After several years since our last visit, we cheerfully went to revisit the indomitable department of Amazonas, a name that lends itself to erroneous interpretations when it is attributed to this territory exclusive characteristics of lowland rainforest – or Amazonian plains – but to a large extent, it is also the Amazonian Andes that make a presence here, since the department includes sections of the eastern slope of the great mountain range.
The fact is that in the last 10 years, there has been a total revolution in terms of sites of interest for those visitors in search of novel experiences, which differ from the Andean-Inca vision of Peru.
The strategic point of arrival, for almost any route plan, is its capital San Juan de la Frontera de los Chachapoyas – or simply Chachapoyas -, named after the culture that dominated the region from around the 9th century until the arrival of the Spanish (XVI century).
It is always interesting to hear stories of the Chachapoyas, who despite the fact that they were forcibly incorporated into the great Inca nation, retained their customs, and there are even speculations that they carried part of their identity to Cuzco itself, when it seems they were ordered to work in the construction of Choquequirao (but this topic will be left for another time). However, this trip will really make you think who did what in Chachapoyas and Cuzco.
Traveling to Chachapoyas requires dedicating an exclusive and ample time, to move around without haste or pressure. And if your trip to Peru is exclusively dedicated to the north, then your perception of the country may be totally different from what you would have had if you had only dedicated your vacation to southern Peru.
Our travel proposal is not to stay orbiting the capital city, it is simply an excellent reference and a strategic point for a good part of the trips that we will suggest next, since in fact you will be visiting most of the provinces of the department.
Arrival at Chachapoyas
Good or bad, even today Chachapoyas is still a little relegated from the offer of domestic flights, so there are two days from which you can leave from Lima, or maybe arrive by bus (saving a night’s lodging, since the trip by land it will take you all night) if you have done the Moche Route and you are in Chiclayo or surroundings.
Day 1: Mausoleums of Revash and Leymebamba museum
For this first contact with the Chachapoyas culture and especially with its funeral customs, it will be necessary to travel to the south along a great road with views that will give your sight to lot of work, although surely, the opening that provides the landscape to the arrival in Chachapoyas will have already given you the intuition that this region is very beautiful and dramatic.
The subsequent walk to the Revash mausoleums will show you only one of the many ways in which the ancients venerated their dead and sought to provide them with the best possible journey to eternity. Regrettably, that effort was not enough against the opportunist plunderers who managed to reach the places of difficult access and ended up emptying them. Fortunately, at least these beautiful and no less interesting mausoleums, are preserved to witness the audacity of the Chachapoyas at the time of saying goodbye to their respected figures.
But the eternal race between looters and preservers is sometimes in favor of the latter and was in another location, even more inaccessible, than hundreds of mummies (yes, literally mummified bodies) were found and safeguarded in a small but modern museum that you will visit in Leymebamba.
Day 2: Tajopampa, Diablo Wasi and Bóveda (full day outdoors)
Today the walk is longer (if you do not decide to go on horseback), but whatever it may be, you will be going to a place where very few people go and where they all come back excited. Of course, it is always better to have binoculars to be able to see in detail the cliffs where the Chachapoyas – as they were used to – defied the vertigo and the lack of soil to painstakingly place their precious ones whose hearts stopped beating.
There is also another very particular work, which more than a vault should be called a sinkhole. We referred to this earlier in terms of its similarity with another archaeological site in the south of the country, but we will not inculcate more predisposition for you to draw your own conclusions.
Despite the distances and the remoteness of the site you will find undoubtedly Inca works, then it is there where you will stop thinking that you have walked a lot and you will be amazed by the vast empire that managed to leave a mark even where they were not much appreciated.
The day will end by retracing the road traveled. Then today you will be back in Leymebamba.
Day 3: Kuelap and Milpuj – private conservation area (or Amazilia bioreserve)
Halfway through, we will finally take you to see the best-known work of the Chachapoyas – at least among the most accessible and discovered so far (as the Gran Pajatén and Vilaya deserve special mention). Much is said about Kuelap: that it is a fortress (but no weapons have been found), that it is a citadel (but there are no water sources), that it is comparable to Machu Picchu (but they are really very different works). Then draw your own conclusions, for this is the very complete interpretation center, and on our behalf, we will provide the best guide to assist you in all your questions.
During the descent you will have lunch at Teudula’s house, it is our way of “RESPONSabilize” the tourism because with the start-up of the cable car, many families that, in one way or another, offered services to the passengers were left out of the Kuelap circuit. And taking advantage of the fact that we will be there (if the time is up), you will visit the surroundings of Macro from the point of view of the locals and you will find out the why of the cities of Tingo and Nuevo Tingo.
Then (and as always with us) you will have the option to choose between spending the night in Milpuj: a small family conservation area where the charismatic Lola and her son “Perico” will simply steal your heart. Or in Amazilia: a place with the smell of coffee and buzzing hummingbirds. Whatever your choice may be, with your trip to Amazonas you will be sponsoring a tree that will be planted in Milpuj.
Day 4: Karajía sarcophagi
It is time for something new, although surely everything seen so far has been, but what you will see below is really iconic and particular, because the giants of clay that care for the cliffs await your visit in an imperishable manner. Therefore do not rush, take your time to walk because the altitude could require extra effort to the body and that is why today’s activity is designed to invest only half a day in it.
Then you will have time to rest in the city and the recommendation is an Irish coffee in the best cafe in Chachapoyas accompanied by a delicious hot humita (sweet or salty, according to your preference).
Day 5: Gocta falls
The word Gocta is synonymous with record, but in reality that is what matters least – if it is the third highest waterfall in the world or not, it is totally irrelevant – its beauty and the experience of the route is what really catches the eye. Exuberant vegetation, birds, plantations and even a cane sugar mill will make the road lively.
Depending on the season, you will bathe in the dew from long before reaching the base of the waterfall, or on the contrary, you can arrive with relatively dry clothes and perhaps dare to dive into the small pool of icy waters that are very comforting after the walk.
Days 6 and 7: El Tigre’s sarcophagi and Yumbilla waterfall
The geography of Amazonas has conferred much of what is and has been. Civilly, the Chachapoyas found a way to overcome the abrupt terrain and the dense vegetation to create great works –of which you have already witnessed– and today you will be able to see new and different sarcophagi in equally challenging locations on the El Tigre hill.
For its part, nature also did its thing and gives us not only Gocta (771 meters high), but also the Pabellón waterfall (more than 400 m), Chinata (580 m) and Yumbilla: with its nothing more and nothing less than 896 meters, where we will undoubtedly guide you, since you cannot visit Amazonas without seeing such a wonder.
“This is not a large volume waterfall, but only its height makes it formidable … It’s very tall, and quite scenic.”
Days 8 and 9: Huamanpata seasonal lagoon
A temporal but spectacular lagoon at any time you are visiting. In its flood season it is simply surreal to see the trees almost covered with water, while in the dry season you will see the whimsical, undulating river making the landscape a memorable sight.
We wanted to leave Huamanpata for the last part of the trip and give you the opportunity to get away from all contact with the world, to walk with full consciousness in nature and let your spirit feel free and as if you had always belonged to this place.
You may not imagine how difficult it has been to avoid proposing a much more extensive trip to the Amazonas and Chachapoyas lands. We believe that this destination deserves much more attention and much more investment from the authorities, and the way to promote that is by visiting it.
We are proud of having so much diversity and contrasts in our territory, those we have been blessed with, and that is why we have a responsibility to develop sustainable proposals that benefit the greatest number of inhabitants, who often do not know other alternatives to the usual economic activities but as many examples show, when they know the alternative of tourism, they develop to their maximum potential and are happy.
Visit Chachapoyas and get lost in the vastness of the department of Amazonas with a tailor-made itinerary and the wise advice of our travel specialists. Make us a request and we are sure that you will start traveling from the moment you receive the first proposal from our expert designers.
Banner imagen by Srooose – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0