The odds are pretty good that you don’t know about Kuelap. Yet, it is one of the largest ancient stone complexes in the western hemisphere. Those who do know refer to it as the Machu Picchu of the north.

Just where is this remarkably unknown place? Northern Peru is home to this most important of the pre-Incan Chachapoya sites. The Chachapoyas culture began constructing this site in the 6th century CE on a ridge overlooking the Utcubamba Valley.  The great fortress has more than 550 structures and massive exterior stone walls reaching upwards of 60 feet in height. It was abandoned in 1570 after the Spanish conquest of the region.

It was all but forgotten until Juan Crisóstomo Nieto, a judge from the city of Chachapoyas, accidentally rediscovered Kuelap in 1843. Peruvian and foreign archaeologists have actively studied and excavated the site since the 1980s.

The imposing city at 9,843 feet above sea level on a ridge overlooking the Utcubamba Valley is so remote that few travelers ever get here. A new cable car opened in early 2017 to improve access. The views on the way up to the entrance are incredible – either by cable car or by hiking. Once on top, you walk about half an hour to the archaeological site on a paved uphill path. Horses are available for those who may need assistance.

This is truly a once-in-a-lifetime adventure, and one that you can experience on our newest President’s Pick’s Northern Peru Warriors of the Clouds.

Big Five

From: Big Five Travel

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