collide, the European World and the world of Native Americans.
Rafting: If you like extreme adventures, you will love this. This amazing experience can be found on the Mayo River and is the perfect activity to do with your friends and family. You’ll be able to get in contact with nature, birds and the communities living close to the river, as well as getting your adrenaline pumping!
Spend time at Laguna Sauce: We recommend spending the whole day on this! You will love the huge Laguna Sauce (also known as the Blue Lagoon, or Laguna Azul) and the hypnotic blue of the water. There are small boats available to rent, and even tours available. If you choose to take a tour then you can get up close and personal with all the best parts, seeing the exotic jungle wildlife. There are also rustic restaurants dotted around the lake and are a great spot for lunch. Fill up on local, freshly caught fish accompanied by the delicious bellacos bananas (a special kind of banana found in the jungle) and of course, try the local drinks.
Swim in the River: Tarapoto is also known for its nearby rivers. There are a couple to choose from, all very near to the city, just a 10 or 15-minute drive away. If you are tired of swimming in pools but want to keep swimming, this is your chance to try something a little different. Spend some time on the riverbank enjoying the water (which arrives fresh from the mountains). You could even make a picnic to enjoy with your friends. This is a great thing to do as it doesn’t have a price, just an unforgettable experience to enjoy with your loved ones.
Explore Pumarinri and Pucayaquillo: If you are looking for a nice stroll in the jungle, this is the perfect trip for you. The adventure begins at Pucayaquillo waterfall, which is roughly 45 minutes from the city. Here, you can swim in the natural pool, formed by the waterfall and enjoy the scenery for as long as you like. As you move on, make sure to stop in at the Pumarinri Lodge for an exotic jungle-inspired lunch.
Too many times, travelers are left wondering what there is to do in Tarapoto. The city is rich with opportunities for tourists to experience the majesty of the jungle and to mix with the always friendly locals. Tarapoto, the city of palms trees, is the perfect place for those looking for fun and those who are in search of the ‘off the beaten track’ style of traveling. This gorgeous jungle town also makes an excellent stop when traveling from Ecuador to points further south in Peru. In Tarapoto, you will have everything you could ever want in just one place. Food, nature, and adventure are just a tiny snippet of the things to do in Tarapoto. Don’t miss the opportunity to visit this Peruvian paradise!