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.
A pleasant town 25 miles (15.5km) south of Chachapoyas, is home to the Leymebamba Museum, built 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 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.