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Chachapoyas Highlights

Discover the Enchanting Wonders of Chachapoyas

Nestled in the cloud forests of northern Peru, Chachapoyas is a hidden gem brimming with historical treasures, breathtaking landscapes, and rich cultural heritage. Known as the “Warriors of the Clouds,” the Chachapoyas people left behind a legacy that continues to captivate visitors. This comprehensive guide delves into the top attractions and excursions in Chachapoyas, offering detailed insights to help you fully experience this remarkable region.

Historical and Cultural Highlights

Main Square

The heart of Chachapoyas, the Main Square, is steeped in Spanish influence. Surrounded by charming buildings with clay tile roofs, the square features a beautiful 19th-century fountain at its center. This bustling area is the perfect starting point for exploring the city’s rich history and vibrant culture.

Bishop’s House

The Bishop’s House, an old colonial mansion, is the birthplace of Toribio Rodríguez de Mendoza (1750-1825), a revered teacher, priest, and patriot of Peruvian independence. The house preserves valuable furniture and intriguing colonial-era paintings, primarily with religious themes, offering a glimpse into the city’s storied past.

Independence Square

A quaint and traditional square, Independence Square commemorates the Battle of Higos Urco, a significant event in Peru’s fight for independence. A monument honoring Chachapoyas patriots stands proudly in the center, symbolizing the region’s rich historical legacy.

The Monsante House

An exemplary model of Spanish colonial architecture, the Monsante House has been declared a National Cultural Heritage by the National Cultural Institute. Currently housing a tobacco company, this living example of preservation showcases the city’s commitment to maintaining its historical roots.

Yanayacu Well

Dug on the Luya Urco Hill, Yanayacu Well is attributed to a miracle by Saint Toribio de Mogrovejo during a severe drought. This site remains a testament to the enduring spiritual beliefs and historical narratives of Chachapoyas.

Archaeological Marvels

Kuélap Fortress

Chachapoyas Highlights:  Kuelap Fortress image.

With its 65-foot-high (20 m) walls, Kuelap is a hilltop fortress that, according to Canadian historian John Hemming, contains 40 million cubic feet of building material, three times as much as the Great Pyramid at Giza in Egypt.

Obscured for centuries by the jungle shroud, Kuelap has attracted increasing interest from archaeologists and historians, fascinated by the sheer bulk and impregnability of the towering ramparts left behind by the warrior tribe.

Inside lie stone sculptures and the ruins of more than 400 circular dwellings – including several restored for tourists. 

A two-hour hike north of Chachapoyas leads to the hilltop artisan village of Huancas, a center for local pottery production. Beyond, the trail is dotted with pre-Inca and Inca ruins, and winds up to mountain clearings offering amazing vistas of the Río Sonche valley.

Revash Archaeological Complex

Perched at the bottom of a steep cliff, the Revash Archaeological Complex features a series of mausoleums with striking red ochre paintings of animals. These fascinating structures provide a glimpse into the funerary practices and artistic expressions of the ancient Chachapoyas civilization.

Karajía Sarcophagi

The Karajía Sarcophagi, dating back 1,000 years, are impressive pre-Incan burial sites. These 6.6-feet tall sarcophagi, made from mud and decorated with geometric motifs, are embedded at the top of a sheer cliff, reflecting the unique mortuary customs of the Chachapoyas.

Caverna de Quiocta

The Quiocta Cave is a deep and large cave used by pre-Incan peoples for burials. Known for its strange and wonderful natural formations, this site offers a glimpse into ancient practices and the geological wonders of the region. Waterproof boots are recommended for visitors exploring this intriguing site.

Natural Wonders

Gocta Falls

Discovered in 2006, Gocta Falls is one of the highest waterfalls in the world, cascading 2,529 feet. The surrounding habitat is home to diverse wildlife, including toucans, monkeys, pumas, and the vibrant cock-of-the-rock. A visit to Gocta Falls promises an unforgettable encounter with nature’s grandeur.

Lake of the Condors

The Lake of the Condors, a spectacular natural setting, is famous for the mummies discovered in the surrounding cliffs. These mummies are now displayed at the Mallqui Museum, offering insights into the ancient burial practices and cultures of the region.

Pomacochas Lagoon

Fed by an underground stream, the Pomacochas Lagoon is a mesmerizing natural attraction. Its deepest parts (260 feet) are dark green, and the area is home to the marvelous spatuletail hummingbird, considered one of the most beautiful in the world.

Huiquilla Private Conservation Area

Spanning 1,150 hectares, the Huiquilla Private Conservation Area is a vital wildlife refuge protecting species like the spectacled bear, Andean fox, and majaz. It also hosts 88 species of birds, making it a paradise for birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts.

Sonche Canyon

Near the traditional town of Huancas, the Sonche Canyon offers breathtaking landscapes and panoramic views. This stunning natural wonder is a must-visit for those seeking the beauty and tranquility of the Andean highlands.

Cultural Experiences

Raymillacta Festival

Held in the second week of June, the Raymillacta Festival, meaning “Great Festival of the People,” attracts dancers and musicians from all over the Amazonas department, Peru, and other countries. This vibrant celebration showcases the cultural diversity and artistic expressions of the region.

Feast of Our Lady of the Assumption

From August 7 to 15, the Feast of Our Lady of the Assumption honors the patron saint of Chachapoyas. The streets are adorned with traditional flower petal carpets, and the image of the Virgin Mary is carried in a grand procession through them.

Feast of the Lord of Gualamita

From September 10 to 15, the town of Lamud celebrates the Feast of the Lord of Gualamita, reenacting the story of the image’s origin in Cusco. This religious celebration is a significant cultural event, drawing the faithful and visitors alike.

Excursions from Chachapoyas

Mallqui Central Museum, Leimebamba

Leimebmaba is a pleasant town 25 miles (15.5km) south of Chachapoyas. The modern Mallqui Central Museum built here to house more than 200 mummies salvaged in 1997 from stone burial sites nestled in a limestone cliff before they could be sacked by tomb robbers. The mummies and artifacts were uncovered at the Lake of the Condors.

The museum’s director, Sonia Guillen, one of Peru’s premier archaeologists, led the rescue operation, finding six intact chullpas, or tombs, and documenting a total of 18 funerary sites built into the cliffs above Laguna de los Cóndores, a pristine mountain lake.

The museum also features clothing, ceramic pieces, and weapons found in the area, making it a highly recommended visit for history enthusiasts.

Santa Isabel Ranch

Located on the outskirts of Chachapoyas, Santa Isabel Ranch is a lovely spot with orchids, a recreational area, and stunning views of the Utcubamba River Valley and the Luya province mountains. It offers a serene retreat amidst nature’s beauty.

Jalca Grande

Jalca Grande is a traditional town with a remarkable colonial church exhibiting designs from the ancient Chachapoyas peoples on its walls. The community has established a small museum displaying historic artifacts. Nearby, the Ollape Archaeological Complex is just a five-minute drive away.

In conclusion, Chachapoyas is a city that seamlessly blends historical significance, cultural richness, and natural beauty. Whether exploring its archaeological marvels, delving into vibrant cultural festivals, or immersing oneself in the breathtaking landscapes, visitors will find a wealth of experiences to enrich their journey. Join us in discovering the enchanting wonders of Chachapoyas, a destination that promises to captivate and inspire.

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