- North Peru
- Base City:
- 7 days 6 nights
- US $2090*
- Mountaintop Temple
- Cliff Tombs
- Inca Baths
If you have a profound interest in archaeology and adventure then this is the tour for you. You will visit the magnificent mountaintop temple and fortress of Kuelap, the Revash cliff tombs and the Macro towers, the ruined hilltop settlement of La Congona, the Leimebamba museum with its collection of 200 mummies, many traditional Andean towns — and in Cajamarca, the tombs at Ventanillas de Otuzco, the Inca Baths and the Ransom Room of Atahualpa.
This area is new to tourism and so isnt as well trodden as Machu Picchu, but we make sure you have the most comfortable stay possible. We use air-conditioned vehicles, expert guides and the best possible accommodation.
You will swap between foot and horseback then light motorized trips and longer road journeys. On this tour you visit incredible locations rarely seeing more than a handful of other travelers at each place. Cost covers all land travel, meals and accommodation.
- Ruined Settlements
- Burial Grounds
- Amazonas Region
- Andean Landscape
Conquered in the 15th Century by the Incas, the Chachapoyas left the lands dotted with ruined settlements and burial grounds shedding light into their ancient past. High in the cloud forest the town of Chachapoyas is located in Peru’s northern Amazonas region. These sites are dominated by the mighty fortress-temple of Kuelap, perched majestically atop towering cliffs overlooking a verdant Andean landscape. This region has culture and a way of life distinct from the rest of Peru.
- Amazon Basin
- The Chachapoyas
- Utcubamba River
- El Chillo
Chachapoyas: Day 1 Chiclayo to Chachapoyas
Across the Andes to the Amazon Rainforest
Crossing Peru’s coastal plains, you are driven northward from Chiclayo to enter the upper Amazon Basin. You will then reach the mighty Marañon, one of the great tributaries of the Upper Amazon, which was once thought to be the source of the Amazon River. You will now enter the Peruvian department of Amazonas, where the mysterious and powerful civilization, the Chachapoyas, called home.
You will then follow the Utcubamba River, the main artery of the Chachapoyas heartland, first ascending a dramatic canyon then winding up the mountainous valley which leads us to El Chillo, our hotel at the foot of the high road to the mountaintop site of Kuelap, tomorrow’s destination.
- Cloud People
Chachapoyas: Day 2 Kuelap: the great walled city of Northern Peru
The Cloud People
You will now spend a full day visiting this huge and mysterious site, beginning with a drive through places whose names — Choctamal, Longuita, and Kuelap itself — remind us of a lost language and the extinct ancient people who spoke it, the Chachapoyans. Although we don’t know what they named themselves, the Incas referred to them as Chachaphuyu, which means Cloud People due to the region they inhabited.
- Burial Towers
- Utcubamba River
- Utcubamba Valley
- Santo Tomás
- Horse Riding
Chachapoyas: Day 3 A visit to Macro towers, Utcubamba and a horseback journey to the cliff tombs of Revash
When you have finished your breakfast leasurely trek to observe the burial towers of Macro, an outpost of the Chachapoyas culture built into cliffs overlooking the Utcubamba River. Its unique location allowed for contact via signal fires with Kuelap, high above in the mountains, and visible through a cleft in the valley hills.
You will then follow the Utcubamba valley upstream viewing the wildlife such as herons and perhaps an Andean torrent duck in the river as we slowly ascend the valley. Once at the village of Santo Tomás we turn off the main highway looking at the typical Chachapoyan farms with verandas surrounded by wooden columns and topped with tile roofs. You will now meet your wranglers and the calm, sure-footed horses that will carry us up the trail to Revash.
As you ride on horseback you can look up to the huge cliffs that loom ever closer. These limestone formations, laid down in even layers over geological time, tend to break away in neat collapses, often leaving extensive overhangs and protected ledges beneath them. In such places the ancient Chachapoya built the tombs where they buried their noble dead.
- Ruined Cottages?
- El Chillo
We trek to a viewpoint much closer to the cliffs, and here you can see two adjacent sets of caves. These have cottage-sized structures covered in mineral-oxide paintwork. Some of these give the impression of cottages, others are more like like flat-topped apartments. Sadly their contents were looted long ago, but symbols adorn each structure to perhaps signify the rank of occupant. We return to El Chillo for dinner and accommodation
- Horse Riding
- Mountain Trail
- Green Fields
- The Stairway
Chachapoyas: Day 4 Chachapoyas to Leimebamba
A scenic mountain horseback journey, and a traditional Andean town
You will now venture to Las Palmas to meet your wranglers and horses. After this it is time to set off on a mountain trail through small villages, green fields and hamlets. Here and there you will find yourself riding upon remnants of the original stone road built by the ancient Chachapoyans to access the settlement of La Congona. After about two hours of steady climbing you reach the place where the Chachapoya built hundreds of structures along the ridge. Some are just foundations today, but many are standing, their walls rising from stands of trees and shrubs.
Was this a fort? A religious center like Kuelap? Or was it simply a settlement? If so, then why so high upon a steep ridge? The Chachapoyas were a loosely federated society, with a number of regional power centers. Did they fight with each other, or did they live in peace before the Incas invaded them? According to Spanish writers they fiercely resisted the Incas, and continued to rebel even after they were defeated. Did they fight the Incas here?
There have been no investigations at La Congona, so our imaginations are free to tell the story. We work our way along the ridge to a tower, the highest building at the highest point, where we climb the intact stairway to the platform from which lookouts must once have scanned the vast sweep of mountainous country around us.
After a picnic lunch we remount and trek back down the mountain slopes to the village of Leimembamba, where we spend the night.
- Marañon Canyon
- Cliff Tombs
- The Mountains
- Peruvian Andes
Chachapoyas: Day 5 Leimebamba to Cajamarca
A morning museum visit and a road journey across the Marañon Canyon
Leimebamba was constructed by the Incas during conquest of this region. It then continued as a colonial town under the Spanish. The antiqity of the area is locked in its narrow streets flanked by balconied houses where you will see more parked horses than cars. Here you will view a collection of extraordinary artifacts recovered from another group of cliff tombs located high in the mountains to the east of town.
The next leg of the journey will show the diversity of the Peruvian Andes with an incredible array of natural environments. You will traverse dairy country as cattle graze the green pastures then go higher to the puna region of smooth slopes thickly covered in a beige bunch-grass known as ichu. The slow descent winds down to a warm valley filled with mango trees, coconut palms, papaya and banana plantations. You will soon reach the village of Balsas.
After you cross the river into the Department of Cajamarca, climbing through an arid canyon environment of tall cactus and gnarled trees, you will reach farmland again. The rolling country of wheat, barley and oat fields will greet us before the adobe farmhouses. You will now spot the farmers and their children wearing the characteristic large, broad-brimmed Cajamarca straw hats. We relax in the city of Celendín for lunch then continue to the city of Cajamarca. We arrive late afternoon at the Cajamarca suburb of Baños del Inca, where the and are accommodated at Laguna Seca Hotel. The Laguna Seca Hotel offers you a welcome rest and a room with its own large hot tub and unlimited hot thermal spring water.
- Spa Facilities
- Delicious Food
- City Center
- Sacred Mountain
Chachapoyas: Day 6 in Cajamarca
Colonial Spain and the last days of the Inca empire
Your hot spring hotel will give you relaxation with delicious food, spa facilities, and a spacious private hot pool in every room. The springs here are famous and the site itself is of historic importance. This is where the first encounter between the Inca emperor Atahualpa and the Spaniards took place. The Inca was himself enjoying a hot soak at the very moment of his victory over rival armies in a long and bloody war of succession. A small contingent of mounted Spaniards then rode out from Cajamarca to visit him, and to arrange a fateful “unarmed” meeting in the city square next day. The rest, as they say, is history.
Today you are driven into the city center, and up to the hilltop now known as Colina Santa Apolonia, a sacred mountain to the Cajamarca people. The Cajamarca dominated this valley for almost two thousand years until they were conquered by the Incas.
Spanish colonial houses now line the streets and with churches now replace most traces of Incan settlement. However, you will visit one Inca stone building that remains standing. Local folklore holds that this was the room which the Inca Atahualpa offered to fill once with gold and twice with silver, in exchange for his freedom. This forlorn monument is a suitable spot to hear the story of Atahualpa’s fabulous ransom and its tragic denouement.
You will also visit the museum in the old colonial hospital of the Church of Belen to see some fine artifacts from the Cajamarca. After lunch at a fine local restaurant you will visit a nearby rock formation at Otuzco, where over thousands of years the pre-Inca Camarca peoples left hundreds of elaborate niches, or “windows”, hewn into bedrock, in which they buried their dead. We return in time to make the most of the facilities at the hotel before dinner.
Chachapoyas: Day 7 Cajamarca to Lima
In the morning we are transferred to our hotel for the flight to Lima.
Chachapoyas Explorer Prices
Fixed departures: Please enquire.