Few tourists stick around in Yurimaguas. Those that pass through are typically jumping on the next boat out for the three-day trip down the Río Huallaga to the Amazon and onto Iquitos. Others use Yurimaguas as a gateway to the Pacaya-Samiria National Reserve, the largest protected area in Peru.
But if you do stick around for a day or two, you’ll find Yurimaguas to be a friendly, fairly relaxed place to visit. But don’t expect too much in the way of entertainment, fine dining or fantastic places to stay.
All photos by Tony Dunnell.
Things to Do in Yurimaguas
If, like me, you enjoy strolling around jungle port towns, then you’ll be happy exploring Yurimaguas for a day. Beyond that, you’ll be hard pressed to find many outstanding sights or activities in or near the city.
The small Plaza de Armas is a pretty spot to sit and watch the world go by. On the westernmost corner you’ll see the sky-blue Virgen de las Nieves Cathedral, a Neo-Gothic structure built between 1928 and 1931. It was boarded up for renovations in 2011, and the project ran into funding problems, bureaucratic black holes and a sprinkling of corruption. It was finally reopened in 2015.
Yurimaguas’ traditional street market spreads across a few blocks near the main square. And, like any jungle market, it’s an interesting place to explore — just be prepared for some uneasy spectacles, like piles of live turtles (for pets and for the pot) and the occasional (and illegal) tigrillo or jaguar skin. The market is a good place to stock up on supplies for your boat trip to Iquitos, including the requisite Tupperware container, knife and fork that you’ll need for your onboard meals.
If you’re yearning for some jungle adventure, you can try to arrange a daytrip with a local agency to Lago Cuipari, a massive oxbow lake that’s great for wildlife spotting. Further afield and less accessible is the Piedra de Cumpanama, a massive rock decorated with beautiful deep-hewn petroglyphs of uncertain age. To get there, you first have to reach the isolated village of Balsapuerto, followed by a six-hour trek, round trip.
To enter the Pacaya-Samiria National Reserve (which can also be done from Iquitos), you first need to head downriver to Lagunas. You can arrange tours into the reserve in Lagunas, or organize the trip with a guide or agency in Yurimaguas.
Where to Stay in Yurimaguas
Accommodation is limited in Yurimaguas. You’ll find a bunch of nondescript hospedajes (guesthouses), a spattering of dull hotels, and a handful of hostels that aren’t much like backpacker hostels at all.
If you’ve already booked a cabin or hammock space on the boat to Iquitos, then you can sleep there on the boat for free until the boat leaves (which could be the next day, or two days, or three days if you’re really unlucky).
Otherwise, head to what is by far the best hotel in Yurimaguas (and the best restaurant, see below). The Rio Huallaga Hotel (Calle Arica 111) is head and shoulders above anything else in Yurimaguas, but it’s not cheap by local standards. Rooms range from about S/ 180 to S/ 335 ($55 to $100), but it’s worth the cost if you want to make the most of your time in Yurimaguas — and if your budget can handle it.
Restaurants in Yurimaguas
I asked a few locals for restaurant recommendations in Yurimaguas, and received no enthusiastic suggestions whatsoever. And while there are plenty of cheap restaurants dotted around, and street grills at night, the only two places of note I found were:
The Rio Huallaga Hotel Restaurant (Calle Arica 111) — Great food with inspiring views across the Río Huallaga and the jungle beyond. If you’re on a budget, go for the excellent set lunch menú option for a very reasonable S/.10. À la carte includes local, national and international options. I ordered the picante de mariscos for S/ 25 ($8) and it was top notch.
Mil Sabores (www.facebook.com/milsaborescafeyresto) — A solid café-restaurant offering good food at reasonable prices.
Nightlife in Yurimaguas
Um, well, you could always have an early night. OK, that’s harsh, but there’s not much nightlife in Yurimaguas. There are small bars and bodegas selling cheap beer throughout town, including near the Plaza de Armas. There’s also a bar scene of sorts around Plaza Moralillos, about 10 blocks northwest of the main square.
One well-established drinking spot is Benito’s Bar (Mariscal Castilla 227) about two blocks north of the Plaza de Armas, which has pool tables.
Getting to and Around Yurimaguas
Not many options here. It’s either a trip northeast by boat down the Huallaga to the Amazon and onto Iquitos, or the paved road southwest to Tarapoto. There are no regular scheduled flights to the small airport in Yurimaguas (Aeropuerto Moisés Benzaquen Rengifo).
Yurimaguas to Iquitos by Boat
Large passenger boats — which also carry plenty of cargo — run between Yurimaguas and Iquitos on an almost daily basis, although the schedule is “flexible” rather than entirely fixed. The boat journey typically takes about three days, although it could end up closer to four (especially going up river from Iquitos to Yurimaguas). Hammock space normally costs between S/ 60 and S/ 100, while a cabin holds two and costs around S/ 150 per person. You can arrange boat passage with agencies in the center of Yurimaguas or just head down to the port and buy your ticket directly.
Smaller, faster boats (lanchas) are available between Yurimaguas and Iquitos, but cost significantly more. You can arrange a lancha with boat companies in Yurimaguas.
If you just want to travel from Yurimaguas to Lagunas (for Pacaya-Samiria National Reserve), you can take a passenger boat and ask to get off at Lagunas. Or you can hire a private lancha.
Yurimaguas to Tarapoto by Bus or Car
The bus or car ride between Yurimaguas and Tarapoto takes about two hours and costs between S/ 10 and S/ 20 per person. The first half is beautiful but full of twists and turns through the jungle-covered mountains. I’ve rarely been car sick in my life, but this trip always tests my stomach. Best to make this journey without a hangover. Things level out at around the half-way point and the drive is much smoother. If you’re in the area during the rainy season (January to March, roughly), be prepared for the road to be temporarily blocked by landslides. Chances are you’ll be fine, but most years the road is blocked for a day or two at some point.
Getting Around Yurimaguas
It’s all motorbikes and mototaxis in Yurimaguas. You can get anywhere in the city for just a few soles by mototaxi.
Is there any approximate schedule of busses from Tarapoto to Yurimaguas and is there any bus station for all of them?
We are comining on November 9th to Tarapoto airport and would like to catch evening cargo boat in Yurimaguas.
Thanks a lot in advance for your answer!
Hi Eva. Sorry, this response might be too late. But I think one or two bus companies might have a proper schedule. Otherwise you just find one of the paraderos/terminals for the colectivo buses or shared taxis. They are scattered around in different spots. There’s one paradero with various companies (cars and colectivos) just as you leave Tarapoto along the Fernando Belaúnde Terry Highway heading south. Otherwise you can ask your hotel reception for the nearest option, or just get a mototaxi driver to take you to the closest paradero for Yurimaguas. Thanks, Tony. (and sorry again for the late reply)
I want to travel from Iquitos to Yurimaguas by fast boat/launch. Any tips?
Hi Jack. The seats can be damned uncomfortable, so anything you might have that can act as a cushion might help. Take some food (and maybe some booze, if that’s your thing) to help pass the time. And consider the duration a rough estimate — sometimes they arrive hours late. Other than that, just kick back and enjoy the scenery. Cheers, Tony.
Hi Tony , great having all this details ahead of time. We are a family of 4, planin g to go to Tarapoto end of July , we would love to go to Pacaya Samiria Reserve, any advice if is convenient to go from Tarapoto..or should be wait next time when we visit Iquitos and go from there?? Thanks for reply
Hi Romina. Sure, you can definitely do it from Tarapoto (or Yurimaguas). I arranged my trip to Pacaya Samiria through the Yuripari tour agency (they have an office on the main square of Tarapoto): https://www.facebook.com/ToursTarapotoYuripari/. It was great, and we had two excellent local guides from Lagunas. And a lot of people say it’s better to enter the park from the Yurimaguas/Lagunas side rather than from Iquitos, as they don’t allow motorized boats to enter, which apparently they do allow on the Iquitos side. Hope that helps. Tony.
Hi Tony – our family of 4 is planning an extended trip to Peru (and Ecuador and Colombia) this summer. Our kids will be 4 and 8.
We are starting in Lima in early June then going to Cusco, mid-June. Then want to come to northern Peru. I have been reading about Cajamarca, Chachabapoyas and Inquitos and am thinking about a range adventure options, from an overland journey from Cajamarca to Yurimaguas and then by boat to Iquitos. Even considering the onward journey to Leticia. Do you have any advice regarding doing this journey with kids? Do you know about the overland route from Cajamarca to Yurimaguaas via Chachapoyas? Alternatives are to fly to Tarapoto and skip the first leg of the journey? Or fly to Iquitos from Cuzco (there are direct flights) and then do that same journey in reverse (which seems less common.)
We could devote as much as two weeks to this northern journey. Not sure it would hold our kids’ interest.
Any insight you could offer would be incredibly appreciated.
Hi George. I’ve answered the email you sent me re. this. Cheers, Tony.
Hi Tony, Dear readers,
We arrived today (end of october18) in Yurimaguas. Our plan is to travel to Iquitos by the slow boat. After hearing different storys, one was it’s forbidden to travel on the cargo boat, it seems that the boat don’t leaf from Yurimaguras anymore. We don’t know where they used to leaf but now they leaf from a port about 20km out of Yurimaguras called COLAM. The fare to there by mototaxi is 5 soles per person. We got all this informations at Transporte Eduardos, which you can find on google maps. There office is inside the building in the first floor.
Hi Adrian, and thanks a lot for the information. That means the new COPAM port is up and running. The old tiny port used to be a lot closer to the town center. The new one is about 8 km out as the crow flies, so longer by road. Thanks again for the info, and have a good trip! Tony.
I’m currently in Trujillo and would like to know the simplest route to get to Yurimaguas. From there I plan to do an Amazon your. I’m open to bus rides and flights. Thank you!
Hi Tim. Have you checked to see if Movil Air has started its direct flights between Trujillo and Tarapoto? That would be the easiest and quickest option. Then from Tarapoto you just get a bus or shared car to Yurimaguas. Otherwise you can get the bus all the way from Trujillo to Tarapoto, but that’s quite a long trip. Or you could go to Chachapoyas and then fly to Tarapoto directly from there. Those are the standard options. Let me know if you have any more questions.
Thanks for a nice site with useable infos.
We are 4 people travelling to Tarapoto in sept. After Tarapoto we are planing on taking a fast boat from Yurimaguas to Nauta.
There are very little infomation to find on these boats on the internet, so any additionel info you can provide will be appreciated.
So about these lanchas (fast boats) do you know at what time they leave ? How many hours to reach Nauta ?
Is it posible to hire a boat (smaller) ourselves ? If yes any idea of the costs ?
Hi Klaus. I think they normally leave early in the morning or at night (like around 10 pm). I think from Yurimaguas to Nauta takes maybe around 14 or 15 hours, depending on the boat, how much it stops, the weather etc. I can never remember the price exactly. I think it’s between S/150 and S/200, but I could be wrong about that. I’ve only done it on the big boats before. I’ll let you know if I find out more info. Hiring out a boat privately would cost a lot more, but it should be possible. Might take some time to sort it out though, especially as Yurimaguas isn’t the most efficient of places. Thanks, Tony.
Hi Tony! Do you know if there are one way car rentals between Tarapoto and Yurimaguas?
Hi Jacob. As far as I know, no, there aren’t. Car rentals are limited in general in both cities, and I’ve definitely never heard of one way rentals between the two. If you find something, let me know. Cheers, Tony.
You can rent an entire car by yourself for 80/s. We do it all the time San Martin has local offices in both Yuri and Tarapoto. You can also rent entire vans if you have more people. 120/s for a 7 passenger minivan, 200/s for a 10-12 passenger, and 300/s for a 16 passenger with air conditioning.
Thanks Erica. I’ve been recommending Amazon Car Rental in Tarapoto recently ( https://www.facebook.com/CarRentalPeru/ ). Which company do you use? Cheers, Tony.
I’m planning to go on a trip starting in Lima, Miraflores, where I am now, all the way till Tumbes- Equador and then enter the “Amazonas”- Tarapoto and next, Iquitos but… my big difficulty right now is how to find transport between Tumbes and Tarapoto. Do you know something about that?
Hi Catarina. Once you’ve got to Tumbes, you’ve kind of overshot the turn-off point to Tarapoto. Most buses go from the coast to Tarapoto via Chiclayo. So you’d have to travel back down the coast from Tumbes to Chiclayo and then jump on a bus to Tarapoto (Movil Tours and Excluciva are both good options). Or you could first head from Chiclayo to Chachapoyas, for Kuelap Fortress, Gocta Waterfall etc, and then fly for cheap from Chachapoyas to Tarapoto with SAETA airlines (you might need to book a ticket in advance). Alternatively, you can start cutting inland from Piura, but I’m not sure how good those roads are after the floods. Let me know if you have any more questions (and if you want some people to hang out with in Tarapoto, send me an email/Facebook message and come to my bar). Cheers, Tony.