Chachapoyas: A Region of Record-Setting Waterfalls and Ancient Pre-Inca Cities

The unassuming and quaint jungle city of Chachapoyas in northern Peru is surrounded by several of the country’s most spectacular and off-the-beaten-track sites. From the ancient ruins of Kuelap to the neck-craning heights of the Gocta Waterfall, Chachapoyas has a knack for luring adventure travelers with an affinity for nature and history’s finest work to its cloud forested depths. In this blog post, we reveal some of Chachapoyas’s still off-the-radar sites and how to visit them on an adventure tour in Peru.

The Chachapoyas Route Through North Peru

Fly to Jaen, Then Make Your Way to Cocachimba

Most flights from Lima fly into the bustling city of Jaen, located just a three hour’s drive from a small village called Cocachimba, a spot travelers often choose to call basecamp for their Chachapoyas explorations. The journey to this tiny village is dotted with rice paddies, forested canyons, and even a suspension bridge – the perfect introduction to the terrain and landscapes of this far too overlooked region of Peru.

Tackle the Gocta Waterfall Hike

Well rested and hopefully acclimated to your new home in the cloud forest, the Gocta Waterfall will surely be tugging you to it. This 771-meter-tall waterfall is among the world’s tallest. It was only brought to the world’s attention in 2002. As you traverse the rainforest trail, a journey of roughly 4 hours roundtrip, you may begin to understand why. Without the well-maintained trail to follow, it would be easy to get lost in the dense cloud forest. The trail to the Gocta Waterfall skirts the edge of a valley planted with sugar cane. Besides a few steeper ascents, the hike is a relatively easy one, full of wildlife sightings like the majestic cock-of-the-rock and the ever-in-slow-motion sloth.

Ascend the Gondola to the Ancient Stone City of Kuelap

Tingo is the village you need to head for to begin the aerial journey to the Kuelap ruins, the largest ancient stone structure in all of South America. Dating back to 800 BC, this complex of hundreds of round houses and ceremonial structures was built by the pre-Inca Chachapoyas culture. It will feel like you’ve happened upon a lost city in the rainforest, as much of it is still buried under the jungle vegetation. The views of the Utcubamba Valley below are nearly as distracting as the site’s impressively tall walls and still intact rock reliefs and friezes.

Browse the Mummy Collection of the Leymebamba Museum

The Leymebamba Museum is a must-visit when exploring the Chachapoyas region. Ancient Chachapoyas artifacts line every wall, while an extensive mummy collection sits in temperature-controlled rooms nearby. The museum’s collection of mummies (of which there are 219!) were recovered from their cliffside perch and burial site near the Laguna de los Cóndores, located just a 10 hour’s journey by mule from where the museum sits.

Travel Chachapoyas with an Experienced Peru Tour Operator

Though you can certainly piece together your own tour of Chachapoyas, the infrastructure in this region isn’t entirely up to par compared to Cusco, Machu Picchu, and other stops on your Peru travel itinerary. For a seamless experience that’s less about the navigating and more about the spotlight sights, consider hopping on a tour with a Peru tour operator that’s experienced in navigating Chachapoyas’ roads and trails. Like Explorandes for instance! Get in touch with us today to learn more about our 4-day/3-night Kuelap Escape.

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