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Chachapoyas - Chachapoyas District - Peru

Chachapoyas, PeruThe Chachapoya people had elaborate burial rituals. They used cliffs as burial compartments for their dead.

Nestled in the cloud forests of remote northern Peru, the city of Chachapoyas is the gateway to the fascinating but little-known region of the same name.

A long way from the established Peruvian tourist trail, this part of the country is home to enigmatic pre-Incan archaeological ruins, impressive towering waterfalls and enthralling treks in Peru.

Little is known of the Chachapoya people who inhabited the area as they had already been subjugated and incorporated into the Incan Empire before the arrival of the Spanish Inquisitors.

It is believed that Chachapoya people had established a distinct culture in the region by around 750-850 BCE, and by the time of the arrival of the Incas around the fifteenth century CE, they had erected monumental architecture to rival that of the Inca themselves.

A visit to the Chachapoyas region offers the adventurer traveler the opportunity to discover a mysterious lost culture and a very remote region of Peru.

Even though lacking in real attractions, the town of Chachapoyas itself is a pleasant place to be based, offering colonial-period architecture and a perfectly square main plaza measuring 100 metres along each side.

The town is famous for fruit liqueurs and anybody spending a night or two there may choose to track down some of the bars where these can be sampled. Decent food and lodging options are also available.

Chachapoyas, PeruThis corner of Peru is a far cry from the usual tourist haunts of the Sacred Valley or the popular hiking trails of the Cordillera Blanca such as the Laguna 69 hike or the Santa Cruz trek, or even the Inca Trail, but it boasts some of Peru’s most incredible and underrated sights, all within easily accessed distance of Chachapoyas.

Highlights of the Chachapoyas Region include the imposing pre-Incan city of Kuélap built in the sixth century CE - a site that was lost until its rediscovery in 1843, with much of its significance still unknown today.

Kuélap is characterised by massive stone walls up to 20 meters in height and includes several religious structures including the Tintero 'ink well' - a site of which supposed human sacrifices were performed.

Kuélap lies around two and a half hours by car from Chachapoya. It is also possible to arrive on foot from Tingo, a village that can be reached from the town by taxi or colectivo (shared taxis) - on foot the walk takes about two hours.

Cascading 771 metres over the cliff-edge, the famous Gocta waterfall is claimed to be one of the highest waterfalls in the world.

A two-hour trek from the village of Cocachimba takes you close to the waterfall from where you can witness the immense power of the water cascading down from high above.

Alternatively, a less common walk starts at the village of San Pablo. The easiest way to see the waterfall is to join an organised tour but both villages are also reachable by taking a combi as far as Cocohuayca and then a moto-taxi the rest of the way.

Chachapoyas, PeruOnly recently discovered and even higher is the 895-metre tiered Yumbilla waterfall near the village of Cuispes, located about 20 minutes from Pedro Ruiz by moto-taxi but can be reached by a combi as well.

The Chachapoya had elaborate burial rituals and two cliff burial centers can be found in the Chachapoyas region. The first of which is known as Karajía - located near the village of Cruz Pata.

Here you can see six huge and elaborately decorated sarcophagi (up to two metres in height) perched on a narrow cliff edge high above a river gorge. They contain the mummies of high ranking people of the Chachapoya culture. A little farther from this group are other less ornately decorated ones.

The second is Pueblo de los Muertes - ‘Town of the Dead’, which contains similar sarcophagi. It can be reached from the village of Lamud and requires a 45-minute walk. Both villages are hard to reach due to limited public transport available.

The sarchophagi of Karajia being perched on a ledge on a narrow cliff above a river gorge in their 'hard to reach' location has been able to keep them safe from theft and damage.

Leymebamba , a small town located on the road between Chachapoyas and Cajamarca, is best known as the home of a museum containing over 200 Chachapoya mummies.

Most tours of the region involve a stop in Leymebamba solely for a visit to the museum. But, the town also makes for a convenient stop for those hoping to break up the journey between the two larger towns and for those planning on staying even longer. It is possible to organise hikes into the surrounding countryside as well.

Chachapoyas, PeruApart from the various sites of interest in the region, Chachapoyas is a good place for hiking as well.

A three-day trek can combine all the points of interest to form a standard Chachapoyas tour. A standard itinerary would be similar to the following:

Day 1: Chachapoyas – Karajía

Two-hour drive from Chachapoyas to the start of the trail plus three-hour trek to see the sarcophagi at the Karajía burial site. Accommodation in tents in Karajía.

Day 2: Karajía – Gocta – Cocachimba

Trek from Karaija to see the impressive Gocta waterfall and then on to the campsite at Cocachimba. Accommodation in tents at Cocachimba.

Day 3: Cocachimba – Tingo – Kuélap – Chachapoyas

Six or seven hours of tough hiking to the most famous site in the region, the imposing ruins of Kuélap. Return to Chachapoyas by car.

Please note that there won’t be a clearly marked trekking route between the above stops outlined in the itinerary, and hence, you may want to use a guide when following this route.

The area is quite remote and rarely crowded – so the tracks and trails you will be following won’t be that well-trodden.

Chachapoyas, PeruAn alternative one-day hike is going from Leymebamba to Laguna de los Condores. It can be done either on foot or on horseback. The maximum altitude on this day-hike is 3,900 metres and it takes around nine to ten hours. Hikers spend the night in a farmstead at the Laguna and then hike back again the following day.

The best time to visit Chachapoyas is during the dry season which runs from April to December. However, it should be noted that it is during the rainy season that the waterfalls of Gocta and Yumbilla are at their most spectacular.

The cheapest way to go to Chachapoyas is by buses that run directly from Lima every day, taking around 22 hours. Buses to Chachapoyas are also available from nearby Chiclayo and minibuses run from the towns of Cajamarca (via Leymebamba) and Tarapoto.

All these cities are connected to Lima by plane. However, flights do not depart every day and should be checked in advance. While in Lima, do check out some of the fun things to do in Lima.

For those determined to escape the crowds and head off-the-beaten track, Chachapoyas in offers the perfect solution in this zone of transition between arid cordillera and rainforest.

You will find ancient archaeological ruins that have been swallowed by the jungle, mighty waterfalls, evocative landscapes that fire the imagination, and some great trekking trails.

Southern Peru is one of the most popular travel destinations in the world, boasting wonders that have become world-renowned. However, the north of Peru is a rich region that is full of incredible treasures as well.

Chachapoyas, PeruThe gateway to adventures in northern Peru can be found in the idyllic and rather sleepy town of Chachapoyas. Despite the town’s small size and relative lack of tourism amenities, many travelers and backpackers do flock to Chachapoyas for the multitude of otherworldly adventures in the surrounding areas.

Located in the Amazonas region of Peru, Chachapoyas is a small oasis of civilization. It is a small haven amongst the dense jungles, impassable mountains, and otherwise inhospitable conditions in this part of the country where few humans have dared to roam or call home.

For now, Chachapoyas is relatively unknown internationally, but it won’t be for long. The region around Chachapoyas was home to unique civilizations that most people have never even heard of.

The archaeological sites and cultural artifacts are unlike anything else most adventure travelers have ever seen around the world. The town of Chachapoyas itself turned out to be a good mix of local culture while also being accommodating for travelers.

Being one of the top travel destinations in northern Peru, Chachapoyas is relatively easy to get to. Buses run to and from Chachapoyas pretty much from anywhere in northern Peru. That includes Lima, although that likely may be a brutal 24-hour bus ride.

From Ecuador, you can cross the border over at La Balza and continue down through San Ignacio, Jaen, Bagua Grande, and eventually Chachapoyas.

If you are coming by car or motorcycle, it might be a good idea to stop at one of those towns for the night and wrap up the last 4-5 hours of the journey on the following day.

If you are taking a bus, you can get one from Cajamarca, Chiclayo, or Jaen. Those are the closest bigger cities but you can show your moxy by banging out one hell of a journey from Lima or other more distant places further out.

Chachapoyas, PeruMost of the things to see or do in Chachapoyas aren’t actually in the town of Chachapoyas. However, since Chachapoyas is the most developed town in the area, it serves as the gateway for these adventures.

There are plenty of tour agencies in town to sort you out for anything you need. I don’t usually do tours but for a place like Chachapoyas, I felt like I could use some assistance.

When Gocta Falls were discovered, they were the 3rd-highest waterfalls in the known world. They’ve dipped to 15th since then but that doesn’t take away any of the awe you will experience of these incredible cataratas.

The dense jungle, monstrous mountains, and lush greenery makes it seem like something straight out of Tarzan or Jurassic Park. At 771 meters (2,549 feet) tall, these waterfalls are nothing less than amazing.

How To See Gocta Waterfalls Without A Tour? Although you can get a tour for as low as 40 soles from Chachapoyas, it is possible to visit the waterfalls by yourself. You can take a bus or drive yourself down to Cocachimba and walk through the town until you reach the trailhead for the waterfalls.

It is about 11 kilometers round trip, although the hike can feel tougher than that due to the constant cycle of going uphill and downhill. The grueling hike is absolutely worth it once you find yourself at the base of the waterfall and can finally feel just how immense these waterfalls are.

Chachapoyas, PeruSituated at about 3,000 meters above sea level in the mountains near Nuevo Tingo, the ruins of Kuelap are among the most impressive you will see in the world.

They have nowhere near the popularity of Machu Picchu which means that it can often feel like you have the ruins to yourself. Nuevo Tingo is only about an hour from Chachapoyas.

From there, you can take the cable car up to Kuelap for 20 soles ($6 US) and then pay 30 soles to enter the archaeological complex. Although the architectural style is similar to the Inca civilization, the site of Kuelap is actually the ruins of the Chachapoya civilization. This is a must-do while in Chachapoyas.

Can You Visit Kuelap Without A Guide? Yes, of course, but it is not recommended. A tour from Chachapoyas town will cost you about 80-90 soles, or less if you are traveling with a big group. This covers entrance and the cable car, which alone will run you 50 soles.

Once you throw in the cost for the guides, lunch, and roundtrip transportation and one actually wonders how these tour agencies make any money.

Sure, you can save some money if you try to arrange everything on your own but for the convenience, it's probably not worth it. The tours usually leave Chachapoyas around 9 AM and get you back around 5:30 PM, giving you over three hours at the ruins which is more than enough time.

For a quickdaytrip you can do within the city itself, hiking up to Luya Urco can make for a great sunrise or sunset trek. You can see the entire city of Chachapoyas situated in the valley between the towering mountains, after a short but very steep hike that should take only about 15 or 20 minutes from the center of town.

On the way down, you can walk two blocks over and follow the streetlamp-lit pathway down passing by el Pozo de Yanayacu. It isn’t much to see but it is an intriguing bit of history with a fun legend behind it.

Chachapoyas, PeruRumor has it that if you drink from the well, it will enchant you into falling in love with a Chachapoya woman and never leaving.

Located further south past Kuelap and closer to Leymebamba is the Mausoleo de Revash. Most travelers never heard of this place until they are actually in Chachapoyas browsing around the tour agencies looking for ideas of things to do.

Also in Leymebamba is a unique museum that was quickly built to house some incredible artifacts found nearby.

Overall, Chachapoyas is an incredible place to visit for all sorts of travelers. From the hiking to the culture to the rich history that has happened here, there is so much to see and so much to experience. It feels like you can travel back in time with some of the activities that you can do in Chachapoyas.

Although lesser-visited than Gocta Falls, Yumbilla Falls are actually the 5th tallest waterfalls in the world. Standing at an impressive 895 meters or 2,938 feet -these falls are as impressive as they come.

To get to Yumbilla Falls, you’ll need to take a bus to Pedro Ruiz and then a mototaxi to Cuispes. The journey takes about 75 minutes each way. From Cuispes, it takes about an hour or more to reach Yumbilla Falls along the trail.

If you’ve got even more time to kill, there are a few other majestic waterfalls within a 4 kilometer radius. Pabellon Falls stands at 400 meters tall and Chinata Falls stand at 580 meters tall. If you are looking for something even more off the beaten path, then Yumbilla Falls might be your best bet.

There are quite a few hostels in Chachapoyas although most of them don’t show up on Hostelworld or anywhere else online. We stayed at Hostel El Angel where the three of us paid 60 soles ($18 USD) a night total for a private room. That worked out to 20 soles each which seemed to be the standard rate for hostels in the area.

Chachapoyas, PeruWhere To Stay in Chachapoyas For Backpackers? As for accomodation the cheapest hostel in Peru could also be found in Chachapoyas for less than $2 a night. If you’re bold, you can go and see for yourself why it is the cheapest hostel in Peru.

Hostel El Angel lacked any social vibe which was fine since after adventuring for most of the day you'll be too tired to do any outside socializing anyway. Chachapoyas Backpackers and Chacha International are two hostels that come recommended. The Wi-Fi at El Angel was shockingly fast and had a good home-y feel where you can cook your own meals and do your own laundry.

After Chachapoyas the city of Cajamarca is one of the larger ones in northern Peru. It is like a much bigger Chachapoyas that is also home to a lot of incredible cultural activities. The history behind Cajamarca also makes it one of the most important in Peruvian history.

It is where the downfall of the Incan empire began when Francisco Pizarro and Atahualpa first met. Shortly after, the outnumbered Spanish troops began their successful conquest of Peru.

If you want to head out for the coast as soon as possible, Chiclayo is about a 10 hour bus ride from Chachapoyas. Chiclayo is one of the largest cities on Peru’s coast but not particularly popular.

The city of Trujillo about 4 hours south is the more popular spot, but you’ll likely have to pass through Chiclayo on your journey there.

Heading north towards Ecuador? Vilcabamba or Loja should be the destination. It is a long journey from Chachapoyas but you can split it up with a stop in San Ignacio or in Jaen.

Chachapoyas, PeruYou’ll cross the border at the extremely desolate border crossing of La Balsa before wrapping up the final four hours through the mountains and into the small village of Vilcabamba.

If you are looking to go deeper into the jungle, Tarapoto is a lesser-visited spot. The popular attraction there is Laguna Azul. It is a bit out of the way for most travelers but if you have no time limitations, it might be worth your time to stop and see it.

Most of the things to do near Leymebamba can also be done from Chachapoyas. However, if you are looking for something more off the beaten path, Leymebamba can be a nice place to stay.

The Mauseleo de Revash and Leymebamba’s museum are two must-see attractions in the Amazonas region. However, they are a bit further from Chachapoyas so using Leymebamba as a home base for a night or two could be a good alternative.

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