The most impressive archaeological site in the area is this immense pre-Inca city, 72 km (45 miles) south of Chachapoyas. Most visitors to this region come solely to see the grand city. Little is known about the people who built it; archaeologists have named them the Chachapoyans or Sachupoyans. They were most likely a warlike people, as the city of Kuélap is surrounded by a massive defensive wall ranging from 6 to 12 meters (20 to 39 feet) high. The Chachapoyans left many cities and fortresses around the area. In 1472 they were conquered by the Inca Huayna Capac. If you've been to Machu Picchu, or just seen photographs, you'll recognize many similarities in this complex, built almost a thousand years before.
The city sits at a dizzying 3,100 meters (10,170 feet) above sea level, high above the Rio Utcubamba. The oval-shape city has more than 400 small, rounded buildings. The city's stonework, though rougher than that of the Inca, has geometric patterns and designs, adding a flight
of fancy to a town seemingly designed for the art of war. The most interesting of the rounded buildings has been dubbed El Tintero (the Inkpot). Here you'll find a large underground chamber with a huge pit. Archaeologists hypothesize that the Chachapoyans kept pumas in this pit, dumping human sacrifices into its depths. Excavations and renovations are ongoing here.