Find out why travelers are calling the Kuelap Fortress in Northern Peru the “New Machu Picchu”
Three times as old as Machu Picchu, the pre-Incan fortress of Kuelap in Northern Peru strikes visitors as one of the most spectacular and important archeological sites in the Americas. Living in the shadow of the most famous ruins in South America, Kuelap has gone under the radar for years. Currently, the site is visited mainly by travelers seeking an off the beaten path adventure, but Kuelap has recently become more popular.
Many find it difficult, and logistically challenging to reach Kuelap, but keep reading to find out how we recommend traveling through Northern Peru to the Kuelap Ruins.
From the coastal city of Chiclayo, take a private transfer to the city of Chachapoyas. This 9-hour journey crosses one of the world’s driest deserts, winds through the Andes, and ends in the Utcubamba Canyon. Stay at Gocta Lodge, where rooms offer sweeping views of lush green mountains and the cascading water of the third highest waterfall in the world, Gocta Falls.
Day 2 – Kuelap Ruins Tour
Now that you have traveled closer to Kuelap, take a few detours before embarking on your journey to the fortress by exploring some of the nearby sites. Take a moderate 3-hour hike to the impressive Gocta Falls. The trail winds through beautiful green jungle home to the yellow-tailed woolly monkey and the mountain sloth. Catch glimpses of the falls as you make your way to the base. When you reach the falls enjoy your lunch, and take a dip!
Day 3 – Kuelap Ruins Tour
Another must see destination is the sarcophagi of Karajia. These ornate sarcophagi are thought to be the tombs of members of the Chachapoyas who held social significance. Perched up into the Cliffside, these ancient tombs are more than 750 years old. From Chachapoyas take a transfer to the town of Cruz Pata. From Cruz Pata a short 45-minute walk takes you to the site of Karajia.
Day 4 – Kuelap Ruins Tour
One last destination before we reach Kuelap. Take a transfer to Yerbabuena (1 hour), and then go on a 2-hour hike to the incredible site of Revash. Another tomb, carved into the Cliffside by the Chachapoyas, Revash resembles a colorful miniature town covered in pictographs dating back to 1200 AD.
Day 5 – Kuelap Ruins Tour
It’s time to see the incredible Kuelap ruins. Transfer from your hotel in Chachapoyas and drive 2 hours to the fortress. Or, for the more adventurous, transfer to the town of Tingo and hike 3 hours up to the largest ancient stone structure in South America. Perched high on a ridge, the towering walls surrounding this fortress will leave you wondering how the Chachapoyas managed to construct this masterpiece entirely by hand. Venture through the ruins to find countless roundhouses, still intact after hundreds of years. Soak in the panoramic views of the Utucumba Valley and Cloud forest before heading back down the mountain. Transfer to your hotel in Chachapoyas, spend the night, and then make the journey back to Chiclayo to continue your South American adventure.