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Chachapoyas, Kuelap and Surroundings

Location: Rediscover Machu Picchu > Peru & the Andes > Chachapoyas, Kuelap and Surroundings





The City of Chachapoyas


The name of this small city comes from the name of the Chachapoyas people. The word Chachapoyas means Warriors of the Clouds.

The Chachapoyas were Andean people living in the cloud forests of the Amazon region in today's Peru. They were conquered by the Incas, but not completely eliminated or assimilated. During the Spanish conquest wars, the conquistadores often had the Chachapoyas on their side against the Inca warriors.


The city of Chachapoyas is at a height of 2.235 m, which is almost the same height as Machu Picchu's.

Over 20.000 people live in Chachapoyas, a city far from the Peruvian coast, situated in the northwestern part of Peru.

Today, Chachapoyas is the capital of the Peruvian region called Amazonas.

The city is an important agricultural center due to its sugar cane, orchid plantations and coffee growing farms.






Kuelap is one of the largest stone structures in South America.

Some will write its name this way: Cuélap - correct in Spanish language.

The structure is situated on a ridge near the Utcubamba Valley in northern Peru, close to the city of Chachapoyas.

Kuelap has a length of about 600 m and a width or 110 m.

The Chachapoyas had built Kuelap in order to defend against the Huari (Wari) people and other potential enemies.

Specialists have determined that the Kuelap complex dates back to the 6th century A.D.


There are daily buses from Chachapoyas to Kuelap. They usually leave from stations located 2 to 3 blocks away from the Main Square of Chachapoyas.




Gran Vilaya


Archaeological ruins complex occupying a wide area in the Utcubamba Valley, west of the Kuelap fortress.

It is estimated that there are approximately 5.000 buildings in the Gran Vilaya area. Some of them are circular, others rectangular. The construction material used is mainly limestone.

Motifs representing snakes, condors, pumas and typical chachapoyan zig-zag patterns can be found on constructions.

The site was discovered by Gene Savoy, an American explorer in 1985.


Gran Vilaya is a pre-Incan Chachapoya creation.






Archaeological site. Not easy to access, hiking is required.

For ordinary travelers, this is not a primary attraction, as it is a rather small site consisting of tombs.






Funerary site built in the sides of cliffs.

Long hard hike is needed to get there and we don't recommend you and your friends to try and experiment with the road that leads there.


The site is located north of Kuelap and consists of burial places that were accommodated in the sides of cliffs.

Local word for such a tomb complex is purunmachu.

Funerary statues are placed at the entrance of the tombs, they overlook the Utcubamba Valley.






Revash is a funerary complex in the Luya Province.

The distance from Chachapoyas is around 60 km (37 mi) from Chachapoyas.


Revash is built in the sides of cliffs. It is beautiful to see the reddish-yellowish structures constructed into a niche inside a cliff. It looks like the cliff was carved deep in order to accommodate house-like constructions/carvings. These were the "homes" of the dead.






Leymebamba is a quiet, friendly town near the Utcubamba River.

The Plaza de Armas is stone-paved with Chachapoyas motifs. There even is a replica fountain of the Laguna de Los Cóndores (a beautiful nearby lake between mountains).


The Museo Leymebamba displays more than 200 mummies and burial jewels and offerings.

This museum was inaugurated in June 2000 and contains ancient artifacts, mummies from the Chachapoyas area.


Leymebamba is also famous of its local Yaraví musicians. It is regarded to be a center of Yaraví music.




Gocta Waterfalls (Catarata Gocta)


The height of the Gocta Cataracts is 771 m (2,530 ft). Nevertheless, Gocta is among the World's tallest waterfalls. Some measurements call it the 3rd highest, others the 5th, while the lowest ranking it has received was the 14th place.


The place can be reached by a combination of road vehicle and off-road hiking from Chachapoyas. Gocta is 25 km (15.5 mi) north from Chachapoyas.




The Lagoon of the Condors (Laguna de Los Cóndores)


93 km (57.8 mi) away from the city of Chachapoyas.

It takes 3 and a half hours to drive there from the city.

Popular hiking place "near" Chachapoyas... It's not that close, but still, Chachapoyas is the nearest big city to the lagoon.


This place is wonderful! It is like a dream!

If you ever have the time and money when in Chachapoyas, you must visit the Lagoon of the Condors.




Getting to Chachapoyas


Chachapoyas has its own airport, but very few, rather occasional flights are operated.

The only regularly operated flight in mid 2010 was to Chiclayo.


There is no way you can get by train to Chachapoyas. There are no railway lines.


There are direct buses to Lima, Chiclayo, Trujillo and other cities. There are good roads linking Chachapoyas to other Peruvian cities.


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