Chachapoyas and Kuelap

Chachapoyas and Kuelap

This region has been called Peru’s ‘best-kept secret’ and it’s a secret that’s definitely worth revealing. The landscape is gorgeous, with waterfalls, mountain valleys, caverns and cloudforest, and it’s home to huge numbers of orchids, bromeliads, butterflies and hummingbirds. You can comfortably acclimatise to altitude here while horse riding and hiking and the archaeological sites are important and fascinating, and include the vast fortress of Kuelap, which pre-dates Machu Picchu by 500 years.

Reasons to visit Chachapoyas and Kuelap

  • The 23 waterfalls! The most spectacular are the two-drop Gocta and the 896m, four-drop Yumbilla.
  • Wildlife and plantlife is stunning here. Dozens of varieties of orchids grow wild, spectacled bears roam the mountain forest, while butterflies, toucans, hummingbirds, parrots and scarlet bromeliads add to the abundant colour.
  • This region is a history-lover’s delight. At 600m x 120m, Kuelap is one of the biggest ancient sites in South America, the walled citadel containing 485 individual structures, the most famous of which is the circular El Tintero. There are many ways to reach Kuelap, including on horseback – and you can even take a cable car ride that gets you to 20 minutes’ hike from the fortress.
  • Karajia in the Utcumbamba Valley is home to eight mummies housed in upright clay and straw cliffside sarcophagi, while at Revash you’ll find incredibly well-preserved Chachapoya funeral mansions set in the side of the canyon.
  • Go out on a boat on the Lake of the Condors, where in 1997 hundreds of remarkably preserved Inca mummies were found in tombs under a waterfall in the cliff face. You can see the mummies in the museum at Leymebamba.
  • Explore the Quiocta caverns, with their multitudes of stalactites and stalagmites.
  • Visit the farmers’ market in Chachapoyas town or head to the village of Huancas, where female ceramicists craft traditional objects by hand, then walk out of the village for a spectacular view of Sonche Canyon.

Places to Stay

The Chachapoyas and Kuelap region has a host of different types and levels of accommodation, so there is something to suit all tastes and budgets.