Although we love the magical mountaintop citadel of Machu Picchu, our experts all agree….there’s so much more to Peru than this Inca retreat. In fact, Peru has been home to many ancient civilisations which pre-date the Inca. And most of the remnants of these fascinating cultures can be found in northern Peru.
The Chachapoya were known as the Warriors of the Clouds and their stronghold was the lush cloud forest region of Amazonas. The region today and its main city take their name from these ancient people – Chachapoyas.
With scheduled 90-minute flights between Lima and Jaen, Chachapoyas is now more accessible than ever. Fly from the capital in the morning and travel by scenic mountain roads for 200km to reach the town of Chachapoyas. This will be your base for the next few days as you delve into the many archaeological and natural wonders in the area.
History buffs will love Kuelep, the mountaintop fortress of the Chachapoya people. And you cannot miss the spectacle of Gocta Falls, one of the world’s highest single drop waterfalls. But the best part of traveling to this region is that very often, you’ll have these world-class wonders all to yourself.
If you’d like to learn about more of Peru’s ancient cultures, why not continue along the Moche Route?
Fly to Chiclayo or Jaen. You will be met by your driver and guide after breakfast and set off for Chachapoyas. Our journey begins driving through one of the driest deserts on the planet, then climbs the Andean Mountain chain before descending to the cloud forest region of the Marañón River. Box lunch is included en route. You’ll be able to appreciate Peru’s incredible diversity throughout this 5.3hr trip. During the final stage of the journey we ascend once again via the Utcumbamba canyon to arrive in Chachapoyas (2,235m). You’ll be dropped off at your hotel with the afternoon at leisure to relax and explore.
Option to fly to Jaen and transfer to Chachapoyas (4hrs)
Today’s visit to Gocta Falls, the third highest single drop falls in the world, will undoubtedly be a highlight of your trip to the region. While Gocta may lack the overwhelming volume of Iguazu Falls, its remote location and stunning surrounds lend it a special kind of magic.
Travel for about an hour and a half to Cocachimba, a small village inhabited by about 200 families. From here start the 5km hike to Gocta Falls; this should take around 2 hours taking you through dense cloud forest, with several beautiful viewpoints to Gocta Falls along the way. As you round the final bend you will see the immense cloud of spray created by the waterfall and hear the roar of the water cascading more than 700m.
You may like to walk right up close to the falls- feeling the power of the wind and spray is an incredible experience and worth getting soaking wet for!!! Spend some time enjoying the refreshing mist of the falls and keep your eyes peeled for hummingbirds, toucanets, or maybe even a troupe of capuchin monkeys before returning to Chachapoyas.
Option to overnight at the spectacular Gocta Lodge and if you have extra time, you could visit Yumbilla Falls.
Depart Chachapoyas this morning for the spectacular ruins of Kuelep, located about 3 hours from Chachapoyas at 3000m above sea level.
The Chachapoyas (Quechua for “Warriors of the Clouds’) civilization pre-dates the Inca Empire by about 600 years. At their height they numbered about half a million, scattered over a few dozen settlements in the cloud forest covered mountains of Peru’s Amazonas region. The fortress of Kuelep is located at the top of a mountain and can be reached via an impressive 4km cable car, which also affords fabulous views of the surrounding countryside.
Explore Kuelep’s ceremonial constructions, aqueducts, terraces and defensive walls. Although Kuelep was discovered 60 years before Machu Picchu, it is only in recent years that the site has received significant international attention from archaeologists and visitors to Peru. After a guided tour of the site and some time to explore on your own we’ll head to a local restaurant for lunch and return to Chachapoyas this afternoon.
A day at leisure to relax or deepen your knowledge of the Chachapoya people with a visit to the Karajia sarcophagi or the Revash tombs and nearby museum.
Transfer to Jaen or Tarapoto Airport for your onward flight; or consider travelling overland through Cajamarca to the Pacific Coast.