Out of all the places to visit in Peru, none are more overlooked than Tingo Maria. This isn’t an accident, since even after decades of improvements in transportation this area remains surprisingly remote. Due to the heavy rains and jungle fog, flights to Tingo Maria are scarce. This lack of areal opportunities forces visitors to endure a grueling 14-hour bus ride from Lima to reach this hidden oasis. While it may seem off-putting for some, this separation from the outside world makes Tingo Maria even more special.
Boasting over 160 surrounding natural attractions, there’s no denying Tingo Maria’s charm. This area is so beautiful that it’s hard to believe that it remained under terrorist control for almost 15 years. To find out more about this area’s surprisingly wild history, check out this article. Right now we aren’t talking about Tingo Maria’s past, because this area is so rich in attractions that its future is too bright to ignore.
This gorgeous city is nestled in the heart of the central Peruvian jungle. Located at a comfy elevation of 647 meters (2,204 feet), Tingo Maria is the door of the Amazonia. Its name “Tingo” stems from the Quechua word tincco, which means union of two rivers. This makes sense, since Tingo Maria sits on the convergence point of the Monzón and Huallaga rivers. “Maria” refers to the well-known woman who lived on the riverbank and provided shelter and food to explorers venturing deep into the jungle.
Even though Maria is often credited by locals as being the original inhabitant of Tingo Maria, she was far from the first. The area was inhabited by multiple pre-Colombian native tribes who ended up fleeing deeper into the jungle to escape the Incas. Despite their best efforts, they were eventually defeated by the Incan emperor Pachacútec. The relics of this invasion and settlement are a 5km-long rock road that runs through Leoncio Prado and Pachitea. The area was eventually conquered by the Spaniards, and Tingo Maria remained inaccessible until the Montaña Road connected it to Lima in 1936.
This isolation from the outside world is understandable, since Tingo Maria is surrounded by a limestone mountain range. From a distance it has the shape of a sleeping woman, which birthed the city’s nickname La Bella Durmiente (sleeping beauty). Aside from the mountain range, Tingo Maria is surrounded by a 180 km² (43,000 acre) national park. This provides direct access to virgin jungle that’s bursting at the seams with exotic wildlife.
Between the never-ending amount of waterfalls, caves and natural pools, Tingo Maria literally has too many attractions to fit into one article. To tour the best waterfalls in the area, feel free to click on this post. For those who want to explore caves, don’t miss this jaw-dropping article. Right now we are going to cover the best bodies of water around Tingo Maria. Just like every other attraction in Tingo Maria, they are absolutely amazing. This is hands down the most gorgeous area of Peru that we have seen in our extensive travels, so prepare to be blown away.
Best Places to Swim Around Tingo Maria
Attraction #1: Las Aguas Sulfurosas del Jacintillo – This gorgeous pool of water sits 15 minutes outside Tingo Maria in the Rupa Rupa region. It’s nestled right across the bridge from the Tingo Maria national park and the entryway to visit the Cueva de las Lechuzas. What makes this pool so special is the water that seeps in from a sulfuric pool called Cotomono. Measuring 30 meters, this hidden pool is located under the Cerro Cotomono. Its water contains properties that allegedly help fight skin issues and stomach problems.
While the medicinal quality of the water is debatable, there’s no denying the beauty of this gorgeous pool. The area is well maintained and is home to a great restaurant and bar. Feel free to try a Juane de gallina and Tacacho con chorizo after bathing in this breathtaking area!
Attraction #2: Laguna de los Milagros – This shimmering lake sits alongside the highway from Tingo Maria to Aucayacu in the locality of Pendencia. On top of measuring 40,000 square meters, this lake is surrounded by Huairuros trees. These trees are believed to possess mystical powers and protection against evil energy, which gave this lake its miraculous name.
Aside from swimming and taking boat tours, a number of activities can be enjoyed around the lake. There are multiple swings at the base of the Huairuros trees, but these pale in comparison to what’s on the other side of the lake. Visitors get to propel themselves off a tree hut on a rope swing that allows them to soar over the forest. This attraction is affectionately dubbed la casa de Tarzan. It’s complimented by el arbol de los deseos, el tunel del terror that’s haunted by an evil dwarf demon, multiple amazing trees and crazy rock formations. This place is too diverse to miss, so don’t hesitate to visit when in Tingo Maria!
Attraction #3: Cueva de las Pavas – Despite what the name suggests, instead of a cave this is a gorgeous series of pools alongside the Cueva de las Pavas a river. Sitting just a few kilometers outside Tingo Maria, this lovely area is one of the main getaways for locals. According to multiple myths, this river is inhabited by a water goddess that blesses couples who bathe in the waters during full moons. Even if you aren’t looking for a way to strengthen your relationship, this is still a refreshing place to swim. Moto taxis routinely patrol the area, so feel free to take the goddess up on her offer!