Peru // The jungle //

Quillabamba

A rapidly expanding market town, growing fat on profits from coffee, tropical fruits, chocolate and, to a certain extent, the proceeds of cocaine production, QUILLABAMBA is the only Peruvian jungle town that’s easily accessible by road from Cusco: the main attraction here is a quick look at the selva. Coming from Cusco, the initial section of road is a narrow gravel track along precipitous cliffs, notoriously dangerous in the rainy season, but after a few hours, having travelled over the magical Abra Malaga – the main pass on this road – the slow descent towards Chaullay starts. From here on, you’ll see jungle vegetation beginning to cover the valley sides; the weather gets steadily warmer and the plant life thickens as you gradually descend into the Urubamba Valley.Your first sight of the town, which tops a high cliff, is of old tin roofs, adobe outskirts and coca leaves drying in the gardens. It’s a pleasant enough place to relax, and you can get all the gear you need for going deeper into the jungle; the market sells all the necessities like machetes, fish-hooks, food and hats. Just ten minutes’ walk from here, the Plaza de Armas, with its shady fountain statue of the town’s little-known benefactor, Don Martín Pio Concha, is the other major landmark. The nearby waterfall of Siete Tinjas is a popular spot with locals during holidays, and a pleasant natural and peaceful setting in which to while away an afternoon.