Have you every seen any of the Indiana Jones Movies? That is exactly what visiting the Kuelap Fortress felt like.
Situated in the city of Chachapoyas, literally meaning ‘City of the Clouds’, the ancient Incas of this region were called the ‘Cloud warriors’. This city is located in the cloud forests of the Amazon regions in present day Peru. The locals call Chachapoyas, “Cha-Cha” affectionately, and will tell you that they are located on the “ceja de la selva”, or literally the eyebrow of the jungle. In other words, high-jungle.
Peru is most famous for Machu Picchu. Most visitors fly directly to Lima, and head to Cusco to see the glorious ruins of Machu Picchu.
What is beautiful about Peru, is that there is history everywhere in the country. The Incas left vestiges of their culture and history throughout all of South America, and much is left to see in Peru. There many attractions in northern Peru cities like: Trujillo, Chiclayo, Cajamarca, and Chachapoyas that merit a visit in and of itself.
The Kuelap Fortress is the mysterious pre-Incan civilization of the ‘cloud people’ of Peru. It is being touted as the Machu Picchu of the north.
On our 1 year anniversary trip to the Gocta Waterfalls, this was an excursion that we were offered at our hotel. I wasn’t sure if it would be worth the trip, and the hike. It was. Absolutely worth it.
It was a magical place. Unlike Machu Picchu it was virtually free of tourists, and aside from our tour group we had the place to ourselves.
Kuelap is an ancient fortress built by the Chachapoyas Incan culture in the 6th century, A.D. The majority of structures in the city were built between 900 & 1100 AD. At maximum occupancy, the city may have had up to 300,000 occupants, however, as with many historical sites in Peru, it was abandoned in the 1500s due to the Spanish Conquest.
Subsequently, the Kuelap Fortress was accidentally rediscovered in the late 1800s.
From the 1980s onward, several Peruvian archaeologists and other foreign archaeologists have continued with the excavation efforts.
Being a relatively new archaeological discovery, the Kuelap ruins are still untouched by Peruvian tourism industry, however in 10 years or so, I imagine it will become on the top lists of tourism, along with Machu Picchu.
In Kuelap, you can observe many stone carvings with geometric, zoomorphic, and anthropomorphic shapes. I don’t know what the meaning is. It is just so fascinating though, to imagine that centuries ago, an entire civilization inhabited this area, and these things had meaning for them. It represented their temples, markets, homes, and communities. Such a mystic, beautiful place.
As far as the cost was concerned, we booked a private tour from our hotel with an agency. For the transport, entrance fee, cable car ride up to the fortress, and lunch – it was a total of 80 soles, or about $30USD. It was well worth it. There are probably more economic options, you can book directly from the town of Chachapoyas as well.