Chachapoyas – why you need to go to North of Peru
Only 8 hour night bus drive from Chiclayo at the north of Peru lies an absolute gem of a place, Chachapoyas. It is surprisingly beautiful, very affordable colonial town where you can spend 3+ days and never get bored.
The main reason people come here is Kuélap which competes with its grandeur with Machu Picchu. But there is so much more to see and do.
- arrive to Chachapoyas by night bus from Chiclayo (north) or Trujillo (south). We came by Civa night bus for 30 soles pp from Chiclayo
- hostels are used to people arriving at 5.30am, you can check in this early but pay for the following night (therefore saving on accommodation)
- pay 40 soles per night for matrimonial room with private bathroom
- try awesome vegetarian restaurant: Nature’s Center
- visit iPeru to plan out all the day trips and get maps for free
Itinerary suggestions for 1 day trips around Chachapoyas:
# Gocta waterfall - 20km hike
# Kuélap - awesome pre-Inca archeological site with 504 structures in 3000m elevation
# Yumbilla waterfall - 14km return hike
# Pueblo de los muertos and Quiocta cave
# Leymebamba museum with 200 mummies from Laguna de los Cóndores excavated in 1997
#There are options for 4-5 day hikes as well: Laguna de los Cóndores or Gran Villaya trek - get all info in iPeru
We like to organise as much of the trips without using agency, if this is your style of travelling continue reading.
This is the 3rd highest waterfall of Peru and 16th highest in the world.
You can do the whole trip on your own with only tiny little bit of planning. It makes for a wonderful day trip.
Colectivos leave from Colectivo terminal every hour, 1.5 km walk from city center. We took the one at 8.30am for 5 soles per person. The driver helpers are actually yelling Gocta catarata, so you won’t miss it. It is rather curvy ride but the scenery in the mountains near the wild river is breathtaking. You are already in the jungle territory.
We got off on the main road at Cocahuayaco and negotiated a ride with mototaxi to San Pablo for 12 soles. This will save you good 7km and 500m climb up on a dirty road. In San Pablo you get to pay entrance fee to the waterfall. To access both of the levels of Gocta, you have to pay 20soles per person. There is no one checking your tickets along the road.
The hike from San Pablo to waterfall is very pleasant and easy. Then you get to descent to the base of the waterfall and if you are loco enough swim in the lake.
You can continue on this pathway all the way to Cochachimba, this is where you get your excercise from 😉 We were pretty lucky and got a ride from a local in his car from Cochachimba to Chachapoyas for 10soles per person. Otherwise you might need to walk all the way to Cocahuayaco (as per the map) to catch a colectivo. (It goes every hour from Pedro Ruiz to Chachapoyas.
Check out the video we have made, the drone shots are A-MAZING.
To make it easy for ourselves we took a colectivo all the way to Maria from Colectivo terminal in Chachapoyas for 13 soles pp. This one leaves only at 9am in the morning and takes good 2 hours to climb up there.
There is another option to take colectivo to Tingo that leaves very often and get dropped off at Teleferico to take a scenic ride up the hill.
Kuélap is THE most important and sacred place of Amazonian Quechua tribes. At 3000m high roughly 3000 ppl used to live among the 504 structures of this highly spiritual and mystical core, long before Incas conquered this area. Even when Incas came, the respected the place and offered the same offering as in the highest sanctuaries of their empire. Te many buildings, mausoleums and temples were constructed by adding different style of offerings, human bones, animals, obsidian, seeds and precious gems.
Kuélap is applying for Unesco status, it definitely deserves it but the journey might be a long one as many investments need to be made into cleaning and preserving the place. Until then, you might enjoy it without thousands of tourists. So far mainly local people come here and you can count them in tens rather than hundreds.
After spending good 2,5 hours discovering the place we decided to descend to Tingo using an old pathway. The 10km journey down took us 3 hours.
There are many colectivos going to Chachapoyas from Tingo. The journey shouldn’t cost more than 8 soles per person.
If you decide to do this hike, you will reach the 2nd highest waterfall of Peru discovered only in 2007. It is also 5th highest waterfall in the world.
Take a colectivo to Pedro Ruiz (1 hour drive for 5 soles) and negotiate a ride with mototaxi to the start of the hike (30 soles, 40min ride). The hike itself is clearly signed and leads you through jungle for 6-7km, passing another 3 waterfalls along the way. We are really glad we did both of the hikes to Gocta and Yumbilla as the treks were really different and super enjoyable.
On the way back in Cuispes, group of students on a mototaxi offered us a ride for free at the back of their vehicle increasing the total passengers to 7 and saving us 7km on a dull road betweet Cuispes and Pedro Ruiz. So much fun.
#Pueblo de los muertos and Quiocta cave.
The cave is offered by many travel agencies in Chachapoyas but the Pueblo is something special. Public transport nor agencies go there. It’s little tricky but we consider a trip to this remote site unknown to tourist to be a highlight of our week at the north of Peru.
You can visit both of the places in one day. Take a colectivo from colectivo terminal to Lámud (7 soles pp, 1 hour drive).
For Pueblo de los Muertos you need to get to the small local museum before midday, otherwise it’s closed. The lady speaks a little English and will provide you with keys to the site + you pay for the entrance 4 soles pp.
She will also help you with finding a mototaxi return ride. We couldn’t find a driver on our own, she helped us and we negotiated a price of 40 soles return. The driver acted as our guide as well. After 40min of bumpy road you get to a grassy parking spot where the 1.5 km descent to this special place start.
The Pueblo is a set of houses build on the side of the cliff where you can see remains of human bodies, mural paintings and you simply can’t believe that people used to live here as it is really dangerous. If you slip, there is nothing under you, just 100s meters deep valleys of the Amazonian jungle. Adrenaline rushed through me as we were moving along the cliff from house to house. On the side of the mountains in the cracks of the rocks you can see amphoras that I assume are filled with remains of human bodies and they are built in spots protected from natural and human destruction. How did they build in there remains a mystery.
We were able to do some drone shots to show you what it looks like.
It was just us and our mototaxi driver there on the side of the cliff and it felt very special.
The way up back to the parking lot is a steep climb and it took us 40min. But it was so worth it.
Once you come back to Lámud, you can decide to hike to the cave (1.5hours one way).
The path is clearly signed and locals will point you to the start of the trek.
From colectivo terminal take a colectivo to Leymebamba that leaves every hour for 10 soles per person.
We have decided to leave for Cajamarca on the same night and bought tickets for 30 soles. We have stored our backpacks with the bus company and walked the 3kms to the museum. There is a walking path leading to it that goes through back alleys and fields and is very pleasant.
The museum (15 soles per person) doesn’t have explanation in English but is truly well done. It shows the many archeological sites from the area and especially holds the 200 mummies discovered in Laguna de los Cóndores.
The museum makes for a nice half a day trip. You can decide to extend your stay and do few hikes to historical sites around, there is plenty to see.
We have been to Chachapoyas in November 2017. If you have more up to date information, please do share it in the comments below. Thank you.
Slovak newspaper Aktuality.sk has written an article about our trip to North of Peru. Check it out here.