Chachapoyas is the capital of the Amazon region. It is located at 2 335 m above sea level; an altitude that does not require special acclimation.
It is a capital of human size, with about 40 000 inhabitants, a very nice historic center, wooden balconies, a colonial style and very safe streets.
During your visit in Chachapoyas, you will be able to appreciate without doubt its relaxed lifestyle… and local specialities!
But what are the places to see and things to do in Chachapoyas and its surroundings?
What to do in Chachapoyas?
The easiest way if you are already in town, is to sign up for day trips. They leave in the morning and return to Chachapoyas in the afternoon. I recommend for this type of daily service the Turismo Explorer agency.
1. Kuelap, the citadel of Chachapoyas – the “Machu Picchu of the North”
Two years ago, we were alone in Kuelap, something incredible for such an exceptional site. By 2017, this is no longer the case. Even if the site does not match the crowds of Machu Picchu (yet), the attendance has increased greatly last year. The national announcement about the opening of the first cable car system in Peru that will take visitors to Kuelap in 20 minutes is no stranger to this growing interest.
The citadel of almost 7 hectares continues to exert a fascination in the visitor who discovers the Chachapoyas builders without equal. And the mystery persist: Fortress of Kuelap or political and religious capital?
Our complete article to discover the citadel of Kuelap.
2. The waterfall of Gocta
This is the main attraction of the Amazonas region. Its success has continued to grow since the publication of its height in 2005 by our friend, German explorer Stefan Ziemendorff. Our Indiana Schultz announced the discovery of the third highest cataract in the world (771 m).
There are two ways to get to Gocta: by San Pablo de Valera or Cocachimba. The first is less tourist, with the second entrance you get to the base of the fall. In both cases, you need at least 2 hours of walking one-way to get to Gocta.
Our complete article to discover the fall of Gocta.
3. The waterfall of Yumbilla
You find the magnificent Yumbilla (896m) in the community of Cuispes, a few kilometres from Pedro Ruiz, less tourist, as Gocta being the most visited.
These waterfalls are surrounded by a lush and primary rainforest that people until now have managed to conserve. The region is home to an incredible wildlife, with endemic species of birds, such as the extraordinary spatule tail hummingbird.
Our complete article to discover the waterfall of Yumbilla.
4. Sarcophagi of Karajia
How to come to Amazonas and not visit the incredible sites, such as Karajia with its sarcophagi of 2,50m tall?
Re-discovered in 1985, we still know very little about these sarcophagi, their realization, the mummies that were inside. Only very high personalities of Chachapoya society had the honour of being buried in this type of sarcophagus.
Our complete article to discover the Sarcophagi of Karajia.
5. The cave of Quiocta
The cave may not look spectacular for some people; it has beautiful stalagmites and stalactites, but just as just beautiful or more beautiful than we have them in Europe or elsewhere. However, the scary side is walking with a battery lamp – because there is no light in the cave – which can attract some people looking forward to strong emotions.
Our complete article to discover the Cave of Quiocta.
6. The Mausoleums of Revash
At an altitude of 2800 m are located the mausoleums of Revash, which date back more than 1 000 years. They are located in a cave on top of limestone rocks of Cerro carbon. The houses are almost intact, but unfortunately, the mummies that were inside were removed by man or were destroyed by rodents.
Our complete article to discover the Mausoleums of Revash.
7. Visit the Museum of Leymebamba
This is probably one of the most interesting museums in Peru. First, there is the story about the discovery of the collection it contains and its controversial rescue. Then you have to keep in mind the strong passion aroused by its construction: the owner are none other than the community of Leymebamba. Finally, it contains an extraordinary collection of more than 200 Chachapoyas or Chacha – Inca mummies.
Our complete article to discover the Museum of Leymebamba.
8. A walk through the farmers market
The farmers market is one block from the Main square of Chachapoyas. It is open every day of the week. Come and discover the fruits and vegetables of the region, but also local spices. And taste fresh fruit juices and regional dishes that are sold there.
9. Discover the traditional crafts and activities of the region
Discover the history of pre – Incan civilizations by studying their crafts and traditional activities.
You will find many in the region of Amazonas and we recommend the following communities that will be delighted to welcome you in their homestays or to make you discover their ancient traditions !
- The textiles of Leymebamba: The women of Leymebamba weave in looms (home-made) that allow to make fabrics of several meters of length. The installation itself already lasts several hours…
- The wodden objects that you will see in the Mummy Museum in Leymebamba and that come originally from the Lake of the Condors, as offerings to the death in the Chachapoya culture, are today handsculpted by artiste Miguel Huaman. Visit him in his atelier and take a beautiful souvenir with you !
- Discover how to make cheese, from the milking of the cow to the preparation of the fresh cheese and the tasting ! Frank and Marina will be glad to share their knowledge with you.
Discover our complete article about the village of Leymebamba.
- Do you like coffee? Join Rosita for a short hike to her chacra to see the coffee plantations. Then back home, she will explain the making of coffee, between the drying of the coffee, grinding and tasting !
- If you prefer bread, no problem! Elisa prepares once a week the bread she then sells in Pedro Ruiz at the market or in the “tiendas” at Cuispes. Prepare the dough, let rise to form the small breads and bake them in the traditional adobe oven. An entire program !
- Wilder will be happy to accompany you to see his hives, a 30-minute walk from Cuispes. You will learn the process of organic beekeeping.
Discover our entire article of the village of Cuispes.
- Utilitarian ceramics of the village of Huancas: The history of this town has been written in clay. Why not visit these ladies ceramists to discover this tradition.
- When you go to the waterfall of Gocta, you can (make a reservation in advance) participate in the elaboration of Chankaka. Brown sugar made with sugar cane. Hiking to Gocta, you can stop to help push the sugar cane sticks and then you can taste the delicious and energetic juice. On your way back, the people of Cocachimba already have cooked the juice for several hours, you only will need to pour the juice in the molds. And it’s done!
- Who does not love chocolate? Peru is one of the main chocolate producers in the world. Participate in a Chocolate workshop and leave with your round House of Kuelap made out of Chocolate. I guess it won’t get back with you to France, it will be eaten before 🙂
- To remain within the culinary aspect. Take a cooking course to discover Peru through your taste buds.
10. The Sonche canyon
You don’t expect to find this canyon in the region: it measures almost 900 meters in its greatest depth! You can do horseback riding. If you want to take your time and enjoy the scenery, walk along the canyon to go from the viewpoint of Sonche to the viewpoint of Huanca Urco.
Once in the canyon of Sonche, you can have the opportunity to go and see the ladies potters of the village of Huancas which is nearby.
11. The treks
Those who want to observe as many birds as possible, trees or wild orchids; you will be pleased hiking through nature. People will accompany you from the communities of the region who know the roads and plants. So you can walk through the highlands, or along rivers with amazing waterfalls.
But you can also go hiking for 1 or 4 days, the combination of nature, preserved forests and the stunning landsacape. Among other things, you can go to the valley of Huaylla Belen, horse riding and sleep in hotels or a small accommodation in the heart of the Andes.
Some advice for each trek :
Trek to the lagoon of the Condors or lagoon of the mummies. You leave from Leymebamba for a 40-kilometre hike and horse-riding to discover the Chachapoya culture in a different way. Your efforts will be rewarded by the mausoleums where they found the mummies that are today in the museum of Leymebamba. Be aware that this is a really difficult hike and only feasible in the dry season. It will take you a minimum of 3 days, 1 day to go, one day at the lagoon and 1 day to come back.
Gran Vilaya – this trek will allow you to discover many archaeological sites – of course Gran Vilaya but also Kuelap – while enjoying the beautiful nature.
The trek through the forest of the waterfalls. You can admire several impressive waterfalls and go hiking surrounded by the generous nature of Amazonas.
A stay at the Lagoon of Huamanpata will take you 4-hour trek from Rodriguez de Mendoza. A pleasent place accompanied by the warm welcome of Roberto and Carmen.
Our complete article to discover the lagoon of Huamanpata.
12. Enjoy nature
Nature is amazing in the region. For example, Amazonas has no less than 800 species of birds. Knowing that Peru contains 1800 totally. Incredible ! However, you can also see many butterflies, monkeys and spectacled bears. Add to this the nature diversity – from the beaches to the Amazonas rainforest – and you will be convinced to take a little time to enjoy this breath-taking natural environment.
How many days to stay in Chachapoyas?
The area around Chachapoyas has a lot to offer, as you can see above. Personally I would advise you to stay at least 4 days (excluding arrival and departure), but, of course, everything depends on the time you have.
2 days in Chachapoyas
To be 2 days in Chachapoyas is the minimum! Two days is the right time to visit Kuelap, the flagship site of the Amazonas region and do the journey to the waterfall of Gocta. Both excursions are done in one day. If you want to do the tour with a group, it is best to sleep in Chachapoyas, because the groups depart from here.
4 days in Chachapoyas
When you spend 4 days in Chachapoyas, you will have time to visit the most famous sites in the region. You will be impregnated with the history of the traditions of the Andes.
After having visited Kuelap and Gocta, you can also do a day of “History and Museum” discovering the Mausoleums of Revash and visiting the Museum of Leymebamba, the only museum in Peru, where you will be able to learn a bit more about the Chachapoyas. The fourth day you could do a tour around the awesome Sarcophagi of Karajia and the Caves of Quiocta.
1 week in Chachapoyas
If you stay a week, you have enough time to enjoy everything the region has to offer: of course, you are going to do the excursions mentioned above, but you will have more time to travel at your own pace. Not on group tours, but keep going on your own (either by public transportation or by hiring a private driver and local guides on the place).
Sleep in the villages and meet the local people. Visit the workshop of the artist Miguel Huaman of Leymebamba and spend time with the weaving women to learn how to make beautiful Andean textiles.
- 4 first days: do the activities listed in the previous paragraph “4 days in Chachapoyas”
- Day 5: I suggest you go to Yumbilla to do canyoning and enjoy the area in a completely different way
Our complete article to discover the canyoning in the Amazonas region.
- Day 6: You can go to Huancas and the Sonche canyon. Do not hesitate to visit a ceramic workshop in Huancas. Or maybe you prefer a horseback ride between the views of the Sonche Canyon and Huanca Urco: riding along the canyon is more than impressive.
- Day 7: Take a city tour around Chachapoyas. Then stroll around the city, visit the local market, taste exotic and unknown fruits. Participate in a cooking class, with a Pisco Sour course. To end the day, spend the night in La Reina liquor store in good company and good music.
Good addresses in Chachapoyas
Where to sleep in Chachapoyas
- La Xalca in Chachapoyas: Near to downtown, colonial style hotel, good service.
- Casona Monsante in Chachapoyas: Downtown, the hotel was completely renovated in 2017. The rooms are spacious. You can ask for a room with a view to the back garden
- Tambo Sapalanchan in Lamud: Excellent hotel, managed by the owners Nora and Paul.
- Gocta Lodge in Cocachimba: View of the Waterfall Gocta, twenty rooms. Well known because of the very famous pictures of their pool with Gocta in the back. Warning: you must book in advance!
- Gocta Natura in Cocachimba: Accommodation managed by Rocio, the owner of this organization. She is also responsible for teaching English to the guides and at the school of the village, teaching about balanced food and helping women to find additional sources of income such as tissues and organic gardening.
- ACP Milpuj à Nogalcucho –This place, located in the Uctubamba valley to visit Kuelap, Revash or Leymebamba, belongs to Perico and his mother Lola. Since last year, they created the cabins where they welcome you in their house.
- La Casona de Leymebamba in Leymebamba: The hotel La Casona is a typical house of Leymebamba. You eat in the inner courtyard, right next to the hummingbirds. Mr Julio also has a weakness for orchids.
Where to drink and eat in Chachapoyas ?
- Café Fusiones – Café, located in the main square, offers several vegetarian options (the lentil hamburger is delicious)
- San José – The new address in Chachapoyas. Taste a pisco sour at the bar or a barbecue for two, served with salad and potatoes.
- La Tushpa – Excellent beef if you want a nice piece of meat, cooked to taste, this address is for you.
- Real Cecina – As its name says: a restaurant based on Cecina, the region’s dry meat. Our favourite dish is the Cecina’s Omelette.
- El Tejado – Very good address of Peruvian cuisine, a little out of the city center. Only open for lunch.
- Mistura Urco – Seafood and fish restaurant, with barbecues at night. Take a combo with fish chicharron, ceviche and rice with seafood: delicious and abundant.
How to get to Chachapoyas ?
Arrival to Chachapoyas by plane
You can take a daily connecting flight with LATAM: Lima – Jaen. The airport from Jaen is at 4 hours by car from Chachapoyas, but about 5 hours by private bus or collective.
Since May 2017 you have also direct flights with the compagnie ATSA Airlines, twice a week on Mondays and Thursdays flying Lima – Chachapoyas. Depending on the people, they fly with 19 or 50-seaters.
Arrival at Chachapoyas by bus
Chachapoyas is easily accessible by bus. Several companies: Movil Tours or GH bus, for example, connect different cities each day to the capital of Amazonas
- Lima-Chachapoyas: 22-24 hours
- Trujillo-Chachapoyas: 13 hours
- Chiclayo-Chachapoyas: 9 hours
Night buses allow you to travel and arrive early to Chachapoyas, and then be able to do the visit of the day.
Rent a car to go through the North
If you want to drive yourself in Peru no problem. The rules of the circulation code are very similar to ours. To date, it is not possible to rent a car in Chachapoyas. For a rent, the nearest place is in Tarapoto, 360 km from Chachapoyas. On the coast, it is located in Chiclayo, this time 450 km from Chachapoyas. Please be aware that you will have to bring back the car to the place where you rented it, so you should organise your trip as a roundtrip.