In the cloud-covered hills above Tarapoto, the pueblo of Lamas sits on a ridge overlooking a fertile valley. You’ll find plenty of things to do in the area, including coffee and cacao tours.
A trip to Lamas presents travelers with endless opportunities to connect with the local culture and environment. A tourist can experience waterfalls, ayahuasca ceremonies, cultural centers, colorful murals, small museums, native rituals and dances, and even fossil hunting. Amazingly, with all it offers, Lamas has yet to hit a boom in tourism.
To get a taste of what this area has to offer, consider visiting Lamas’ morning market. Every morning before sunrise, people arrive from their farms on the surrounding hillsides to sell produce from their farms.
Plants: From cash crops to medicinal plants
Located in the San Martin region of northern Peru, the chacras (farms) in the area produce a bounty of tropical plants. From coffee, cacao, coconut, and sugarcane to other fruits and spices you’ve likely never heard of.
The main cash crops are sugar cane, coffee, cacao and musk hibiscus (Abelmoschus moschatus). Tours of these farms can be arranged, which may include demonstrations of harvesting and processing as well as tastings of the products made from these plants (the local coffee is superb).
The cacao is some of the best in the world and is exported to every corner of the globe in the finest of chocolates. You can check out El Cacaotal in Lima to find bar made specifically with cacao from this region of Peru.
The cañazo (fermented and distilled sugar cane alcohol) will burn your throat and give you one hell of a buzz — and it costs about the same as bottled water (S/2 for half a liter).
Many medicinal plants grow in the high jungle, and the natives know how to use almost all of them: oje, huito, ayahuasca, sacha ajo, chuchuwasi, coca and many more.
Fossils of ammonite and other shelled creatures dot the local riverbeds; you can either collect your own with a guide or purchase polished fossils in Lamas.
Visiting ancient ruins in Lamas
If archaeology is more your thing, you’ll find an ancient enigma just above the village of Pamashto, a short ride from Lamas. Here, a large stone circle, aligned to the rising sun on a certain day, sits atop a grassy hill. Nobody knows who built this structure; some say it may have been the Chancas or possibly the Chachapoyas.
You won’t find these ruins in any guide book and they are largely unknown even to the people in the area. They are also on private property. On June 21, in honer of the Winter Solstice, a gathering is held at the stone circle to watch the alignment of the rising. Ask for permission to visit and you might be invited to join the festivities.
How to get to Lamas from Tarapoto
This beautiful location is less than an hour from Tarapoto but feels a world away from the hustle and bustle of the city. The quiet hills are a nice place to relax and take a break after a ceremony or trek.
Plenty of tourist agencies in Tarapoto can offer you private transportation to get to Lamas. A cheaper option is to take a colectivo (shared taxi or van). From your hotel, ask a mototaxi to take you to the terminal on cuadra 11 of Alfonso Ugarte. Per person the ride should be no more than S/8. Vans leave according to availability, not a set schedule.
A version of this article previously appeared in Tarapoto Life. It has been updated from its original publication on September 18, 2018.
Cover photo: El Comercio