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Chachapoyas, Peru - Kuelap Ruins, Like Maccu Picchu Without The Hassle

Peru travel blog by Mark Berman - August 2011   » View Photoset (48 Photos)

Mark Berman, South America backpacker for 10yrs!
I came to Chachapoyas from the north and spent 4 nights here, it's one of the more isolated cities in northern Peru away from the coast up in the mountains
Peru Photo - Swim in the ice-cold pool at the base of Gocta Falls near Chachapoyas.
Swim in the ice-cold pool at the base of Gocta Falls near Chachapoyas.
2235m above sea. Chachapoyas is home to the ancient civilization 'the People of the Clouds' who fought the Inca from Kuelap - the amazing fortress high up in the mountains.

Gocta Waterfalls

I booked a tour to visit Gocta Waterfalls one day and to see Kuelap the next day. Gocta, I had heard was the 3rd tallest waterfall in the world, but it is actually the 14th most tallest. Gocta has only been known outside of local knowledge since the early 2000's. There are 2 methods to get there, walking for 2 and a half hours each way or by horse. My group and I were on foot, it was a hard walk with steep and winding paths in parts. It is possible to do some birdwatching and see birds like Cock of the Rock, Hummingbirds and Tucans if you are lucky! The locals charge 5 Soles for adults and 2.50 Soles for kids to enter the park, hiring a horse is around 20 Soles. If I had known how hard it was going to be I would have taken a horse at
Peru Photo - Kuelap, South Americas largest stone structure near Chachapoyas in the north.
Kuelap, South Americas largest stone structure near Chachapoyas in the north.
least some of the way, maybe shared it with another person, one way each. It was August, so Gocta was not at full power, but it was still impressive and some of us dared the freezing water and went swimming in the pool at the base of the waterfall, after a minute I was so numb I couldn't feel my body anymore, very refreshing. We walked back to Cocachimba village where some people in the group had lunch which they had payed for as part of the tour, then we drove an hour in the jeep back to Chachapoyas.

Kuelap Ruins

The next morning we meet again at the tour office and commenced the 2hr drive into the mountains to Kuelap. Kuelap
Peru Photo - The ruins of a village of round houses at Kuelap, Chachapoyas.
The ruins of a village of round houses at Kuelap, Chachapoyas.
was only accessible by a several day hike until a few years ago, now jeeps can get right up to within 25 minutes walk from the fortress walls. Once outside Chachapoyas the unsealed road winds around and up the hills and passes through several settlements and villages along the way - Choctamal, Longuita, Luya-Lamud, Maria and La Malca, the countryside is beautiful as we climb higher and higher until we reach Kuelap at 3000m. We pay for an entry ticket and walk up the path which has fossils embedded into the stone. Then we see the huge walls of Kuelap. Kuelap is huge, it's the biggest stone structure in all of South America, it's really amazing, the shear size of it! Kuelap has a length that stretches over half a kilometre and a width of over 100m, some of the walls are nearly 20m high, it contains around 450 buildings, although many structures have only the base remaining. Our guide was very passionate about
Peru Photo - The meeting and ticket area at Kuelap.
The meeting and ticket area at Kuelap.
the ruins and had great knowledge, he explained everything in both English and Spanish. Exploring the Kuelap ruins was so much fun and very free, I enjoyed it a lot more than Machu Picchu. I could take my time without having policemen blowing whistles in my face to move on. I enjoyed being at the very back of my group taking photos of things after they had moved on to the next thing. Compared to Machu Picchu, Kuelap was not crowded at all and it is also in an amazing setting of tropical cloud forest. If you are in northern coastal Peru, consider taking a bus inland from Trujillo or Chiclayo to Chachapoyas to see the incredible Kuelap, I really recommend it.

In Chachapoyas

I stayed in the center of Chachapoyas just off the main plaza/park near the big white church. Around the plaza
Peru Photo - Face carved into a stone wall at Kuelap ruins.
Face carved into a stone wall at Kuelap ruins.
are restaurants, shops and tour companies. It's a nice area with trees, gardens and white buildings. There is a monument to Toribio Rodriguez de Mendoza (1750-1825), a Peruvian academic born in Chachapoyas. In a building off to the side of the plaza I found some military monuments in honour of the heroes of the War of the Pacific (1879) (Guerra del Pacifico), Sergeant Major Luis Beltran Torrejon Davila, Jose Santos Valdez and Pablo M. Pizarro Farje. Other things around Chachapoyas to see include the funerary sites of Karajia and Revash, the Mummy Museum in Leymebamba and the Lake of the Condors. From Chachapoyas I travelled 9hrs south/west to Celendin and continued a further 3hrs to Cajamarca, arriving early in the evening.

     

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Distances & times (if available) from Chachapoyas (Peru) to:


Map location: Chachapoyas, Peru. Kuelap are fantastic ruins that you can see without the crowds and hassle of Machu Picchu! You can take a tour to Gocta waterfalls and there are lots of nature walks in the area. Chachapoyas is quite an isolated city and is 2235m above sea level!
 A : San Ignacio to Chachapoyas - Peru 103 kms 103 kms straight distance | 2hrs 34mins 2hrs 34mins by car (150 kms) | 3hrs 4mins 3hrs 4mins by bus (150 kms) (150 kms)
 B : Leymebamba to Celendin - Peru 71 kms 71 kms straight distance | 3hrs 23mins 3hrs 23mins by car (160 kms) | 4hrs 3mins 4hrs 3mins by bus (160 kms) (160 kms)
 C : La Balsa to San Ignacio - Peru 170 kms 170 kms straight distance | 4hrs 49mins 4hrs 49mins by car (262 kms) | 5hrs 46mins 5hrs 46mins by bus (262 kms) (262 kms)
 D : Cajamarca - Peru 126 kms 126 kms straight distance | 7hrs 11mins 7hrs 11mins by car (317 kms) | 8hrs 37mins 8hrs 37mins by bus (317 kms) (317 kms)
 E : Tarapoto & Lamas - Peru 168 kms 168 kms straight distance | 5hrs 55mins 5hrs 55mins by car (348 kms) | 7hrs 6mins 7hrs 6mins by bus (348 kms) (348 kms)
 F : Vilcabamba to Zumba - Ecuador 221 kms 221 kms straight distance | 7hrs 23mins 7hrs 23mins by car (370 kms) | 8hrs 51mins 8hrs 51mins by bus (370 kms) (370 kms)
 G : Cajabamba - Peru 157 kms 157 kms straight distance | 8hrs 47mins 8hrs 47mins by car (396 kms) | 10hrs 32mins 10hrs 32mins by bus (396 kms) (396 kms)
 H : Vilcabamba - Ecuador 262 kms 262 kms straight distance | 8hrs 40mins 8hrs 40mins by car (443 kms) | 10hrs 24mins 10hrs 24mins by bus (443 kms) (443 kms)
 I : Huamachuco - Peru 179 kms 179 kms straight distance | 10hrs 32mins 10hrs 32mins by car (448 kms) | 12hrs 38mins 12hrs 38mins by bus (448 kms) (448 kms)
 J : Tarapoto to Yurimaguas - Peru 196 kms 196 kms straight distance | 8hrs 13mins 8hrs 13mins by car (476 kms) | 9hrs 51mins 9hrs 51mins by bus (476 kms) (476 kms)
 K : Ecuador (Macara) to Sullana to Piura - Peru 258 kms 258 kms straight distance | 10hrs 23mins 10hrs 23mins by car (511 kms) | 12hrs 27mins 12hrs 27mins by bus (511 kms) (511 kms)
 L : Zamora - Ecuador 266 kms 266 kms straight distance | 10hrs 39mins 10hrs 39mins by car (537 kms) | 12hrs 46mins 12hrs 46mins by bus (537 kms) (537 kms)
 M : Huamachuco to Caraz - Peru 226 kms 226 kms straight distance | 13hrs 28mins 13hrs 28mins by car (588 kms) | 16hrs 9mins 16hrs 9mins by bus (588 kms) (588 kms)
 N : Huanchaco / Trujillo - Peru 246 kms 246 kms straight distance | 10hrs 37mins 10hrs 37mins by car (635 kms) | 12hrs 44mins 12hrs 44mins by bus (635 kms) (635 kms)
 O : Tingo Maria to Tarapoto - Peru 230 kms 230 kms straight distance
Driving times are accurate but approximate and are listed in the order of driving distance! Drive times are always affected by weather conditions, the terrain, time of day, altitude, dinner and bathroom stops, animals on the road, protests, a fast or slow bus driver, police checkpoints, border and river crossings, dropping off and picking up passengers etc. These drive times are obtained from Google Maps and are meant as a guide. Note however, times quoted in the main text of this page are exactly as the author experienced it.


My Hostel & Hotel Reviews for Chachapoyas, Peru:

Kuelap Hotel, Chachapoyas, Peru - Large Photo
Kuelap Hotel, Chachapoyas, Peru (August 2011 - 4 nights) - Located half a block from the central plaza. A very large room with tv and a shared bathroom. Outside the bedroom is a balcony. The price was good. Recommended.

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Chachapoyas, Peru - Kuelap Ruins, Like Maccu Picchu Without The Hassle. Kuelap are fantastic ruins that you can see without the crowds and hassle of Machu Picchu! You can take a tour to Gocta waterfalls and there are lots of nature walks in the area. Chachapoyas is quite an isolated city and is 2235m above sea level!

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