The Machu Picchu of northern Peru

Kuelap Fortress of the Chachapoyas culture. Peru
Kuelap Fortress. Chachapoyas culture - PromPeru

Kuelap -Peru- became known to the world just over one century ago. Its discovery, however, was in 1843 by a local resident - Juan Crisostomo Nieto.

Up until 35 years ago - roughly the time when the first dirt vehicle road came to the scene - only few trekked ancient Inca roads over the Cordillera Central and into the Vilaya Valley - birthplace of the Amazon - in order to reach it.

It's considered a remote area even for Peruvian standard.

This impressive fortress citadel lies at 3,000 meters above sea level, built on the stone cup of a mountain peak overlooking Utcabamba river, in the Department of Amazonas, Peru.

Its construction is presumed to have taken 200 years to complete and estimated to contain 3 times more material than Egypt's largest pyramid.

Mummy of the Chachapoyas culture. Peru

Around 800 AD, the Chachapoyas (Sachapuyas) culture flourished in the area and reigned for over 4 centuries until their conquest by the Inca Yupanqui, in 1452.

Its name comes from two Quechua words, Sacha, "mountain" and puya, "mist".

The name describes de area perfectly. The cloud forest overlooking the Amazon basin known as Cejas de la Selva (eyebrow of the jungle).

The Chachapoyas lived in fortified walled-cities high on the peaks. Little is known about their culture - twice as old as the Inca Empire - but Kuelap is believed to have been built to stop the Tiahuanaco or Wari Empire's expansion from Bolivia.

The citadel covers an area of around 6 ha. (14 acres), with some 420 circular buildings that include a watchtower and a castle.
It has 5 levels of walls inside of walls - up to 20 meters high and 500 meters long.
Today, you'll also find what must be millions of orchids and bromeliads covering most of them, bringing forward the wild beauty of the jungle to a warlike place.

Their funerary architecture is also elaborated. They buried their dead in funerary capsules - Purunmachus - as well as above ground stone tombs - Chullpas.

Chachapoya Funerary Capsule. Peru
Chachapoya Funerary Capsule - Anibal Solimano

So your tour to the region should also include a visit to the Lake of Condors (also known as the Lake of the Mummies), around 15 hours by mule from the town of Chachapoyas, and the vertical tombs of Karajia, in the Juscubamba valley, close to the village of Shipata.

To reach it, you'll need to book a day tour from Chachapoyas. After three hour ride you'll begin to climb - 3 or 4 hour hike - or choose to do it on horseback instead.
Time permitting, remain there to enjoy superb views, there are camping facilities.

Let's visit it through this short video (narrated in Spanish with English subtitles)...

Kuelap is not half as well known as Cuzco - or easy to reach for that matter - but a must-do destination for archeology lovers in Peru.

Another Pearl of South American beauty...

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How to Get There:

By Air:

Just 90 minutes flight from Lima (with a stopover in Tarapoto).


From Cajamarca: 336 km
From Chiclayo: 570 km.

Where to Stay:

Find the best hotel rates in Chachapoyas.


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