- Peruse the mummies of the Leymebamba Museum
- Visit one of the tallest waterfalls in the world, Gocta Falls
- Explore the unrestored pre-Inca ruins of Kuelap fortress
Far from the crowds that flock to Machu Picchu, this land offers ancient history and archaeological wonders that easily rivals the famed citadel, such as the mystical Kuelap fortress, hidden amid the undergrowth. The lush vegetation and mountainous terrain offer rewarding opportunities to explore - hiking to incredible waterfalls and discovering diverse wildlife along the way.
Itineraries to Chachapoyas can vary in duration and route, to take in the jungle of Tarapoto, shortened as a quick extension from Lima flying in and out from Jaen, or continue on to the coast to combine with the archaeological highlights of Peru’s Moche Route and on to the beaches of Mancora. Here’s a recommended route to take in the region’s highlights:
|Day 1||Lima - Cajamarca|
|Day 2||Leymebamba Museum|
|Day 3||Leymebamba and Tombs of Revash|
|Day 4||Kuelap pre-Inca fortress|
|Day 5||The Sarcophagi of Karajia OR hike to Gocta Waterfall|
|Day 6||Journey to Chiclayo|
|Day 7||Tucume Pyramids and Royal Tombs Museum|
Day 1: Lima to Cajamarca
Cajamarca is one of the principle gateways to Chachapoyas, with regular, direct daily flights from Lima. Spend a night at Costa del Sol Cajamarca, located on the main square overlooking the Plaza de Armas.
Day 2: Cajamarca to Leymebamba
The picturesque 8 to 9-hour journey to Leymebamba begins with a 3-hour drive to Celendín, known for the intricate straw hats made there. You’ll then descend 2,400m to the Balsas River, cross an impressive suspension bridge before ascending to the eastern side of the Marañon Canyon, passing through beautiful mango plantations. On arrival to Leymebamba, you’ll check into Kentitambo Lodge. This beautiful B&B was built with ecologically-sourced timber and is surrounded by beautiful gardens which attract hummingbirds.
Day 3: Leymebamba Museum and Valley of the Condors or Cliff Tombs of Revash
After a guided visit of the Leymebamba Museum, you can choose to head up to the Valley of the Condors for a walk through the beautiful cloud forest where you’ll spot a variety of birds and orchids. Alternatively, enjoy a two-hour hike to the colorful clifftop Tombs of Revash, dating back to 1250 AD. Spend the night at Kentitambo.
Day 4: Kuelap fortress
Today you’ll visit the mystical pre-Inca fortress of Kuelap, driving through the Uchumba Valley and then taking the road to Kuelap or the cable car. Kuelap is the largest ancient stone structure in South America, perched on a high mountain ridge in the cloud forest. Often referred to as the ‘Machu Picchu of the north’, some parallels can be drawn between the two sites. You’ll then head to Gocta Natura Cabins or Gocta Lodge for the night.
Day 5: The Sarcophagi of Karajia OR Hike to Gocta Waterfall
After a drive down the valley and winding your way up the western bank of the Utubamba to the village of Cruz Pata, you’ll begin a 40-minute hike to Karajia to visit one of the most enigmatic archaeological sites of northern Peru. Alternatively, take a 2-hour hike through sugarcane fields and forest to Gocta Falls, one of the highest waterfalls in the world. Spend the night at Gocta Natura Cabins or Gocta Lodge.
Day 6: Journey to Chiclayo
With stunning views along the way, you’ll drive down through valleys and canyons with views of rice paddies close to the town of Bagua Grande. Crossing over to the Marañon watershed, the drive continues to the Pacific side of the Andes, down towards the coastal plains and your next stop, the town of Chiclayo, after 9-10 hours. Spend the night at Casa Andina Select Chiclayo. The modern hotel offers a pool, terrace and onsite restaurant.
Day 7: Tucume Pyramids and Royal Tombs Museum
This morning you’ll transfer to the incredible abode pyramids of Tucume, north of Chiclayo. The area is said to possess spiritual powers which local Shamans use for performing rituals. Then continue north to Tumbas Reales de Sipán Museum which houses the world famous collection of burial artifacts from the Lord of Sipán tomb and other tombs uncovered at the Huaca Rajada archaeological site. Explore the museum before heading to the actual archaeological site.
From here you can fly to Lima, or carry on Peru’s Moche Route to Trujillo, or head further up the coast to the best of Peru’s Northern Beaches.
Getting there & away
The itinerary outlined above involves flying from Lima to Cajamarca and from Chiclayo to Lima for the return journey. In between the flights are overland transfers, for which Aracari arranges private cars with English-speaking guides.
Alternatively, you can fly to Tarapoto and then explore Chachapoyas, or into and out of Jaen – direct flights from Lima started in 2016.
April to December is the dry season and the best time to visit, though Gocta waterfall is at its fullest in the rainy season!