20 things to do in the San Martin region
The San Martin region is located next to the Amazonas region in northern Peru. Its altitude varies from 300 m in Tarapoto (in the Amazon jungle) to 2 500 m in the Andes. If you love nature, the San Martín region is for you.
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Built on the banks of the Shilcayo River, the “city of palm trees” is located at an altitude of 300 m. The city is at the entrance of the Amazon region and therefore the jungle. Thus it is hot and humid.
It is not the capital of the region, the capital is Moyobamba. However, it is the largest city in San Martín. You will find shops, small restaurants and bakeries, without forgetting the busy Plaza de Armas!
What to do in Tarapoto ?
- Tarapoto is a real city. One can stroll through its Plaza de Armas or in the shops of the city center. But there are also many cafes, bakeries … as well as many moto-taxis. This form of transportation is an art – nobody knows the rules! The week of July 8 to 19 is a festive week in Tarapoto, which commemorates the founding of the city in 1782 by the Bishop of Trujillo, Baltazar Jaime Martínez de Compañero and Bujanda.
- In the suburbs, visit the chocolate factory La Orquidea, which produces organic chocolate with 116 small producers. Cocoa is the base of the economy of the region: San Martin supplies 26,000 tons of cocoa of the 56,000 produced in Peru.
Our full article to discover the Orquidea factory.
- 20 minutes from Tarapoto, you can see the petroglyphes of Poland. The origin of these 5 stones engraved in bas-reliefs representing animals and plants is still unknown to this day. They are supposed to be the work of the Chachapoya.
- At 1 hour from Tarapoto, visit the community of Chazuta and discover a cocoa farm.
Our full article to discover the community of Chazuta.
- Explore the numerous natural reserves, such as the Cordillera Escalera and its waterfalls. Enjoy the generous nature of this region and its multicolored birds.
- Hike to the waterfalls, there are many in the region. The best known (and therefore there are always people) are the waterfalls of Ahuashiyacu and its 40 m high, 20 minutes from Tarapoto. Less known, is the Carpishuyacu waterfall, at 1 hour 30 minutes in Tarapoto. You will have to walk 1 hour in the forest before reaching the foot of this waterfall and the natural bridge that crosses its basin. It is not that impressive, but it is much less visited.
- Enjoy the Laguna Azul – Blue Lagoon – 2 hours from Tarapoto. You can practice water sports, from boating to surfing, or just relax. The guides can tell you the legends that surround the lagoon. It is a good excursion for a day trip or a weekend. On the way back, you can stop to take mud or sulfur baths. However, keep in mind that this place is very popular with Peruvians and tourists: so there are often many people.
- For lovers of strong emotions, it is possible to go rafting on the Mayo River. The currents are fast, so you must be well supervised!
The town of Lamas, the capital of folklore since 2003
Lamas is 35 minutes from Tarapoto and is therefore ideal for a day trip. Tarapoto is a big city, noisy, disorganized and especially very hot. Lamas is much more pleasant: at 800 m altitude, the temperature is pleasant and we have a magnificent view of the surroundings. Its population of Quechua-Lamistas, its castle and its crafts made its fame.
This town is famous for its 3 levels:
- On the 1st level live the Quechua Indians
- The 2nd level is the place for the towns people,
- On the 3rd level is the church.
What to do in Lamas ?
- Make a stop at the Ecoperlacha Cacao Farm, located 3 km before the village entrance on the right. This is where one of the best cocoa of Peru is produced in a property of 1.5 ha! But they also grow oranges and lemons of exceptional quality. You can book a tour and learn all about chocolate production, and of course taste!
- Visit the Chanka Museum, located in the center of the city: a well-made museum, bright and with excellent hospitality. Take your time in the myths and legends section, getting lost in the paintings of local painters, which is very interesting. Open every day from 9am to 7pm.
- Discover the amazing castle of Lamas in medieval style. Built by an Italian, it contains an exhibition of paintings by artists from the region. But it has also become a tourist attraction in itself!
Our full article to discover the castle of Lamas.
- Meet the Warmi Wasi association. Towards the lower part of the town, going towards the main square of the indigenous community, you will find them in a wooden hut with thatched roofs. They show you the craftsmanship of their people: jewelry, weaving, ceramics. Definitely worth a visit!
- Head to the village of Waqui, which maintains traditions of Quechua-Lamist craftsmanship from the San Martin region to northern Peru.
The capital of San Martin : Moyobamba
Moyobamba was the first city created by the Spaniards in the Amazon in 1540. It was the political and diplomatic center of the region 100 years ago. In fact, the embassies of France, Germany and the United States were in Moyobamba. This explains why this city is the capital, although it is smaller than Tarapoto. Located at 860 m, the temperatures in Moyobamba are a little lower than in Tarapoto. But there are so many natural wonders to discover!
What to do in Moyobamba ?
- Take a walk in the city! The center of the city around the Plaza de Armas is always animated. In addition, the murals give the houses an air of Caribbean and vacation. Go to the district of Zaragoza, around Punta de Tahuishco, where culture is enhanced. And do not miss the viewpoint where you can admire the Rio Mayo Valley.
- Discover the Aguas termales (thermal baths), known for their medicinal and relaxing virtues. They are out of town, towards Jepelacio.
- Admire the orchids and bromeliads typical of the region at the Waqanki Orchid center, just before the Hot Springs.
Our full article to discover Waqanki.
- Learn more about medicinal plants in the San Marino area in the Botanical Garden.
- Visit the Tingana Nature Reserve. Alternatively, you can go to the Santa Elena reserve, near Rioja (20 minutes from Moyobamba), which is easier to access. In both you can take a canoe tour and see monkeys and birds.
Our complete articles to discover the Tingana reserve and the Santa Elena reserve.
- Enjoy the landscape of Moyobamba: San Martin is exuberant, green, exotic and relaxing. There are rice fields and agriculture, as well as several conservation initiatives for natural forests and mangroves.
Fauna and flora
The San Martin region in northern Peru is known for its diversity of flora and fauna.
In the rainy season (from November to June), the mangroves fill with water and flood the surrounding area. When the water recedes, it leaves a splendid playing field for birds, insects and monkeys.
The diversity of the plants is no less impressive. There are orchids, bromeliads, heliconias and giant ferns. Many palm trees grow there as well, such as the Jonda Palm that feeds many families with its very nutritious stem. But you can also see much more exotic plants and trees like “The tree that walks”. The roots of this tree always extend more, giving the impression that it is moving.
Discover our full article of the Breo Reserve and its exuberant nature.
Some information about the San Martin region
- The region was founded on September 4, 1905. It owes its name to the country’s liberator, José de San Martín.
- The Huallaga river is one of the most important in the region. In the Andes, it forms the impressive Pongo de Aguirre canyon.
- In the 1980s, San Martin was the main area of coca production and cocaine base in Peru. Today, coca cultivation has been replaced by alternative crops (cocoa and coffee), which are prosperous sectors for the region.
- Near Tarapoto were the Operation Centers MRTA (Revolutionary Tupac Amaru). The region was marked by the armed conflict that took place between 1980 and 1992 between the Peruvian government and Sendero Luminoso and the MRTA guerrillas, which caused tens of thousands of deaths.
- The pre-Inca site Gran Pajáten is a complex of circular buildings, with figures of condors, located on the border between the regions of La Libertad and San Martín. The site was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1990 as a natural site and as a cultural site in 1992. To protect this endangered environment and these fragile ruins, you can not visit the archaeological site and the national park. without a permit from the Ministry of Agriculture and the National Institute of Culture.
Our practical advice
How to get there ?
- Tarapoto has a national airport, the third largest airport in Peru. It offers flights to Lima, Iquitos, Pucallpa or Chiclayo and Trujillo. The one-way flight from Lima to Tarapoto lasts approximately 1h15.
- From Chachapoyas, it takes 6 hours and 30 minutes without stopping to get to Tarapoto.
- It takes 20 hours of bus from Lima – Tarapoto.
- To make Chachapoyas – Moyobamba, it takes a little over 4 hours in a private vehicle – and much more in a combi.
Where to sleep?
Where to eat ?