The obvious appeal of the central selva is its ease of overland access and proximity to Lima. Directly east of the capital, the region is endowed with an array of rainforest eco-niches. The large and modern jungle city of Pucallpa lies in lowland rainforest, while the nearby oxbow lake Lago Yarinacocha provides a fine spot to swim, rest up and watch schools of dolphins. Pucallpa is also a main point of departure for trips downriver to the larger destination of Iquitos, a thousand-kilometre, four- to five-day journey.
Closer to Lima yet less explored by tourists, the Chanchamayo region – famous for its fantastic coffee – offers stunning forested mountain scenery, fast-running rivers, and trees dripping with epiphytes. A steep road descends from Tarma down to the jungle gateway towns of San Ramón and La Merced, separated by a twenty-minute drive. From here you can travel north, visiting the unique Austro-German settlements of Pozuzo and Oxapampa, both rich agricultural centres located within a mosaic of little-visited protected areas, including the stunningly beautiful Parque Nacional Yanachaga-Chemillén. Apart from Pozuzo, rough roads connect these towns to Pucallpa via Villa Rica, Puerto Bermudez and Puerto Inca.
East from San Ramón and La Merced, an easier paved road heads towards the lower forest region, focused on the frontier town of Satipo, where Ashaninka tribespeople often come to town in traditional robes to sell produce and buy supplies. Near Satipo are scores of native communities, mainly of the Ashaninka ethnic group, and some of South America’s finest waterfalls.Read More
- The Chanchamayo Valley
A sprawling, hot and dusty city with over 400,000 inhabitants, PUCALLPA holds little of interest to travellers, most of whom get straight into a mototaxi or a local bus for Lago Yarinacocha. If you stay a while, though, it’s difficult not to appreciate Pucallpa’s relaxed feel – or the entrepreneurial optimism of this burgeoning jungle frontier city.
Pucallpa’s annual festival for visitors – the Semana Turística de la Region Ucayali – is usually held in the last week of September, offering mostly artesanía and forest-produce markets, as well as folklore, music and dance.
If you have an hour or so to while away in the town itself, both the downtown food market on Jirón Independencia and the older central market on Dos de Mayo are worth checking out; the latter in particular comprises varied stalls full of jungle produce. The port of La Hoyada and the older, nearby Puerto Italia are also bustling with activity by day. For craft shopping, artesanía can be found at Jirón Mariscal Cáceres block 5, Jirón Tarapacá block 8 and Jirón Tanca block 6.