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The Pre-Incan Ruins of Northern Peru

Kuelap, Pueblo de Los Muertos, and Karajin

Chachapoyas was not on our original list of places to visit, but after chatting with some people back in Quito, Danny and I were convinced that we had to see the Fortress of Kuelap (often referred to as the Machu Picchu of Northern Peru). So we decided to make the detour (and let's face it, itineraries are made to be broken - Danny's words haha) and so here we are!

Plaza de Armas in Chachapoyas

As soon as we arrived in Chachapoyas, we immediately booked a tour to visit Kuelap. There was an option to hike to Kuelap, but that would require starting the day at 2am, and that was just crazy talk. So we settled with a ride up to Kuelap, but would hike down and rejoin the tour at the bottom of the mountain.

Kuelap was constructed by the Chachapoyan people dating back to pre-Inca culture around 6th century A.D. The entire complex is roughly 600 meters in length and 110 meters in width, and situated at the summit of a mountain overlooking Utcubamba Valley at 3000m above sea level. The fortress is a huge complex comprising of over 400 stone dwellings, and buildings of civil, religious, and military purposes. Many of the buildings had decorated walls and cornices or protruding friezes. Surrounding the fortress is a massive stone wall roughly 20m high. As a security measure, there is only one access corridor, so narrow such that only one person can enter at one time. Kuelap was inhabited until around the pre-colonial period, and it has been speculated that the reason for their departure was the occurrence of a widespread disease.

Possibly a future Tourist Center?

Entrance to Kuelap...

...and finally, KUELAP!!


Hike down from Kuelap to the town of Tingo to meet the rest of the tour.

Celebratory dinner!

Pueblo de Los Muertos
We were so impressed by Kuelap that we decided to book another tour to see the nearby Pueblo de Los Muertos (City of the Dead) and the Karajia Tombs, (and partly because there was no way we would spend longer getting here then actually being here haha).

Pueblo de Los Muertos is a collection of stone tombs that are situated along the ridge of a mountain. They were built by the Chachapoyans between 1100 A.D. and 1350 A.D. Unfortunately, the tombs have been heavily destroyed by looters and the roofs are no longer there.


Karajia (or Carajia) is a Chachapoyan archaelogical site located in Utcubamba Valley. Along the side of a very steep cliff are seven sarcophagi (stone coffins typically displayed above ground), each standing about 2.5 meters tall. Their condition has been preserved primarily because of their location - 25 meters up on a cliff. An eighth sarcophagus was destroyed, most likely from an earthquake in the 1920s.


Posted by TravellingFries 09:10 Archived in Peru

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