Visit Lamas & Wayku – Local Advice at its Best!

When choosing places to visit along our way, guide books can be useful, although the internet is sometimes more up to date. But nothing beats good advice from people who live there, or locals who’ve been there. That’s how we came to visit Lamas, and the town within a town, Wayku.

This was the view from our camping place in Lamas. Great idea to take local advice on where to go!

This was the view from our camping place in Lamas. Great idea to take local advice on where to go!

Travelling north on the 5N through La Selva Peruana (the Peruvian jungle), we arrived in Tarapoto. It’s the largest city in the region of San Martín, and we were hoping to find a supermarket to stock up a bit. We found one, and in it we also met Manuela (Swiss) and Thomas (German). They live in Lamas, around 22Km from Tarapoto. We chatted about all sorts of things, as you do when meeting others with common languages (English, as well as German). They suggested we should visit Lamas, promising it would be much cooler than Tarapoto, since it’s about 500m higher. At just over 300m, Tarapoto was actually pretty hot.

We were leaving Tarapoto the next day and travelling in that direction, so we decided to take up their suggestion. It’s about 12Km off the 5N. Thomas had given us his phone number, so we called him when we arrived. He offered to meet us and to help us find a place to park Berta. When he arrived, he had already arranged a place near some friends of his. We followed along behind his motorbike, uphill on a fairly rough track, to the top of a hill next to a big, white house.

Please click thumbnails below for a larger photo with description.

We had a 360˚ view of the surrounding countryside standing on vacant land, which was a bit overgrown by grass. The owner of the house came and joined us. He is a German (Hans), married to a Peruvian (Marjorie), who had also made Lamas home. While the vacant land wasn’t his, he assured us it would be fine to park there for as long as we wanted. And if there was anything we needed, we should just ask.

Hans went back to his house and Thomas left to go home, after inviting us to visit him later in the day. We settled in, admired the view and commented on how quiet it was. These are the wild camping spots we really enjoy. Marjorie came over to say hello, when she came home. She was just in time to call her moto-taxi driver to ask him to take us to Thomas and Manuela. We left with a return address on a piece of paper so we could get back to Berta.

Overnight camping in Lamas: this spot was absolutely terrific! It was quiet and breezy, plus the site had a nice view in both directions.

Overnight camping in Lamas: this spot was absolutely terrific! It was quiet and breezy, plus the site had a nice view in both directions. (Sorry, neighbours asked us not to publish the location.)

Thomas and Manuela live on the opposite end of the town, down a road that is so water damaged that it’s not really navigable, even by moto-taxi. We had to walk the last bit with the driver leading us to their door. They welcomed us through the gate/door of the compound and we stepped into their paradise. It is a tropical garden dotted with plants, some familiar from home, and flowers everywhere. They brought us down a winding path to an open living area with a thatched roof. They explained that they are creating a small Hospedaje in these beautiful surroundings. Then they showed us around. We walked downhill to the rooms that are almost finished. With all this walking downhill, we were totally surprised to walk through one of the rooms and out onto a balcony, with mountain views that just seem to go on forever.

Please click thumbnails below for a larger photo with description.

Lamas, one of the Oldest Cities in Peru’s Jungle

Maybe now is the time to describe Lamas. Founded in 1656, it is one of the oldest cities in the Peruvian jungle. It has a population of around 17000 people. They call Lamas the ciudad de los tres pisos (three floors) because it is situated on a hill, which has three distinct levels. The first level is still inhabited by an indigenous population who claim to be the descendants of the Quechuan speaking Chankas, who came from the south of Peru to escape the Incas. The second level was for the mestizos – those of mixed blood. And the third level was used as a fort, and is now a mirador.

According to iPeru website , Lamas is one of the main tourist attractions in the region of San Martín. They have a number of festivals, which attract a lot of national visitors. Therefore it’s easy to find accommodation and restaurants in all price categories.

The town was also recognised as la Capital Folklórica de la Región in 2003. The reason for this is found on level one.

The Town Within a Town: Wayku

On our second day in Lamas, we spent the late afternoon with Hans and Marjorie, sharing our stories and listening to theirs. Hans asked if we had visited the ‘town within the town’. He went on to explain about Wayku and suggested we should see it. The next day we walked into the centre of town and downhill to Indigenous Community of Wayku.

Please click thumbnails below for a larger photo with description.

As mentioned above, these Quechuan speaking people claim to be descendants of the Chankas, although there is some dispute over this . Whoever their ancestors, they keep to the traditions in housing, clothing and food. It was most interesting to see that their houses have no windows – just small holes to allow airflow. Hans had explained to us that they believe ghosts can enter through windows. Their clothes are handmade and extremely colourful. It is the preservation of these traditions, their artisanal works and the tourism these things attract that earned Lamas the title of the Region’s Folklore Capital.

Other Sights in Lamas

Castillo de Lamas built by Italian Nicola Felice - some might think him eccentric!

Castillo de Lamas built by Italian Nicola Felice – some might think him eccentric!

This concrete statue stands in the plaza of the 'town within a town' of Wayku. Note the cuy (guinea pigs) hanging on him - a well-known food in Peru.

This concrete statue stands in the plaza of the ‘town within a town’ of Wayku. Note the cuy (guinea pigs) hanging on him – a well-known food in Peru.

 

The other main tourist attraction in the town of Lamas is the medieval castle, El Castillo de Lamas. I know that sounds a little strange, but an Italian by the name of Nicola Felice recently built a 5 story castle near the centre of the town. It was evidently his childhood dream and he came to Peru to fulfill it. The castle is quite impressive, built from hand-carved stone and complete with stained glass windows. It seems that the locals like it, and many Peruvian tourists come to see it. But a medieval castle in this environment is still just a little strange.

Please click thumbnails below for a larger photo with description.

Lamas also has an Ethnographic Museum, and there are several waterfalls in the surrounding area. We didn’t visit the museum or seek out the waterfalls. Rather, we were content to wander this small town, and spend time with our new friends. And we did notice that it was a lot cooler sleeping at 800m. We were actually looking for a quiet place to spend Easter, but once again took advice from the locals. They told us that Lamas is certainly not quiet during Semana Santa, so we drove on.


Paso de San Francisco (Argentina) , INHOTIM (Brazil) , Ayacucho (Peru) , and La Selva: these are just some of the places we have discovered, and really enjoyed, on recommendations given during chance meetings with locals.


Tell us (in the comments below):
Do you ever ask locals for advice, or follow their suggestions?
Or do you only rely on your trusted guidebook for tips where to go?

Neither of our 2 Peru guidebooks mentions Lamas…

Are you on Pinterest?
Lamas in Peru – never heard of it? Neither of our Peru guidebooks mentions Lamas (near Tarapoto). But people we met suggested we should visit Lamas and Wayku in the cloud forest. We are glad we followed this local advice. Here is what we found!

PIN THIS for later!

 

Yasha

dare2go's human navigator (we're not lost because there's nowhere particular we have to be) alongside our Nexus 7 tablet, writer and editor of our blog, first cook and loving wife. Teaching English as a second language when possible.

You may also like...

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

 

There will be more great content like this! On our Facebook Page you can also keep up with where we are and see the latest photos from our journey.
So why not follow us?

Send this to a friend