PERU TRAVEL PLANNER
The North Tours
The Lost Word of Chachapoyas 10 days
WORLD OF CHACHAPOYAS 10 DAYS AND 9 NIGHTS TOUR
A program for travelers with a profound interest in archaeology and adventure.
We visit the huge 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.
The area is still new to tourism, but we have taken every care to provide as
comfortable a stay as possible, with air-conditioned vehicles, expert guides and
the best possible accommodation.
We mingle trips on foot and/or horseback with light motorized excursions and
longer road journeys, visiting astounding locations and rarely seeing more than
a handful of other travelers at each place. Cost covers all land travel, meals
Note: We require minimum two passengers traveling
together If single traveler ask for the supplement.
Please contact us
for more information and for pricing.
||10 Days and 9
||Fixed Departures. Check the Calendar
||Chachapoyas, Kuelap citadel, Leymebamba - starting from
||Not included, available upon request
DAY 1 LIMA PICK UP
Pick up upon arrival at Lima’s airport and transportation to the hotel.
Overnight (No meals)
DAY 2 CHICLAYO
Early in the morning transfer to the airport where you'll take the
flight to Chiclayo (Airfare Not included).
Upon arrival, transfer to the hotel and rest of day at leisure.
DAY 3 CHICLAYO TO CHACHAPOYAS: ACROSS THE ANDES TO THE AMAZON
We drive northward from Chiclayo across Peru's coastal plains, following
the Pan-American Highway, then turn east onto the Trans-Andean route,
ascending gently through regions of dry forest interspersed with
irrigated farmland. Our road loops towards the lowest pass of the
Peruvian Andes, at 2,135m/7,000 ft, where we cross the continental
divide and enter the Upper Amazon basin. Following the valley of the
Huancabamba/Chamaya river system we pass broad ribbons of bright green
rice terracing, forming a striking contrast with the cactus and dense
thorn-scrub vegetation of the mountainsides. Lower downstream we pass
the massive dam and intake of the Olmos irrigation project, ultimately
destined to divert much of this water through a 23Km/14.2 mile long
tunnel to the Pacific slope of the Andes.
We reach the bridge over the Marañon, one of the great tributaries of
the Upper Amazon, which was formerly believed to be the source of that
mighty river. Here we enter the Peruvian department of Amazonas, former
home of a mysterious and powerful civilization, the Chachapoyas, whose
remnants we will explore during this journey.
We 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.
DAY 4 CHACHAPOYAS: KUELAP, THE GREAT WALLED CITY OF NORTHERN PERU
We spend a full day visiting this huge and mysterious site, beginning
with a drive through places whose names -- Choctamal, Longuita, and
Kuelap itself -- evoke a lost language and a vanished ancient people who
spoke it, the Chachapoyans. We don't know what they called themselves,
but the Incas who finally conquered these fierce warriors knew them by
their Quechua soubriquet, Chachaphuyu “Cloud People” after the
cloud-draped region where they lived.
Kuelap's existence was first reported in 1843. For years it was believed
to have been a Chachapoyan fortress, and when we first catch sight of it
from the fossil-encrusted limestone footpath that leads there it is hard
to believe it was not. The massive walls soar to a height of 19m/62ft
and its few entranceways are narrow and tapering, ideal for defense. Yet
the archaeological evidence now suggests that this was principally a
religious and ceremonial site.
Chachapoyas was not a nation, or an empire, but some sort of federation
of small states centered on numerous settlements scattered across their
mountainous territory. The earliest settlement dates obtained here
suggest that its construction began around 500A.D. and, like the Moche
coastal pyramids, it was built in stages as a series of platforms, one
atop the other.
It is now a single enormous platform nearly 600m/2,000ft long, stretched
along a soaring ridgetop. Seen from below, its vast, blank walls give no
hint of the complexity and extent of the buildings above. When we reach
its summit we find a maze of structures in a variety of styles and
sizes, some of them faced with rhomboid friezes, some ruined and some
well preserved. Here we can try to imagine the lives of the Chachapoyan
elite and their servants who lived here, enjoying a breathtaking view of
forested Andean mountains and valleys.
So distant and neglected was this region until recently that little
archaeological research has been done at this important site, and our
knowledge of it remains vague. An adjacent site named La Mallca, larger
though less dramatic than Kuelap, has not been studied at all. Even
today, Kuelap's remoteness ensures that only a handful of other visitors
are there to share it with us.
We return to El Chillo for dinner. (B, Box Lunch, D)
DAY 5 CHACHAPOYAS: A VISIT TO MACRO TOWERS, AND A HORSEBACK JOURNEY
TO THE CLIFF TOMBS OF REVASH
After breakfast we enjoy an excursion 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.
We then follow the Utcubamba valley upstream, spotting herons and
perhaps an Andean torrent duck in the river as we slowly ascend the
valley. At the village of Santo Tomás we turn off the main highway,
crossing the river and ascending a side valley where vivid scarlet
poinsettias the size of trees overhang the walls of typical Chachapoyan
farms, with verandas surrounded by wooden columns, and topped with tile
roofs. Soon we meet our wranglers and the calm, sure-footed horses that
will carry us up the trail to Revash.
Throughout this journey we gaze up at huge cliffs that loom ever closer.
These limestone formations, laid down in even layers over geological
aeons, 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.
A gigantic fold in the cliffs, testifying to millennia of unimaginable
tectonic forces, lies ahead of us, and at the top of the fold one such
cave houses a group of tombs, ruined structures still bearing their
original coat of red and white pigment. But they are far off, and this
is not yet Revash. Another hour brings us to a viewpoint much closer to
the cliffs, and here we see two adjacent sets of caves, featuring
cottage-sized structures covered in still-bright mineral-oxide
paintwork. Some of them look like cottages, with gabled roofs, others
like flat-topped apartments. They are adorned with red-on-white figures
and geometrical symbols -- a feline, llamas, circles, ovals -- and
bas-relief crosses and T-shapes, which perhaps once told the rank and
lineage of the tombs' occupants. They are silent, empty, their contents
long ago looted, their facades straining to tell a story whose meaning
was lost long ago.
We return to El Chillo for dinner and lodging. (B, Box Lunch, D)
DAY 6 CHACHAPOYAS TO LEIMEBAMBA: A SCENIC MOUNTAIN HORSEBACK JOURNEY,
AND A TRADITIONAL ANDEAN TOWN
We follow the Utcubamba valley to Las Palmas, where we meet our
wranglers and horses, then set off on a mountain trail among green
fields and through small villages and hamlets. Our wranglers are, like
most local people in Chachapoyas, friendly and obliging. Here and there
we find ourselves 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 we 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.
Large archaeological sites as undisturbed and deserted as this one are
becoming rare today. National authorities understandably like to clear,
restore, improve access and prevent further deterioration of ancient
ruins. But for adventurous visitors it is still a special treat to come
up against ancient walls looming through the brush, as if we were
discovering them for the first time. Buildings with bands of rhomboid
and chevron designs over thresholds once crossed by Chachapoya
chieftains stand silently among the vegetation.
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 work our way back down the mountain
slopes to the village of Leimembamba, where we spend the night. ( B, Box
DAY 7 LEIMEBAMBA TO CAJAMARCA A MORNING MUSEUM VISIT, AND A ROAD
JOURNEY ACROSS THE MARAÑON CANYON.
Leimebamba was established by the Incas during their conquest of the
region, and continued as a colonial town under the Spanish. It retains
much of this antique charm in its balconied houses with narrow streets
where more horses than cars are parked. This morning we visit a
delightful collection of extraordinary artifacts recovered from another
group of cliff tombs discovered as recently as 1997 at the remote Laguna
de los Condores, high in the mountains east of the town.
Here at the Leimebamba museum, the exhibits, cheerfully displayed in
well-lit rooms, offer a sample from the mass of artifacts recovered from
this amazing discovery. In 1997 a group of undiscovered cliff tombs --
similar in style to those of Revash -- was spotted above the remote
Laguna de los Condores by local farmhands. Although they looted and
damaged the site, a mass of priceless objects and a trove of vital
information was rescued. We see gourds carved with animal and
geometrical symbols, an array of colorful textiles, ceramics, carved
wooden beakers and portrait heads, and a selection of the dozens of
quipus (Inca knotted-string recording devices) recovered from the site.
A big picture window offers a view of the temperature- and
humidity-controlled temporary "mausoleum" where more than two hundred
salvaged mummies are kept.
Archaeologists are still uncertain as to how most of this material came
to be so startlingly well-preserved, in tombs that during the rainy
season were actually behind a waterfall! But perhaps the most striking
thing about the tombs is that they contain burials from all three
periods of local history: the Chachapoya cultural heyday, the post-Inca
invasion period, and the post-Spanish conquest. Archaeologists are
continuing to study the material, seeking to learn more about the
Chachapoya and their relationship with their Inca masters. The quipu
finds have been especially valuable to scholars seeking to decode the
Inca record keeping system.
After this fascinating visit, we set off on a journey that offers us new
perspectives on the multitude of natural environments of the Peruvian
Andes. We climb through dairy country, where cattle graze in green
pastures studded with rock outcrops, dells and belts of woodland. As we
go higher this landscape gives way to a high altitude puna region of
smooth slopes densely covered in a beige bunch-grass known as ichu. We
cross a high pass at 3,500m and begin a long traverse to a lower pass,
where we look down on the distant Marañon river, which we crossed for
the first time four days ago. A long, winding descent brings us at last
to a warm, irrigated valley filled with mango trees, coconut palms,
papaya and banana plantations. Soon we reach Balsas, a village at the
bridge over the Marañon.
We cross the mighty river into the Department of Cajamarca, and climb
through an arid canyon environment of tall cactus and gnarled trees.
Eventually we reach farmland again, rolling country of wheat, barley and
oat fields, and we begin to see adobe farmhouses. And we spot farmers
and their children wearing the characteristic large, broad-brimmed
Cajamarca straw hat. We pause in the city of Celendín for lunch, and
continue on to our destination, the city of Cajamarca. We arrive late
afternoon at the Cajamarca suburb of Baños del Inca, where the spacious
Laguna Seca Hotel offers us a welcome rest and a room with its own huge
hot tub and unlimited piping-hot thermal spring water. ( B, Box Lunch,
DAY 8 IN CAJAMARCA: COLONIAL SPAIN AND THE LAST DAYS OF THE INCA
Our hot springs hotel provides a wonderful and well-earned finale of
luxuriant relaxation, with delicious dining, spa facilities, and a
spacious private hot pool in every room. The springs themselves are
famous, the site of a historic first encounter between the Inca emperor
Atahualpa and the Spaniards who, unknown to him, had come to conquer his
empire. 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,
when a small contingent of mounted Spaniards 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 we drive into the city center, and up to the hilltop now known as
Colina Santa Apolonia. This was a sacred mountain to the Cajamarca
people who held sway in this valley for nearly two thousand years, until
the Incas conquered them, and ancient rock carvings can still be seen on
its summit. Today we look out over the modern city of some 250,000
inhabitants, spread out over a valley at 2,700m/8,850ft surrounded by
low mountains. After viewing the lay of the land we descend the steps
into the old city center, which lies directly below us.
Spanish colonial houses line the streets here, and the churches, such as
San Francisco and Belén, wear facades of intricate, fantastical baroque-mestizo
stonework, although all trace of the Inca halls from which Francisco
Pizarro and his conquistadors launched history's most fateful and
treacherous ambush have disappeared. Nevertheless, we visit one Inca
stone building that still stands, its smoothly rounded stone walls and
perfectly fitted stones testifying to its noble Inca origins. 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.
We visit the Museum in the old colonial hospital of the Church of Belen,
to get in touch with and see some fine artifacts from an older culture
-- known to us as the Cajamarca -- who occupied this valley for some
2,000 years before finally succumbing to the Inca expansion.
After lunch at a fine local restaurant we pay a visit to the 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. ( B, Box Lunch, D)
DAY 9 CAJAMARCA TO LIMA:
In the morning we are transferred to our hotel for the flight to Lima
(Airfare Not Included). Upon arrival transfer to the hotel. Overnight
DAY 10 TRANSFER OUT
Transfer to the airport where you'll take your international flight and
end of the services (B)
END OF THE SERVICES
INCLUDES: All hotel and lodge accommodations based on double or single
occupancy. All scheduled transportation. All transfers. All scheduled excursions
with English-speaking guide services. All entrance fees. Meals as specified in
the itinerary. B=Breakfast; L=Lunch; D=Dinner.
IMPORTANT: For a better service, the company informs you that it has
autonomy to change the Hotels mentioned in the itinerary with another one of
similar category if therefore sees it by advisable taking into account
justifiable availability of spaces or other reasons, if this it is the case you
will be notified ahead of time.
NOT INCLUDED IN THE FEE
International and domestic airfares, airport departure taxes or visa fees,
excess baggage charges, additional nights during the trip due to flight
cancellations, alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages or bottled water, snacks,
insurance of any kind, laundry, phone calls, radio calls or messages,
reconfirmation of international flights and items of personal nature.