This unique trip will enable you to be immersed in nature, discover the incredible landscapes of this region, and understand why the Chachapoyas people are called “the people of the clouds”.
On this seven-day trip:
Kuelap, the primary archaeological site of the Chachapoyas, has suffered a collapse of a section of its perimetral wall in July 2022. As a result, public access to the interior of the complex is restricted, and visitors are only permitted to approach some of the site from a significant distance.
However, it is possible to choose for an alternative instead and that is a visit to Yálape: a recently cleared site that is now open to visitors. While Yálape shares certain architectural features with Kuelap, it is important to note that it cannot be compared directly to its counterpart and serves solely as an example of the Chachapoyas’ civil engineering prowess.
Yálape is located approximately 14 km away from Kuelap in a straight line. If you decide to visit it, kindly note that it would be necessary to revise your itinerary accordingly. Please indicate your preference in the booking notes section, or feel free to reach out to us with any inquiries. We would be delighted to provide you with an updated itinerary.
In the morning, upon your arrival at Jaén airport, you will be transferred to Milpuj – La Heredad (accompanied only by the driver).
In the Milpuj – La Heredad Private Conservation Area, Perico (Pedro) will welcome you and show you their home called “La Casa de Doña Lola” named after her mother. The Conservation Area engages in responsible tourism, thus generating income, which in turn is used to achieve conservation objectives. These objectives are the recovery and preservation of the (seasonal) dry forest characterizing this area.
(Important note: in case you are already in the area, you can also take a bus to Jaén either from Tarapoto or Chiclayo. And in case you take a bus to the city of Chachapoyas instead of Jaén, please let us know. It is possible to start the tour in Chachapoyas, but we will have to adapt the transfer to Milpuj – La Heredad, so we would need to know beforehand.)
In the morning, we will walk along the interpretive path of Milpuj -La Heredad Private conservation Area, where Perico will explain more about the objective of conserving the dry forest. The trail leading through the reserve is full of nature, history and culture. It’s an easy walk of 2 km long which takes around 2 hours (it can be shortened on request).
You will also visit the native plant nursery, providing with products for cooking, as well as the farm where chickens are raised in a conscious and environmentally friendly way. You will also be able to plant a native tree, thus contributing to the recovery of the forest and the wildlife’s habitat.
After taking a break for lunch (not included), we will start heading to the archaeological site of Kuelap. To get there, we take the first cable car system of Peru. The cable car leads to Malca, from where we continue our way walking.
Whilst overlooking the valley from a bird’s-eye view and contemplating the steep cliffs in the area, we cannot help but wonder why the ancient inhabitants of this land built Kuelap in such a high and remote place. It must have meant a lot of sacrifice and risk for its creators. These questions will be answered step by step during the day.
What we can tell you already is that Kuelap is the most important archaeological center in the Peruvian Northeast, which was built by the Chachapoyas people around 800 AD. It lies at the top of Cerro Barreta, at over 3.000 meters above sea level (about 9.850 feet) and is characterized by the monumental structures of huge stones that cover a total area of 6 hectares. Coming here will allow you to better understand the relationship these people had with their natural environment and the surrounding forests in particular.
Early in the morning, we will start the walk and/or horseback ride, to the mummies lagoon (Laguna de los Cóndores). Close to this lagoon, hundreds of Chachapoyas mummies were discovered in perfect condition, which is astonishing given the adverse environmental conditions of the area. However, to make it there, we will have to go on a long journey first.
We will cross the Atuen River Valley, and ascend to the Abra de La Fila (3800 meters /12.500 feet above sea level). From here, we will be able to observe the beautiful Amazonian Andes range. Then, we will start descending and pass through the Cóndores canyon, surrounded by the cloud forest, until we reach our accommodation for the following two nights (at 2,700m / 8.850 feet of altitude). Now that we’ve made it here, we are ready to finally visit the lagoon on the following day.
(Please note: for day 3 and 4, we recommend you to use a sleeping bag. You can add this service in the booking process for 21$ per person for the two nights.)
After lunch, we finally explore the Laguna de los Cóndores, going on a boat ride.
From there, we will walk to the mausoleums. This is the place, where more than 200 mummies belonging to the Chachapoya, Chachapoya-Inca, and even mummies of the Early Colonial age were found. Each mausoleum structure measures 3 meters in height. They are plastered and painted with white pigment and reddish and yellow ocher, and adorned with patterns and deer antlers.
After witnessing this, we will return to the lagoon, have a packed lunch, and enjoy some more boat trips, fishing trout and observing flora and fauna.
Today, we’ll make our way back again to Leymebamba, following the same route that we took on day 3. From there, we will go to Cocachimba by car, where we will settle in our lodge and look forward to the further surprises that await us.
After a good rest at Cocachimba’s lodge, we will depart to the neighboring community of San Pablo to start walking towards the Gocta waterfall.
The distance between the town of San Pablo to the first waterfall (the upper one is 220 m /720 feet high) is 6 km (3,7 miles), almost 2 and a half hours of walking. After having admired the natural spectacle for a qhile, we will turn back on the same path until we get to a point where, instead of going back to San Pablo, we take another path leading to the second waterfall. This path first takes you to a viewpoint, from where you can see both waterfalls from a distance, then descends to the second waterfall
This descent is very steep but we will take it easy and be careful, which is why it takes almost 2 more hours. In the end, we reach a suspension bridge crossing a river. Once here, we start to climb for about 10 minutes until reaching another path leading to the second fall (the lower one of 550 m). From that point, we have to walk another 30 minutes to reach the second fall.
To get back to the town of Cocachimba, we need to hike another 5.2 km and it takes almost 2 and a half hours.
This excursion is very physical and time-demanding, taking 8 h in total). But we can assure you it is TOTALLY WORTH IT, as you will be rewarded with some stunning views.
Today your Chachapoyas tour comes to an end. After breakfast, you will be transferred to the airport of Jaén by your driver, from where you can take a flight to your next destination.
Some parts are, indeed. Both the hike to Laguna de los Cóndores and to the Gocta waterfall are medium to high difficulty and require fitness and some hiking experience. If you’ve hiked in mountainous forests before for at least 5 to 6 hours, you should be fine. Just make sure you have good shoes with enough grip.
The accommodation varies, from an almost luxurious boutique lodge, basic but cozy homestays, to rustic country cabins. All of them have private bathrooms and showers with hot rooms, except for the Casa Ullilén, where you will stay on day four. In this accommodation, you have two bathrooms outside, one for women and one for men, and you can wash yourself with cold water. If you prefer to take a hot shower, make sure to do so in one of the other five accommodations.
No, it is necessary to go with a local guide plus a translator if you do not speak Spanish, because the route has its peculiarities due to the geography of the area.
No, because there are areas where it is necessary to go on horseback. If you are not used to riding a horse, don’t worry, professionals will guide you and from time to time you will be able to walk.
No, sorry, there is only a cold shower available. Although a bucket of water can be heated in the kitchen.
The Abra de la Fila at 3.800m (12.500 feet) is the highest point of the route. From there, you will continue descending.
Marilyn was born in Leymebamba and studied tourism. She is our greatest partner in the Amazonas region, knowing every corner of its geography and its people, and understanding our way of doing things with responsibility, because she believes that the benefits of tourism should be distributed in a fair way, recuperating the forests and ancestral wisdom.
Our relationship has many years in the count since she was selling trips around Chachapoyas from the headquarters she founded herself, Café Fusiones, the best coffee place in the city and the best example of a fairtrade shop. Now she lives in Spain, but often visits her birthplace in Peru to always innovate and create tourism products that are transformative, regenerative, and sustainable.