Remote Tarapoto, Peru

Remote and fairly unknown to tourists, Tarapoto is perched on the high jungle plateau – Selva Baja – at the foot of the Andean hills. And, at a height of 356 metres Tarapoto is known as the “Cloud Forest”.

Getting to Tarapoto

map, Chiclayo, Tarapoto, Peru, South AmericaAfter a wonderful relaxing few days with friends at Los Organos, reluctantly we return to Chiclayo overnight to collect our police report following the robbery during the first stay in Chiclayo.

If you find yourself in Chiclayo, the basic and uncomfortable overnight Movil bus to Tarapoto is scheduled to take around 12 hours.

Tip: This article is now available as a mobile app on iTunes and GooglePlay. Go to GPSmyCity to download the app for GPS-assisted travel directions to the attractions featured in this article.

This stretch of road is notorious for bandits stopping buses to rob tourists. If this road’s reputation is not enough, the story goes that bus drivers are also in cahoots with bandits.

Amazon, Tarapoto, Peru, South America

Luckily our bus isn’t stopped by scary bandits and the sunrise provides a brief distraction to the road’s dangerous myths…

sunset, Tarapoto, Peru, South America

…but in true South American style, we arrive in Tarapoto 3 hours late after a long journey of 15 hours.


The Bishop of Trujillo, Baltazar Martínez Jiménez de Compagnon founded Tarapoto in 1792 and the town probably hasn’t changed a great deal since then…

Locals are very relaxed and friendly, and there isn’t the badgering that travellers experience in other Peruvian cities such as Cusco.

Motor bikes, Tarapoto, Peru, South America

Melt into the coolness of your air-conditioned room, whilst escaping the heat and humidity seeping out of the jungle that swelters through this town.

Easy to understand why Tarapoto has earned the title ‘Cloud Forest’ – the city’s dampness swirls around you whilst drenching your body…

Motor bikes, Tarapoto, Peru, South America

Tarapoto’s ambient clime is not too dissimilar to steaming Rurrenabaque in Bolivia, and the vibe is chilled.

A little on Tarapoto’s transport

Noisy mototaxis – 3-wheeler adapted bikes – whizz around you whilst coughing a trail of black smoke in their wake, managing to break the city’s rustic pleasantness.

Mototaxi, Tarapoto, Peru, South America

In addition to motorbikes, the mototaxis are your main form of transport in Tarapoto and are also cheap. Everything is transported in a mototaxi…

Mototaxi, Tarapoto, Peru, South America

…and sometimes, it’s quite incredulous to see a mototaxi towing a trailer laden with goods or building materials.

Mototaxi, Tarapoto, Peru, South America

Some mototaxis have inbuilt bars that almost resemble a cage – guess these are to keep passengers from falling out as they swerve around corners…

Mototaxi, Tarapoto, Peru, South America

…or just carry tons of balloons, which seem quite popular in the streets these last few days.

Mototaxi, Tarapoto, Peru, South America

Be careful as drivers are reputed for ignoring road rules but also as being reckless in these flimsy vehicles.

Mototaxis here remind me so much of SE Asia as many places still use these as cheap transport.

What to see?

Although a pleasant town, sights surround this city and are not in Tarapoto itself, which is the gateway to delve deeper into the Amazon.

A taste for you of Tarapoto in this short video by perusensacional: Paisajes de Tarapoto – Perú:Vida Natural.

Quench your adventurous thirst in beautiful lagoons, cascading waterfalls, and gorgeous lush surrounding natural vistas neighbouring Tarapoto.

Rest assured, you’re left alone in Tarapoto as it’s not touristy at all, in fact during our stay of a few days, I’ve only seen one other gringo.

Plaza de Armas

Plaza de Armas provides a lovely respite and very peaceful spot to enjoy its well-maintained gardens, although there isn’t anywhere to shelter from the sun or heat.

With current renovations around the plaza during our short stay, I’d love to return and see the finished result.

Plaza de Armas, Tarapoto, Peru, South America

This city space is great for taking photos of locals and if you’re into candid photography.

Fabrica de Chocolates Orquidea

Of course, when in Tarapoto a visit to the chocolate factory is a definite must – and what better philosophy to support than Orquidea’s, which is to cultivate Tarapoto’s coca instead of the coca leaf (Cocaine).

Braving the heat and with the lack of rain, we set out in search of Orquidea. Today’s main objective? Eat chocolate.

Trekking out of town in the confronting wall of humidity, we finally bump into Orquidea but sadly it’s shut today.

Extremely disappointed at missing an opportunity to eat chocolate but also a tour of the chocolate factory, we head back to town empty handed as we leave tomorrow.

Tabacalera del Oriente

This cigar factory is hailed as the ‘finest cigar factory in Peru’. Regardless of this title, it’s well-worth a visit and to watch the fascinating process of hand-rolling cigars.

In its infancy, the factory imported tobacco seeds and cigar techniques from Cuba. On your leisurely stroll through the factory, fragrant cigar vapours curl around your nose and it’s not long until you feel the urge to indulge in one.

Operating since 1997 and with its expansion in 2004, the factory now also exports cigars. One-hour tours of the factory are offered.

Tarapoto Festivals

Some of the many festivals you might catch in this lazy city include the Orchard Festival, The Patron Feast (July), Crafts, Folklore, Feast of San Juan (June), Mss Tarapotan, and Carnival (any time in February to March) – we manage to miss all of these famous festivals.

A taste of the raunchy Miss Tarapotan Festival from the previous year by RCA Studio Films – it’s all in Spanish but perhaps the banter is not required.

Street scenes

Sharing a few street scene images to give you a taste of a local’s life around Tarapoto…

Drink stand, Tarapoto, Peru, South America

Many shops in Peru are typically barred and locked although open. To enter, you need to ask the shopkeeper’s permission and this is just to buy groceries.

shop, Tarapoto, Peru, South America

Mototaxis are an integral bloodline of the city.

Mototaxi, Tarapoto, Peru, South America

Where to sleep

Offering a varied selection of hostels and hotels, I’m a tad nervous staying in another hotel in Peru after the robbery in the Chiclayo hotel.

The Hotel Monte Azul proves an excellent find, which includes a good breakfast in the spacious room’s price and staff are also friendly, providing excellent service.

View from our hotel…

Tarapoto, Peru, South America

Leaving Tarapoto

Slowly making our way deep into the Amazonian jungle so it’s time for the 2.5-hour mini bus to Yurimaguas in the north-eastern Peruvian Amazon.

Hoping that this short trip will be without any problems today – it’s going to be an interesting trip as everything is loaded on to the roof of the colectivo (minibus)…

minibus, Gilmer, Tarapoto, Peru, South America

From Yurimaguas, the sketchy plan is to take a barge for a few days down the amazon river as far as we can go until the tri-border meets Peru, Colombia, and Brazil. Word on the street is that this tri-border is quite seedy…

Visit Nilla’s Photography for more images. More posts on Peru at Image Earth Travel.

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42 responses to “Remote Tarapoto, Peru”

  1. Francis.R. Avatar

    Seems like a wonderful place to live tranquilly. I feel tired in big cities, specially for the time one has to wait in the traffic. Thank you for your way to travel n_n

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      I think it’s a great place and definitely quieter than the bigger and more touristy cities in Peru.

  2. da-AL Avatar

    You truly deserve the all-time award for love of travel, Nilla! Without your blog posts, I’d never see places like this — can’t imagine so many hours on a bus! Whew!

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Thank you Daal for the lovely feedback and glad I can show you different travel destinations.
      Ha, ha, 15 hours is not the longest bus journey in South America. In Argentina one leg was around 52 hours from Buenos Aires to Ushuaia in 3 buses – we did stop overnight to break up the journey.

      1. da-AL Avatar

        Oooo—-mmm—-ggg!!! Can’t imagine – I have trouble sleeping on planes, so as much as I love traveling, there’s always much jetlag at the end of it for me

      2. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        I’m the same and also get very fidgety when I’m confined in a plane, bus, or whatever, but for longterm travel in Sth America, this is the best and most affordable way to travel. In Argentina, the buses are better than cattle class on an international flight.

  3. Yeah, Another Blogger Avatar

    Hi. Your photos capture the town.really well. Why are there so many balloons? Enjoy your voyages.

    Neil Scheinin

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Hi Neil, thank you for your kind feedback.
      I’m not sure as my Spanish wasn’t great at the time (nor now) so I never asked what the reason was and can only assume it was a couple of birthday parties. 😉

  4. equinoxio21 Avatar

    Nice peru post. As usual. 🙂 You’re not there right now, are you?

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Hi, was thinking about you yesterday as saw a post on the Notre Dame on my FB feed. One designer is proposing turning the whole roof area into a massive swimming pool!

      Thank you for your kind feedback and happy that you like this post. No, I’m in southern Italy catching up with my writing. 😉

      1. equinoxio21 Avatar

        Catching up with your writing is good. I hope your papers have finally come out.
        And as for ND, I am a little concerned about the idiots who want to leave their mark in the world. Some are speaking of “a contemporary gesture”. A pyramid maybe?

      2. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        Hi Brian, I salvaged your comment from my Trash folder so not sure what WP is doing – bizarre.

        Thanks for taking the time to leave me a comment and yes, my card finally arrived in March so legally allowed to leave Italy now.

        Hmmm…sounds quite narcissistic but not surprising. Quite sad really that this stunning piece of history can’t be restored to its original splendour. Cheers, Nilla

      3. equinoxio21 Avatar

        Computers do strange things. No worry.
        Glad about the card. 🙂 I hope the validity runs from the delivery not when it was stamped months ago in an obscure bureaucrat’s office and stored away in a drawer. 🙂
        And as for restoration… It will eventually be restored. After all Viollet-le-duc, in the 19th century had done his job. There will be a fight. Proponents of this, proponents of that. Somebody (Macron?) will try to prove he can higher, then there will be a petition, and in 20 years it should be all right. This is France. 🙁

      4. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        Ha, ha you hope wrong and the time did indeed start from when my last one expired in October 2018, even though I had to apply 3 months before its expiry in July.

        You made me laugh with the p*ss higher comment – great analogy! Shame things take so long in France and hope they’ve covered the roof area from the environment…need to catch up with the news. Probably will take 20 years in France, but it would take 40 in Italy. 😉

      5. equinoxio21 Avatar

        40! They are our cousins. Sorry about the date. I remember a class in Grad school. Great teacher who introduced us to Milgram’s Submission to Authority. He also did a class on Bureaucracy and how it always evolved into bureaupathology. I guess Italy is running point.
        Buon finale di settimana.

      6. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        “…we shall never surrender.”
        Agree, but how it stifles a country and into apathy is alarming.
        Grazie, anche a te!

      7. equinoxio21 Avatar

        Paralysis is probably even closer to reality. Same goes in France. I think public servants have doubled or tripled over the past 30 years. If you add public servants, unemployed, and retirees, I would say close to half of France is on the government’s payroll. Ciao, ciao

      8. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        Right, so no difference to here then… 😉

  5. Roy Lando Avatar

    Interesting place to visit. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Hi Roy, it certainly is an interesting place to visit and I’d like to return one day.

  6. LuLu B - Calabrisella Mia Avatar

    The mototaxi with balloons is awesome! haha Really enjoying discovering these less touristy areas of Peru.

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      There were 3 or so over the few days we were there, so probably a few parties on…

      1. LuLu B - Calabrisella Mia Avatar

        And what? No invite? How rude! hahaha

      2. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        Yeah exactly – how rude! 😉

  7. aliterarybent Avatar

    As usual…lovely photos and some great travel info. Nice post.

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Many thanks for you great feedback and happy that you enjoyed this post.

  8. Angella Avatar

    Awwww…i absolutely love Peru but never heard of Tarapoto! What a lovely little place! Looks magical!

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Thank you for commenting Angella and glad that I can show you a not-so-traversed part of Peru. Tarapoto is a great place…

  9. the eternal traveller Avatar

    Your sunrise photo is gorgeous – worth risking the bandits…almost.

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Thank you but I don’t think it’s that great out of the bus window – ha, ha, I was so glad that our bus wasn’t stopped along this desolate stretch of highway…

  10. Disha Smith Avatar

    I just visited Peru and I seem to have missed out on this wonderful gem. I’m adding it to my list for when I go back.

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Hey Disha…looks like you spent some time in South America
      Still publishing posts on Peru, so stay tuned. 😉

  11. Lisa Dorenfest Avatar

    I hope we arrive at and experience this place bandit free. And I’d certainly like to be soothed by such a sunset. The colorful motor taxis are magnificent. I want one filled with balloons.

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Me too Lisa, I’d rather had not found out about bandits also…
      The balloons were too cool and bet you’d be able to handle one of those taxis much better than the locals! 😉

  12. Valerie Cullers Avatar

    Such a beautiful colorful city! Thank you for sharing it with us!

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      No problem Valerie and thank you for your comment – happy to share different snippets of our gorgeous globe with everyone!

  13. map195 Avatar

    good blog post….thanks for share….& how are you….after many days you publish your post…how is life going….say my hello to every one in your family….take care

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Hi, thank you and think I’ve mentioned that I publish once per week.
      You may have missed my post from last week: Los Organos.
      Thank you for your feedback.

  14. Puzzles of the Soul Avatar

    Tarapoto looks really beautiful, I do not think I could take the humidity. Pleased you had a pleasant stay there. Wish you a safe journey onwards.

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Yes is is a beautiful region but very humid, which takes some getting used to…
      This post is part of longterm travel in South America from 2011, I’m still catching up but trying to mix it with current travel posts.
      Many thanks for your sharing your thoughts.

  15. Blogging_with_Bojana Avatar

    Peru seems like the old movies, where time stopped. Really enjoying this series.

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Thank you Bojana for the kind feedback and happy you’re enjoying my Peru series – still more stories to publish. 😉

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