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The warmth and humidity in the Andean foothills hit you as you descend from the Huánuco highlands. Not many travelers visit this settlement at the border between mountains and jungle, as it has gotten a bad rap for being in the midst of the country's coca-growing core. It's a shame, though, to miss Tingo María's vibrance and beauty, seen in its colorful, bustling markets and frenzied festivals. A strong military presence keeps out drug smugglers from the Río Huallaga valley to the north.
With a backdrop of mountains shaped like La Belle Durmiente (Sleeping Beauty), Tingo María is a safe haven of 21,000 residents who make their living tending the surrounding coffee, rubber, and sugarcane farms. Banana and tea plantations also wind their way up the slopes, and less than 15 km (9 mi) farther out there are hidden lakes, waterfalls, and caves to explore. Most travelers come here to visit Parque Nacional Tingo María, in the midst of the Pumaringri mountains. Many highland and rain-forest species live here, including parrots, primates, and bats. This is also the home of the rare, nocturnal guacharo (oilbird), a black-and-brown, owl-like bird with a hooked beak and a 1-meter (3-foot) wingspan. You can also explore the famed Cueva de las Lechuzas (Las Lechuzas Cave), on the skirts of the Bella Durmiente, an enormous limestone cave that shelters an important colony of guacharos (also known as santanas).
Tingo María at a Glance
Elsewhere in The Central Highlands
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