Location: Northeast high jungle.
Area: 51 253 km2.
Capital: Moyobamba (874 masl)
Altitude: Minimum: 190 masl (Pelejo)
Maximum: 3080 masl (Agua Blanca)
Moyobamba, capital of the department of San Martín,
dubbed the City of Orchids, was the first city founded in the Peruvian jungle,
the Spanish Conquest. It was the seat of the first religious missionary orders
to be established in the area, and a foothold from where the Church set out
to convert the natives to Christianity. It was also to serve as a base for
the posterior colonization and development of the region.
The water that flows through the area forms waterfalls, lakes and rivers that provide a beautiful backdrop for the city. Visitors can explore the mouth of the Tioyacu River and even the underground river of the Cueva de los Huacharos cave. One can also take a dip in the natural hot springs at San Mateo, take a ride across the lake called Laguna Azul and climb up to the thundering Ahuashiyacu waterfall, deep in the heart of the jungle, or the Gera waterfall, which drops 120 meters down three separate falls.
Man has left his mark on this area since the dawn of civilization, building sites such as Gran Pajatén, a pre-Inca complex of circular slate buildings decorated with figures of flying condors. Due to its difficult access, tourism is not yet possible at the site.
Tarapoto, a city founded in 1782 by the Bishop of
Trujillo at the time, Baltazar Martínez de Compañón, is one of the most bustling cities
in the department of San Martín. Despite being a major trading hub,
the city lies in the middle of an area redolent with history and extraordinary
Visitors who explore the areas around the city will soon discover how many waterfalls there are in the region. In fact, Tarapoto has been dubbed the 'Land of Waterfalls' due to the abundance of falls, some of which are the finest to be found in the country. The best example is Aguashiyacu, a 35-meter waterfall located 14 km northwest of the town. The falls, which mean 'the laughing waters', form a pool which is ideal for a refreshing swim in the balmy tropical climate.
Another waterfall which should not be missed is that of Huacamaíllo, considered the most striking example to be found in the region. To get there, visitors will need to set out on a two-hour stroll from the town of San Antonio de Cumbaza (18 km north of Tarapoto). This tour is ideal for those avid for contact with nature, as hikers will be able to spot different bird and butterfly species native to the area.
The Tunun Tunumba waterfalls ('from fall to fall' in the Quechua language) are formed by three consecutive falls which flow into a crystal-clear pool which is ideal for swimming. The site is reached by an hour-and-a-half walk from the village of Chazuta (42 km east), a hike through impressive landscapes which will give one the chance to skirt the Huallaga River and walk through steamy jungle.
Lake Venecia lies closest to Tarapoto (5 Km. away) and is ideal for fishing, swimming or boatrides. Lake Sauce, also called Laguna Azul, is another spot which is good for swimming and taking in natural landscapes. It is San Martín's foremost tourist attraction, not just for its beauty but also the fact here one can unwind or practice watersports.
Before returning, don't forget to visit the neighboring town of Lamas (21 Km. to the northwest), possibly the only town in the Amazon jungle that was not built on the banks of a river. The music, art and dances of these Quechua-speakers (although Quechua here has often blended with jungle dialects) has made this town the folk art capital of the Upper Amazon.
For history buffs, just 8.5 Km. from the city one will find the Polish rock carvings (the name means 'bare plain', so-called because of the area where they are found). These bas-relief carvings depict figures of plants and animals, particularly snakes. Archaeologists are still unsure of when the carvings were made.
The high jungle plateau, where Tarapoto and environs are located, hide amongst its leafy woods another gift of nature: more than 2,500 orchid species have been found, orchids held by many to be the most beautiful flowers on Earth. Tarapoto is a land where the enchantment of its landscape is reflected in its limpid waters, unique in Peru.