Cahuapanas, Eastern Andes

The Cordillera Escalera is part of a set of "sub-Andean" mountain ranges, of more recent elevation, that ranges from central Colombia to central Peru. It covers about 300 000 ha (741 316 ac) in the border of San Martin and Loreto regions, of which 149 870 ha (370 337 ac) are protected by the Regional Conservation Area (RCA) Cordillera Escalera. Here mysterious cloud forests of the eastern mountains condense water from the Amazonian lowlands, among trees proliferate orchids, bromeliads and vines; and below them run streams that form beautiful waterfalls and lakes with clear water.

At the heart of these mountain forests inhabit both Andean and Amazonian animals, mammals such as ocelots and spectacled bears coexist in this place. It stands out the species of frogs and toads that are only found in this part of the planet, but the diversity of reptiles, mammals and birds is also abundant.
In fact, according to Birdlife International, this area is part of an Endemic Bird Area (EBA) of the world. Adjacent to the area there are 7 Quechua-Lamistas and Chayahuita’s native communities whose stories are intertwined with forests, lakes and mountains that create the landscape of this part of the world. It is an area with a lot of pressure from the surrounding populations, so the the deeper you get into the woods, the more you will experience its nature.

Trip Considerations

To enter the RCA you’ll need to make a payment of 10 soles/-day, destined to the area’s protection. Guidance services (including food) vary between 15 to 30 dollars/day. The main entrances to the Cordillera Escalera come from Tarapoto, there are 5 touristic zones: Shilcayo, San Roque de Cumbaza, Ahuashiyacu, Shapaja and Chazuta. 
If you want to make tours of more than a day is recommended to wear waterproof clothing and backpacks, as well as rubber

boots, especially in the rainy season (November to March). There are many paths that do not require to be guided tours, to visit these beautiful forests please be careful not to affect, remove the waste generated and not scare away the animals.

Shilcayo is the nearest area of Cordillera Escalera to Tarapoto city, you can walk or take a taxi from Tarapoto. Here you can hike from 1 to 3 days, crossing rivers and waterfalls through the forest. Some of these paths can be walked alone; others require of a guidance service.

Ahuashiyacu, it is the second closest access from Tarapoto. It is a small trail that leads to a waterfall of the same name. You can enter without a guide, it ́s signage and is a low-intensity walk, it should take between one to three hours one-way (along with the time spend in the waterfall, all the route should take about 4 to 8 hours, depending of your speed). There are no camping areas. If you want to get there by public transport must go to the whereabouts called “Banda de Shilcayo”.

San Roque de Cumbaza is a village at 1 hour from the Tarapo-to, with a cultural diverse population (foreigners, immigrants and natives). It has beautiful rivers, lakes, waterfalls and forests. In the village there are accommodations and restaurants. If you want to get there using public transport you also need to go to the whereabouts called “Banda de Shilcayo”.

Shapaja is a town about 30 minutes away from Tarapoto known by its waterfalls. If you want to go by public transport should go to the whereabouts to “Laguna azul”. Chazuta is a “Quechua-lamista” community 1 hour and a half south of Tarapoto. From there you can do treks of 2 to 3 days, but you need to hire a guide to enter the area. Some local families provide accommodation for visitors, which is a good opportunity to meet new people and learn about their culture. If you want to go by public transport should also go to “Laguna azul” whereabouts.

Local Services

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Near Destinations

Pacaya Samiria

National Reserve

Loreto, Perú


  • Tourist Information Office Tarapoto

    • (042) 526188
    • Jr. Ramirez Hurtado Cdra # 1, Plaza Mayor, Tarapoto.
  • RCA Cordillera Escalera Office

    • (042) 52-3240
    • Av. Circunvalacion S / N. Tarapoto - San Martin, Peru