Fodor's Expert Review Kuélap

Kuelap Archaeological Site/Ruins Fodor's Choice

Consistently compared to Machu Picchu by visitors, this extraordinary citadel high in the cloud forests of Chachapoyas was a walled city sufficient unto itself, housing farmers, shamans, and administrators no less than the "warriors of the cloud" that made up the Chachapoyans' military class. Wandering the circular ruins, with their 12-meter-high (39-foot-high) stone walls and enigmatic carvings of faces and snakes, you catch a haunting glimpse of a fierce people that resisted the Inca Empire to the bitter end.

Kuélap sits at a dizzying 3,100 meters (10,170 feet) above sea level, high above the Río Utcubamba. Consisting of more than 400 small, rounded buildings, it contains lookout towers, huts with grass roofs (now reconstructed), turrets, and rhomboid friezes typical of the region. The most interesting of the rounded buildings has been dubbed El Tintero (the Inkpot), and features a large underground chamber with a huge pit. Archaeologists hypothesize that the Chachapoyans... READ MORE

Consistently compared to Machu Picchu by visitors, this extraordinary citadel high in the cloud forests of Chachapoyas was a walled city sufficient unto itself, housing farmers, shamans, and administrators no less than the "warriors of the cloud" that made up the Chachapoyans' military class. Wandering the circular ruins, with their 12-meter-high (39-foot-high) stone walls and enigmatic carvings of faces and snakes, you catch a haunting glimpse of a fierce people that resisted the Inca Empire to the bitter end.

Kuélap sits at a dizzying 3,100 meters (10,170 feet) above sea level, high above the Río Utcubamba. Consisting of more than 400 small, rounded buildings, it contains lookout towers, huts with grass roofs (now reconstructed), turrets, and rhomboid friezes typical of the region. The most interesting of the rounded buildings has been dubbed El Tintero (the Inkpot), and features a large underground chamber with a huge pit. Archaeologists hypothesize that the Chachapoyans kept pumas in this pit, dumping human sacrifices into its depths during religious rituals. The ruins are in surprisingly good condition, considering the antiquity (1,000 or so years) of the site: the Incas appear to have left it alone when they overran the Chachapoyas people in 1472.

For a long time, Kuélap was the least-visited of Peru's major archaeological sites, due to its remoteness. The recent opening of a new teleférico (cable car) that whisks visitors up to the hilltop may change all that. But for now, visitors to this magnificent ruin remain pioneers at one of South America's truly exotic destinations.

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Archaeological Site/Ruins Fodor's Choice

Quick Facts

Ctra. Kuélap
Chachapoyas, Amazonas  Peru

Sight Details:
Rate Includes: S/15, S/15, cable car S/20

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