Tarapoto Adventure Options include rafting, zip-lining, caving and abseiling.
Excursions ranging from a few hours to a couple of days.
Includes intense, two-day marquee trip to the little-visited Rio Abiseo Park.
Tarapoto has long been known amongst Peruvians - especially those from the coast - as a place to enjoy tropical heat and Amazonian jungle flavour, without the need to venture deep into the rainforest.
While there are some excellent lodges in the region, most domestic visitors tend to stay in a city hotel, or at a family-oriented resort, and go on excursions from there. Now the excursion offering is expanding to incorporate more adventure activities.
Here is PeruNorth’s selection of the best five:
1. Rafting on the Mayo River.
This is a well-loved, half-day excursion that can be done in the morning or afternoon. The rafting crew pick you up from your hotel, and then make the 45-minute drive, along the main road towards Moyobamba, to the small riverside village of Churuyacu.
Here, you put on helmets and life jackets, while the guides prepare the raft. Then, after a few basic instructions on how to paddle forwards and backwards, you are off down the Mayo River.
I did the trip in August, which is low-water season throughout the Amazon. Nevertheless, the rapids were Level III in some places, and it was also deep enough at a couple of points to jump out of the boat and float downstream, which was fun.
The scenery in the valley is beautiful, being a mix of jungle and agricultural land, with plenty of birdlife in evidence.
15 minutes from the end, you make a stop at a riverside beach, where there is a rope swing (‘soga de Tarzan’) into the river, tied to an overhanging tree, and a couple of swings (also hanging from trees).
After a pleasant half an hour here, you get back into the raft for a final few minutes’ paddle down to the village of Maceda, where you disembark, and change into dry clothes for the drive back to Tarapoto.
2. Zip-lining in Mayo River Valley
Known in Spanglish as a ‘canopy tour’, this can be done in conjunction with the rafting trip. There are two lines measuring about 150 m (492 ft) each, fixed to trees in the hilly semi-forest just off the Belaunde Highway, and near the village of Churuyacu.
The walk to the first platform takes about five minutes. Brief instruction is given, and then you are off. With only two lines, the whole experience takes no more than 30 minutes.
Overall, it is a gentle introduction to the thrills of zip-lining.
3. Abseiling at Shilcayo River
Another half-day excursion, this time going into the Cordillera Escalera Reserve, a short distance to the northeast of Tarapoto. The central feature here is the Shilcayo River and Valley.
To abseil here, at Bocatoma, you need to climb 30 m (98 ft) up a rope ladder before descending using the rope and pulley system. No previous experience necessary.
There is time for swimming in the Shilcayo River, and a little exploration, before being returned to your hotel, either at lunchtime or in the late afternoon.
4. Abseiling at Pucayaquillo Waterfall
The Pucayaquillo Waterfall is a very popular destination for conventional tourism, located just 40 minutes southeast of Tarapoto. However, this full-day abseiling tour puts an adventurous spin on the visit.
On the drive from Tarapoto, you make photo stops along the scenic Mayo and Huallaga River valleys, both of which are tributaries of the Amazon River. Then, on arrival at Estero Cave, where the path to the waterfall begins, there is a 6 m (20 ft) high rock, which is ideal for some practice abseiling.
Once confident, you make the 45-minute hike along the jungle path to the 40 m (131 ft) high Pucayaquillo Waterfall. Here, you abseil down - a real adrenaline rush!
After this exertion, a cooling swim in the pool at the foot of the waterfall is most welcome.
Lunch is taken back at the Estero Cave entrance, after which there is free time to explore the cave, hike some of the other trails in the area … and do some tree climbing using the abseiling equipment!
Finally, you are driven back to Tarapoto and your accommodation.
5. Abseiling & Caving in Rio Abiseo National Park
In our opinion this is the crown jewel of Tarapoto’s adventure activities: an action-packed, two-day trip to the remote and spectacular Rio Abiseo National Park.
Starting early on the first day, you are driven the two hours to the town of Juanjui, which is located on the banks of the Huallaga River. You have breakfast here, before boarding a speedboat to take you upstream, firstly on the Huallaga and then on the Huayabamba River. The Amazonian jungle scenery on this boat journey is jaw-dropping, from beginning to end.
The first stop is at Pachiza which has a good, small museum to visit. You also stop at the Rio Abiseo National Park Interpretation Centre in the nearby town of Huicungo, before continuing up the Huayabamba River, then the Abiseo River and into the Rio Abiseo National Park, where we have lunch.
The afternoon is spent exploring the Cueva de los Franceses (Frenchmen's Cave) and Cueva Del Otorongo (Jaguar Cave), located along the Churo Ravine, using the abseiling equipment.
The night is spent in basic, but homely, dormitory accommodation, where you have a shower and dinner, before an early night after a full day.
The morning of the second day of the trip is spent at the stunning, 80 m (262 ft) high Maquisapa Waterfall … abseiling from the top into the pool at the base! A life experience, no doubt.
Lunch is taken back at the hostel, before beginning the return trip to Tarapoto. As the journey by speedboat is going downstream this time, it is a little quicker than on the way there, but you still don’t arrive in Tarapoto before 8pm, at the earliest.
PeruNorth can of course arrange all of the above tours, so feel free to ask for more details.