Oxapampa: A German Colony in the Peruvian Amazon

Discover the rich cultural history of Oxapampa with this detailed guide of the towns attractions.
The town and surrounding countryside of Oxapampa, a German colony in the Peruvian Amazon.
Oxapampa and the surrounding countryside. Image: "File:Vista de Oxapampa desde el Mirador de Chontabamba.jpg" by Ted Harry Tueros Zevallos is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0.

Located in the high jungle region a couple hours north of Lima, the small town of Oxapampa sits in a small valley between lush mountains, winding rivers, and roaring waterfalls. However, this quaint little town is just any ordinary Peruvian village in the jungle. Instead, Oxapampa has a rich cultural history rooted in German tradition with Peruvian influences. Include this incredible location on any one of our Amazon Rainforest Tours and experience the wonder of Oxapampa yourself!

Table of Contents:

Overview

As one of the most unique towns in all of Peru, Oxapampa is worth visiting just for the unique German flair and Peruvian influenced food and architecture. Here you’ll find beautifully preserved and untouched jungle landscapes, delicious food, and the kindest of people. It’s deep history is also interesting since it was founded originally by Austrian and German Colonists escaping wars and famine.

History

In the early 1850s the Baron Damian Freiherr von Schutz-Holzhausen signed an agreement with the Peruvian government allowing 10,000 German settlers from Tyrol and Prussia to relocate to the Alto Huallaga area of Peru.  The colonists took a four-month journey from Germany to Lima, where their plans were derailed by the emerging civil war and the realization that the road to their new settlement hadn’t yet been built, despite assurances to the contrary from the Peruvian government.

Most colonists stayed in Lima, but around 300 plucky ones left for the Port of Huacho, some 150 km north, where they were put into quarantine.  From here, they crossed the coast, the Andes, and then traversed the dense jungle, building the path themselves on what turned into a two-year journey. Only 170 of the colonists managed to reach the town of Pozuzu.  In 1891, a few of the colonists left Pozuzu and founded nearby Oxapampa. Access to the town used to be difficult until a highway facilitated tourism in the 1980’s. Now Oxapampa is a popular tourist destination with plenty of activities and exciting traditions.

Today, the two cities have a unique and harmonious blend of Peruvian and German culture. Traditional German houses can be seen throughout this high jungle area and brunette children wear dirndls and lederhosen while they dance traditional folk steps right alongside their blonde peers.

a bright blue bird with a black head and beak sits perched at the end of a branch

Near Oxapampa there are numerous oportunities to see incredible birds such as this Masked Flowerpiercer. Photo by Latin America for Less

Attractions

There are a number of attractions in Oxapampa worth visiting! From walking around the picturesque town, hiking, visiting natural wonders such as waterfalls and parks, to even exploring caves. Dont hesitate to ask one of our travel advisors for other activities that might be of more interest to you!

Plaza de Armas

The Plaza de Armas is the cultural hub of the town. The green plaza is where you’ll find enormous jungle trees, classic german architecture, musicians, dancers, and delicious food. Don’t miss on walking around this eccentric center of the town!

El Tigre Waterfall

A 10 minute drive or motorcycle taxi ride away from the city center is Oxapampa’s most famous waterfall. To reach the El Tigre Waterfall you’ll walk on a quick trail where you can safely reach the base of the waterfall thanks to some steps with a handrail.

Yanachaga-Chemillén National Park

For any avid bird watchers this is the national park for you. The perimeter of Yanachaga-Chemillén National Park is right next to Oxapampa. Here the 470 square mile park is open to day-visitors or camping enthusiasts planning to stay the night at the parks numerous camp sites.

Tunqui Cueva

A few minutes outside of town, the Tunqui Caves lie waiting to be explored. These caverns are worth visiting for any spelunking enthusiasts or budding geologist. There are a number of incredible underground spaces full of stalactites and stalagmites you can explore here.

Things to Do

There are dozens of walking or hiking trails just outside of Oxapampa. However is you’re interested in other activities you can do the following listed below:

Mountain biking

If exploring on two wheels is your passion, Oxapampa and the province of Pasco has dozens of Moutain bike trails from beginner to expert level enthusiasts.

Zip Line Tours

For a quick thrill visit the Zip Line tour in Oxapampa to experience the wonders on the forest canopy.

Hiking Tours

There’s a number of hiking trails around the town. Feel free to ask one of our Travel Advisors for suggestions.

Where to Eat

Oxapampa has a number of delicious restaurants serving classic Amazonian cuisine. Dine on delicious natural river trout or taste the flavors of the jungle with banana-based dishes. Check out our list below for some recommendations:

  • La Nona, Italian inspired Amazonian cuisine
  • Restaurante Touristico Maurys, Classic Amazonian food
  • Tunki Restaurant, a mix of Peruvian food
  • Restaurante Típico Oxapampino, A blend of German and Oxapampino food
  • La Estación Restaurante, Pizza and other comfort foods
A blue house with a concrete path leading to it sits in the middle of a green lawn

A blue European style house in the middle of the Peruvian jungle. Photo by Michael Wieck from Latin America For Less

Culture

Due to it’s unique history, Oxapampa has one of the most distinctive cultures and practices out of any other town in Peru. After a quick first glance at the town you’ll realize that the buildings, music, food and even peoples clothing have traces of European styling. The most prominent example is the large wooden Santa Rosa Church that sits in the middle of the town. You’ll notice that the wood architecture, small surrounding white picket fence, bell tower and overall appearance are extremely characteristic of western Europe. A majority of the surrounding houses also use the same style, seeing this kind of architecture within Peru’s Amazon Rainforests is certainly a sight you rarely come across.

Selvámonos Festival

Since it’s quite far off the beaten path, Oxapampa might seem like an unusual place to host a music festival. However, after getting to know the town it’s clear that the interesting history has created a diverse and accepting community ideal for an international festival.

The goal of the festival is to decentralize the arts in Peru and take Peruvian artists out of Lima and to other parts of the country. The festival was held at the lovely and pastoral Ruffner Ranch, just a short moto-taxi ride from the main plaza in Oxapampa.

A mix of traditional Peruvian dishes accompanied with German pastries and beer is available. Festival attendees are able to enjoy music, food and a family-friendly environment.

For further information about the festival, see the event blog: http://selvamonos.blogspot.com/

Travel Tips

Many of the residents grow and roast delicious coffee, make cheese, and harvest honey which can be purchased in the town square for a fraction of the cost as the same products in Lima.

Getting there

Oxabus and Expreso Lobato both have overnight buses from Lima to Oxapampa that take between 9 and 11 hours. Oxabus has nicer buses, but the express Lobato bus is faster. Tickets range from 50 soles to 70 soles.

For more information about visiting Oxapampa on your next trip don’t hesitate to contact one of our travel advisors through our contact form so we can help you customize your trip.