Reasons to Visit the Ruins of Kuelap in Northern Peru

By Guest Author James Sullivan

Visiting the Kuelap Fortress

If history is something that piques your interest, you can’t go wrong visiting Kuelap Fortress. It was built in the 6th century AD and is an old walled city that the Chachapoya people created to defend themselves against nearby threats, such as the Huari. More than 5,000 people lived in this small town, and it was a place for religion, craft production, and other social aspects.

Famous view of the lost city Kuelap, Peru
Famous view of the lost city Kuelap, Peru (Ludmila Ruzickova/Shutterstock)

The city consists of 400 buildings and the outer walls reach 19 meters in height. It is called the lost city because the last known occupation was in the early 16th century. However, residents who had known the site for centuries brought local judge Juan Crisóstomo Nieto to the site.

He surveyed the land and that aroused the interest of explorers and archaeologists. Although Nieto rediscovered the area in 1843, it was not until May 1997 that a full exploration was carried out. Federico Kauffmann Doig had the resources to look through the cave, which had paintings, mausoleums, and other artifacts from the Chachapoya culture.

In June 2010, excavators found human bones in a secondary grave, which was common in pre-Columbian Peru.

great summer trip

The best time to go to Kuelap is from May to September. Kuelap has a rainy and a dry season. During the dry season, you can expect cooler temperatures and less rain.

Also, be careful in the sun due to the high altitude. From October to April, it is usually warmer. Regardless, it can still be an enjoyable trip if you plan accordingly.

The mist from the rain and the humidity add some mystique to Kuelap, especially when you visit specific sites. It can make your stay feel more exciting. Hiking is a fun and exhilarating activity to do in Kuelap.

good hiking

When you visit Kuelap, you can expect to spend a whole day or two there. It is not on the mainland, so it is faster to travel by cable car to reduce the hours it takes to get there from the Amazon Region.

You can take four main routes, such as Tarapoto, Jaén, Chiclayo, Chachapoyas. If you and your loved ones like to get a feel for the area, you can take the time to walk 6 miles to Kuelap. It can take 4 ½ hours to go uphill to the fortress.

Ornate tombs of Revash near Chachapoyas, Peru
Ornate Revash tombs near Chachapoyas, Peru (Jess Kraft/Shutterstock)
vintage photo
Sarcophagi of Karajía, Chachapoyas, Amazonas, Peru. (Green Mark)

If you want to expand that to a three to four day trek, it will add more character to your trip. Just be sure to pack snacks and water to help you get through the hike. There are five rest spots along the trail to help you get some shade and sit between long treks across the terrain.

Mallquí Center Museum

The Leymebamba Community Museum houses a huge collection of mummies from the Chachapoyas Culture, in the Peruvian Amazon.
The Leymebamba Community Museum, in charge of the Mallqui Center, houses a huge collection of mummies from the Chachapoyas Culture, in the Peruvian Amazon. (Ricardo Barata/Shutterstock)

It is located three hours from the Chachapoyas and is home to some of the best archaeological finds. You will see many tombs with textiles, pottery and jokes. Although people looted the contents of the tomb in history, the recent recovery of these items makes this place a unique place to visit.

If you have teenagers, it’s a great place for them to learn some Peruvian culture. The diverse staff is on top of all things culture and bioarchaeology. They want to preserve the essence and spirit of the people who inhabited the area.

Top-tier programs provide interns, volunteers, and students who want to investigate and become more involved in the community. It contributes to strengthening the cultural identity of the peoples of the Amazon region.

Workshops for schools, teachers, and tour guides help create an enriching curriculum for those involved. Casa Mallqui began as a residence for researchers, but has now become a place where visitors can come and relax.

Whether it is to observe native birds, organize day trips or learn about the local markets and daily life of the different communities of Leymebamba, it is an excellent place to enjoy among the tourist attractions of your trip.

Gocta waterfall

Gocta Waterfall, Peru
Gocta Waterfall, Peru (Framalicious/Shutterstock)

If you go here during the rainy season, you will see the best of this site due to the water supply. While locals have appreciated Gocta for centuries, it was only recently discovered by the masses in 2002.

Gocta Falls is the tallest waterfall in Peru and one of the tallest in the world at 2,530 feet. It only has two drops too. The idea of ​​two drops is scary but exciting, right?

It has become a tourist attraction as thousands of local and international people visit it every year. It is quite a generator of money for tourism. It has a lot of mystery behind it due to the local legend of a beautiful mermaid who protects a pot of gold in the waters.

If you want to spend a little time alone while watching the waterfalls, it’s best to go around 7am before the crowds start.

Looking for that next vacation destination in Peru but want to choose a different area? Try Kuelap for your adventure needs.

James Sullivan has been helping with travel tourism for the last 12 years. He now wants to share his knowledge and experience with others.

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