Peru’s high jungle, or ‘ceja de selva’ (eyebrow of the jungle), is a diverse and expansive region known for its beautiful mountains, clear waters and verdant valleys. Here are the off-the-beaten-track destinations you should visit.
Covering a vast natural area that includes the cities of Chachapoyas, Tarapoto and Jaen, the high jungle of Peru offers numerous opportunities for adventurers wanting a taste of the Amazon.
But in fact, there are many other experiences in the area you shouldn’t overlook.
1. Hike for the mummies
This excursion is for those who like challenges. The way to get to the Laguna de los Condores (Lagoon of Condors), also known as the Lagoon of Mummies, is either on 12-hour hike (45 km), or 8-hour horse ride from Leymebamba (which is in turn a 2-hour car ride from Chachapoyas).
The adventure is definitely worth it, not just because of the green and blue waters and the spectacular views the surrounding valleys and mountains, but also because of the pre-Columbian mausoleums. There are six mausoleums onsite, testament to the importance of the funerary rituals practiced by the Chachapoyas people.
Tip: Visit the Leymebamba Museum, which houses about 200 mummies and objects found around the lagoon.
2. Visit Tarapoto for the adrenaline
The journey to Laguna Azul is half the adventure. It’s located 54km southeast of Tarapoto and past the Huallaga River, which you will have to cross, with your vehicle, on a barge- definitely an experience. Once on the lake, you can hop on a boat, paddle board, jet ski or even zip line across the water.
If you want the aquatic adventure without the travel, go to Laguna Venecia, located four kilometers from Tarapoto. You can fish, do jungle hikes, nighttime canoe trips, spot pink dolphins or rappel down waterfalls.
Paradise for birds and orchids
You’ll find a sublime birdwatching spectacle at the Abra Patricia Private Conservation Area, which sits north of Chachapoyas and right outside the Alto Mayo forest. Experts agree that this is one of the best places in the country for bird watching. Trails through 2960-hectare area will allow you to see tanagers, partridges, long-tailed sylphs, hummingbirds, owls, and quetzals. These are just some of the more than 300 species in this area, 23 of these are considered globally threatened.
The protected forest of the Alto Mayo valley, located in San Martin, also provide a natural paradise where one can find varieties of birds and animals like the Andean Bear and Andean Dwarf Deer, as well as a vast diversity of orchids and bromeliads.
Care to learn more about the thousands of orchid species that are in the area? The Moyobamba province is home to 3,500 species of orchids, which adds up to 10% of the global variety. You can spot these beauties in the wild and also in the various nurseries in the area. One of the most visited is the Waqanki Orchid Center. If you go in October, make sure to make time for the district’s orchid festival.
There’s more south of Chachapoyas
Southwest of Chachapoyas is the beautiful Huaylla Belen valley has a remarkable diversity of ecosystems. It has become a must-stop for eco-fans who are on their way to the Gran Vilaya, a complex of more than 5,000 small and large sites that date back to Chachapoya culture. many archaeological remains and ruins, spread over a wide area in the Utcubamba Valley in northern Peru.
Gastronomy: what to eat in the high jungle
The high jungle of northern Peru is not only known for its pre-Inca structures, lakes and local festivities. Visitors are also drawn to the traditional foods of the area, which is some of the most unique in Peru.
You’ll find local dishes such as: purtumute saltado (boiled beans and corn), juane (rice, meat, olives and hard boiled egg mixed together and wrapped in a banana leaf), tamal (mashed corn filled with either meat or cheese, wrapped in banana leaves), as well as the delicious fresh local cheeses and breads.
Other typical dishes include chipasmute (stewed beans and sweet corn), guinea pig with potatoes, juane made with yucca and stuffed plantains.
You’ll also encounter a variety of typical liquors in the high jungle, including guarapo (maize beer), chuchuhuasi (an herbal liquor made from chuchuhuasi tree leaves), and mora (blackberry) liquor.
Coveer photo: ytuqueplanes.com
This article has been updated from its original publication on January 18, 2019.
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