Why You Should Visit Chachapoyas in Peru
If you have your finger on the pulse, you may already be aware that Chachapoyas in Northern Peru is fast becoming a popular destination in South America. Although this region is over 1,000km from Lima, it’s just an easy hour and a half flight away from the country’s capital, and once there you’ll learn that it was well worth the journey. Chachapoyas is brimming with archaeological sites, many of which predate those found in the Sacred Valley to the south – though that’s not all. A rich, thriving culture and of course the bewitching cloud forest make this area of Peru a joy to travel to. Chachapoyas and its surrounds are, quite simply, a stunning place to visit. Intrigued? Read on as we uncover some of the region’s highlights.
Explore Chachapoyas Town
The Andean town of Chachapoyas shares its name with the ancient civilisation that occupied the nearby cloud forests some 1,500 years ago. Capital of the Amazonas, you will find Chachapoyas not only acts as a springboard into the local area but is also a lovely place to visit in itself. So often these towns and cities are merely stop gaps before tourists move on to the rainforest or archaeological attractions, but in Chachapoyas it’s best not to rush through. Pristine white colonial buildings topped with red tiled roofs hem the streets and also surround the Plaza de Armas, a pretty square with a bronze fountain as its central feature. Chachapoyas is a laidback, unassuming place that is likely to boom as Northern Peru grows in popularity. After a day or so finding your feet here, you will no doubt be ready to continue your adventure and with so much to see outside the town, we don’t blame you!
Explore the Sonche Canyon and Gocta Falls
Being conveniently close to Chachapoyas, the 11km-long Sonche Canyon may well be your first stop when you leave town. Deep gorges that plummet for 1km meet the Sonche River at the bottom as it rumbles through the valley, which can be viewed from various vantage points along the clifftops. Moving on from a natural landmark that has been on the radar for millions of years, to one that has only recently caught the attention of international travellers: the Gocta Falls. Despite being just 26 miles from Chachapoyas, these waterfalls remained hidden from the wider world until the early 2000s when a man by the name of Stefan Ziemendorff stumbled across the site during a hike. These magnificent falls are some of the highest in the world, at 771 metres, and have been the subject of folk tales among local villagers for generations, although talk of the falls never left the region. In a country that can hide such an impressive sight from the world, it begs the question: what will Northern Peru show us next?
Visit Kuelap archaeological site
Long before the Incas started work on Machu Picchu, the Chachapoyas – or Cloud Warriors as they are also known – were already settled in Kuelap. The Chachapoya civilisation is still shrouded in mystery but the remains of Kuelap give a fascinating insight into their lives. Nestled 3,000m up in the cloud forest, this 1,500-year-old fortress is now creating quite a stir in both the travel industry and archaeological community. Looking out to the stunning Utcubamba River Valley, these incredibly well-preserved ruins can be reached on a four-hour hike – much less than the five-day Inca Trail! But if walking there doesn’t appeal, a cable car taking just 20 minutes will drop you off at the top, where your Kuelap discovery begins.
The work that went into creating a city of this size in such a remote location is almost unfathomable. The great wall that once protected Kuelap is 600m in length and, taking into account the 400 circular stone houses that can also be found here, it is clear that constructing Kuelap was no mean feat. Engravings on some of the rocks add a certain tangibility to the cloud warriors’ existence, a mystical population who are now slowly revealing their secrets to us. It’s an enchanting site, not to be missed on your tour of Northern Peru.
Journey to Sarcophagi of Karajia and the Quiocta Caverns
Teetering on a cliffside, the Sarcophagi of Karajia tells us a lot about the Chachapoyas, their customs and their rituals. At 2.5m tall, these tombs preside over their final resting place with sombre watchful grace. Several have additional adornments in the way of human skulls balanced above their heads, suggesting, perhaps, that they were once great warriors. These ancient wise men and women – who bear some resemblance to the Moai statues of Easter Island in Chile – are thought to be roughly 600 years-old and, although inaccessible, are still mesmerising to admire from a distance.
While in the area it worth visiting the Quiocta Caverns, another place of both cultural and geological significance. Not far from the village of Lamud, these rugged caves are full of dramatic stalagmites and stalactites but that’s not all you’ll find hidden in the darkness. The Chachapoyas also used these caves for burying their dead, giving them an eerie yet enchanting air about them. Be warned, however, it can get muddy underfoot – we recommend you take your own waterproof shoes. As our knowledge of the Chachapoyas increases, there is no doubt places such as the Quiocta Caverns will become even more important to our understanding of this little-known people. A place that was clearly so revered all that time ago is now a privilege for us to visit.
Feeling inspired? Why not build your trip to Peru with Discover Your South America, personalising your itinerary by handpicking the hotels, activities and length of stay according to your preferences. You can also call Surtrek on 1 866 978 7398 (Canada and USA) or 080 8189 0438 (UK) to talk to a travel expert.
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