Easily one of my favourite places to visit in Peru is Chachapoyas. Located in Northern Peru, Chachapoyas is usually skipped by many travellers visiting the country. I get it, it’s not really on the Lima, Cusco, Arequipa travel trail. Instead, it’s up north by Ecuador. But for those who put in the effort and venture to this northern town, the rewards are spectacular.
Dubbed the “new Cusco”, the country started investing in Chachapoyas in recent years, making it more tourist-friendly by increasing tour agencies and transportation options. The town is still very small and far from the tourist giant that is Cusco. But all of that just adds to the charm and mystery of this town.
Here’s what to do around the town:
Built high on a ridge overlooking the Utcubamba Valley in the 6th century AD, the Keulap Fortress is a massive stone complex. The ingenuity and architecture of the ruins, dating even older than Macchu Picchu, demonstrates just how sophisticated this culture really was. Protected by high fortifying stone walls, thousands of people had once called this fortress home.
How to get there
Unlike Macchu Picchu, where there are dozens of options to visit the site, with Keulap, there are really only two ways in. You either hike up the mountain or take the relatively new cable car (opened in 2017).
Visiting Keulap is not hard at all and can easily be managed without assistance of a tour agency. I decided to go with a tour agency though. With all things calculated in, it ended up being very similar in pricing and I wanted to meet other visitors.
I found an agency offering the tour located around the Plaza del Armas. Since Chachapoyas is still a very small town, there are only a handful of tour agencies to choose from, most offering the same things, with similar pricing. Expect to pay around s/70 – s/100 for a day trip to Kuelap depending on the season you’re visiting in.
I found the day tours very reasonable, as it included transportation to the site, the cable car ticket, the entrance ticket, a guide and a full lunch after the site visitation.
With a nickname like Fortress in the Clouds, it should give you an indication of the type of weather to expect. Even though it can start out sunny and warm when you leave the Chachapoyas, it will most definitely change throughout the day. Up in the mountains by the archeological site will most likely be windy and grey. And if the clouds do decide to open up, you’ll feel the heat from the Amazon jungle.
There are small stands to buy food and water around the site along the way. There’s also a cafe at the bottom of the archaeological site, but once you’re in the site, there are no refreshment stands or bathroom facilities.
Recently becoming world-known and making its splash as one of the tallest free-leaping waterfall in the world, Gocta measures at over 700 metres tall, with two major drops. I’m not surprised this spectacular wonder has stayed hidden from the world for so long though. It’s tucked deep inside the jungle. Reaching the waterfall requires transportation and kilometres of hilly walking (or on horseback). There is a small town that is fortunate enough to view the waterfall in plain site, but aside from that, the next nearest town is kilometres of winding roads away.
How to get in:
There are two main ways to enjoy the Gocta Waterfall. And one of them heavily depends on your commitment and physical level, as it can be fairly rigorous.
The easiest way to experience the waterfall is booking a one day tour with a tour agency. Tours start at around s/60, but would increase if visitors want to horseback the difficult parts of the hike into the waterfall.
Tours generally includes round trip transportation and entrance ticket.
However, it should be noted that the tour agencies only visit the bottom tier of the waterfall. Reaching the bottom tier of the waterfall is a relatively easy hike. There are uphill and downhill bits, but generally it’s very manageable.
Visiting the waterfall on your own is really very easy as well. And this way, you can decide which tier of the waterfall you want to visit.
Make your way to Chachapoyas’ bus station and take any numerous of buses heading towards San Pablo or Cocachimba for s/5.
For a more detailed experience of hiking both tier of the Gocta Waterfall, see my post here.
Bring enough water and snacks for the entire journey. There’s nothing on the trails and the towns you start and finish in are very basic. If you’re starting off in the morning, chances are they’re still closed.
Like most destinations in Peru, micro climates is very common. The start of the trek is usually crisp and comfortable, but as you head deeper into the jungle, it’ll get humid and muggy. Insects, especially mosquitos will follow your every step. And as you get closer to the waterfall, the temperature will drop. Bring layers and rain jackets are key for this excursion. I wouldn’t say special hiking shoes are necessary for this trip, as the ground was predominately dry aside for the areas in close proximity with the falls. The path for the bottom tier of the waterfall did have an added obstacle of having to deal with horse droppings though.