This small provincial capital high in Peru’s northeastern cloud forest was founded on September 5, 1538 by conquistador Alonso De Alvarado. Vestiges of that history are evident in sprawling Spanish colonial homes that surround the main plaze with ornate wooden balconies and red tile roofs.
But Chachapoyas is best known as a gateway to exotic cloud forest where exquisite orchids bloom — a kingdom of picturesque mountain lakes, astounding waterfalls and some of the greatest archaeological ruins Peru has to offer.
Here in the northern slopes of the Andes, the Chachapoya reigned from 800 A.D. to 1450 A.D., building stone citadels on the mountaintops. The greatest of these structures — considered by many to be Peru’s most magnificent and least known “lost city” — is the fortress at Kuelap.
Legend has it that the Chachapoya, known to the Inca Empire as the “cloud people,” were a fierce, tall, fair-skinned tribe. These mysterious people ruled a vast swath of dense mountain terrain between the Huallaga and Marañon rivers, along the “ceja de la selva,” or “eyebrow of the jungle.”
After decades of resistance, the Chachapoya were finally conquered by the Inca in the late 15th century. New discoveries of ruins and tombs from the Chachapoya and Inca cultures are occurring in this magical region every year.