Kuelap Fortress – An Archaeological Wonder of Peru
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Kuelap Fortress – An Archaeological Wonder of Peru

5 min read

Aug 26, 2019


By Gabe Scalise

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Last updated on March 23rd, 2021 at 11:58 am

The fortress of Kuelap is an archeological wonder, that for a long time was not accessible. And Kuelap is – archeologically and historically – much more important than other Incan sites. In fact, Kuelap explains why and how the Incan Empire was ended by Spain!

The Incans are well recognized for their archaeological sites in Peru, especially the extraordinary Machu Picchu. While Machu Picchu stole the hearts of many, Peru has a multitude of other sites to offer its guests. For example, visit Ollantaytambo, what once stood as the royal estate of Emperor Pachacuti, or hike around Choquequirao, and it’s interesting staircase configuration.

Consider also exploring Pisac, a place of military citadel, religious temples, and individual dwellings that overlook the Sacred Valley.

But if you’re in the mood to be utterly fascinated by history, check out the Kuelap fortress where the end of the Inca Empire started. Our new Gocta Waterfalls & Kuelap Tour includes both: The Kuelap fortress and the natural wonder of the Gocta Falls.

Some consider Kuelap as one of the largest ancient stone monuments in the New World. Built by the Chachapoyas in the 6th century AD, Kuelap was kept in use until the 16th century. Once a difficult destination to reach, visitors headed to Peru can now visit Kuelap comfortably due to the newly implemented cable car. So there’s no reason not to add this destination or inspired Peru Tour to your bucket list!

Begin in Chachapoyas

Displaying infrastructure carved within the mountainside walls in Revash, Chachapoyas

Begin your journey in Chachapoyas (also known as Chachas). Here you will want to spend at least two nights due to its colonial beauty. Founded during the Spanish conquest, lush cloud forests surround this laid-back painted white town. In the past, it served as an important area for trade. Now it serves as a busy marketplace, fantastic for exploring the local shops and the ancient ruins left behind.

From Chachapoyas, board a bus to Tingo and embark on a scenic cable car ride to the entrance of Kuelap (3,000 meters high). Don’t worry about crowded lines for this tour. Because unlike Machu Picchu, the cable car to Kuelap consists mostly of local Peruvians that are checking out the new mode of transportation or the gorgeous orchids blossoming nearby. The trip from Chachapoyas to Kuelap takes about 2 hours long. Though the ancient structures that await you are worth every moment spent traveling.

Join the Kuelap Fortress Guided Tour

Kuelap Fortress Chachapoyas Round House

Once you have reached the entrance to Kuelap, opt for an expert guide to show you around the 20-meter high walls and 3 levels of stone structures. If you plan on hitting every set of ruins, the excursion will take 3-hours. Giving you plenty of time to marvel at the typical roundhouses of Chachapoyas. These houses remain true to their original structure, overcoming any earthquake that tested their stability.

It won’t surprise you to know that Kuelap applied for UNESCO World Heritage status. However, because of the rebuilding of one of the circle houses, the prestigious title was not granted. Although Kuelap experienced a small hiccup in gaining UNESCO status, we predict that the historical site will represent UNESCO status in the future. It’s only a matter of time before gaining recognition for its historical significance and beauty.

Kuelap Fortress & the Gocta Falls

A view of the top of the Goca Waterfall

While you’re in the area, check out Gocta Waterfall. Inside one of the quaint lodges nearby, you can easily view this waterfall from your bedroom window or you can journey outside to see the striking waterfall up close. While discovered in 2000, Gocta Waterfall was measured in 2006. After the measurement, the waterfall gained its title as the third largest free-leaping waterfall in the world (right behind Angel Falls in Venezuela), falling at the height of 771 meters. Luckily for guests staying nearby, due to the extraordinary height, you can’t hear the water trickling down. Instead, the surrounding air becomes painted in rainbow-colored mist. Not only is the Gocta Waterfall an incredible sight, but you can also see the Peruvian Amazon Rainforest that makes up the mountains in the distance.

The journey by foot to the Gocta Waterfall takes about 2 hours there and 2 hours back. And if that seems a little too long, you can rent a horse to take you two-thirds of the way. Giddy up! Also located by the ruins are the “purunmachus,” or stone tombs, that housed the mummified remains of ancient Chachapoyas royalty. You’ll notice a similarity in these structures to the cliff effigies in Indonesia. The Chachapoyas disappeared due to a disease that was left by the Spanish. Visiting the “purunmachus” is an ideal way to pay your respects.

Kuelap Fortress & Cajamarca

You can see the windows carved within the cliff as a pre-Inca necropolis

Kuelap comes as the perfect add on to any Peru tour. In particular, consider combing Cajamarca with your holiday in Peru. This quaint colonial metropolis is just a couple of hours southwest of Kuelap and rests between an easy-going valley and considerably spacious mountains in every direction. Perfect for young travelers, boutique restaurants, bars, elegant hotels, and fine-dining restaurants line the streets of Cajamarca. While Kuelap is a perfect add on to any Peru Tour, Cajamarca might make the trip just that much better. Contact one of our travel experts today, to start planning your Peru trip to Kuelap and Cajamarca.

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Last updated on March 23rd, 2021 at 11:58 am

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