Only 30km from the Ecuadorian border, Tumbes is in a uniquely green part of coastal Peru, where dry deserts magically turn into mangroves and an expanse of ecological reserves stretches in all directions. It’s also the springboard for trips to the excellent and popular beaches of Máncora, two hours further south.
A flashpoint for conflict during the 1940–41 border war between Peru and Ecuador, Tumbes remains a garrison town with a strong military presence. It’s hot and (depending on season) dusty or mosquito-bugged, and most travelers don’t stay long. The nearby national reserves are distinctive and a boon for nature buffs.
Tumbes was an Inca town when it was first sighted by Pizarro in 1528. Pizarro invited an Inca noble to dine aboard his ship and sent ashore two of his men, who reported the existence of an obviously well-organized and fabulously rich civilization. Based on those accounts Pizarro returned a few years later to begin his conquest of Peru.
Present-day Tumbes is about 5km northeast of the old Inca city, which is marked on maps as San Pedro de los Incas. The Panamericana passes through the site, but there is little to see.
Last updated: Mar 2, 2009
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