Chachapoyas is a town in the Amazonas region of Peru. It is a good base to explore the various sights in the surroundings: Kuelap, Karajia, Revash, Gocta waterfall etc.
The culture of the Chachapoyas dates back to 750–800AD and developed in an Andean cloud forest of the current Amazonas Department. The word Chachapoyas is derived from the Quechua words “sacha" and "Puyus” which mean "cloud forest". That is why the Chachapoyas are often called the “Cloud People” or the “Warriors of the Clouds” as well.
There are 3 entry cities if you want to fly most of the way, Tarapoto and Chiclayo have equal road trips from those airports of 8 to 10 hours depending on weather conditions, and Cajamarca's airport is more like 12 hours away. Chiclayo is the preferred one as you can find more travelling options (nightly buses) to Chachapoyas and you can save some time. These flying options are about 4 times as expensive as road from Lima. Airlines serving these cities are LAN, LC Peru, Peruvian Airlines, StarPeru and Avianca
Now there are commercial flights to Chachapoyas operated by Peru's air force from Chiclayo (PEN200), Cajamarca (PEN120) and Tarapoto (PEN120) but only on certain days so you'll need to plan ahead, full schedule and pricing can be found here
Movil Tours has direct buses Lima/Chachapoyas that pass through & leave Chiclayo. They also have nightly service from Trujillo (16:30) and Chiclayo (20:30 & 21:00) & arrive in Chachapoyas around 6am. The Movil Tour buses are comfortable, with seats that recline & a meal onboard. At the Chiclayo Movil Tours bus terminal you can securely leave your bag.
GH Bus also has a daily departure from Trujillo's new Terrrapuerto, leaving at 3:30pm and arriving around 6am (S/. 55 semi-cama, includes dinner - cama seats also available for a little extra).
Civa has daily bed buses from Lima taking about 22 hours with movies and meals furnished on board like Movil Tours. Cost is about USD45 one way from Lima. CIVA also has a daily service from Chiclayo at 16:10.
Zelada offers daily service at a bit of a discount, and Paredes Estrella has a bed bus, but you must get off at Pedro Ruis and take a combi leaving hourly, ~2 hours, about 10 Soles. Transervis Kuelap, GH Bus and Transportes Zelada have nightly buses from Chiclayo. Transportes El Expreso has a bed bus (160°) from Chiclayo at 8:30pm and it costs about $23, this is the best choice if one gets by plane to Chiclayo.
An arudous route to Ecuador takes 2 days from Vilcabamba or Loja in Ecuador  crossing the frontier at Balsas & goes via San Ignacio to Chachapoyas.
You can also arrive from Tarapoto/Moyobamba to the east. Turismo Selva (Jr. Salamanca 956) has three daily departures, leaving at 6:30 and 10:00 in the morning and 1:00 in the afternoon. The ride costs S./ 34 and takes about 7 to 8 hours in a 16 passenger van.
Virgen del Carmen has a daily service from Cajamarca. This is a spectacular road to travel and in a medium sized bus and definitely not for the faint hearted but is no doubt safer than the minibuses that speed round the corners. Minibuses charge 45 Soles (Apr '15) for the same route but are somewhat cramped and their 9 hour journey time claim is not to be believed.
If you are in Mancora, you'll need to first travel to Chiclayo before you can get the bus to Chachapoyas. A number of bus companies operate routes, and journey times are around 7 hours. Chiclayo bus company is one of the best, but you could also opt for Turela. They have a bus that leaves a 9.30am.
The city itself is small and you can walk anywhere.
There are daily kombis from Chachapoyas to Maria (closest village 2 hours walk from Kuelap), Leymebamba and Luya. Collectivos used to leave from close to the main square but now all leave from the collectivo terminal about 1km from the main square.
- Kuelap - an ancient stone city with walls up to 12 m high - the largest pre-Inca ruins in South America. Some older information you may find says that you need to walk for several hours to get there but there is now access by dirt road to the ticket office. From the ticket office there's a 1km uphill stone path to the site which takes about 15-20mins. If it's raining the site can get very muddy, so take decent shoes. Entrance is S/. 20 (S/. 10 for students - your card may or may not be checked), it's about a 2hour drive from Chachapoyas. You can find more information on Kuelap in the BBC documentary called Lost Kingdoms of South America - People of the Clouds which is available on YouTube. It is also possible to hike to Kuelap from the village of Tingo, reachable in a taxi or colectivo for S/. 6-7 (about 45mins-1hr) - they leave regularly from the Central Terminal de Buses on the outskirts of town on Calle Triunfo. The trail begins at the bridge in the village and is well signposted. It is 9km long and gains around 1,200m in elevation (quite steep in places) - the hike up takes about 3-4.5hours and it's about 1.5-2.5hours down again. Colectivos back to Chachapoyas are easy to find at almost any time of day from Tingo. Note that there are two "Tingos", Nuevo Tingo is on a hill up a dirt road (your colectivo may pass through here en route), but the trail begins from Tingo Viejo, down near the river. Organised tours charge about S/. 50 for the transport to the ticket office. Tours will usually make a short stop on the way to view the ruins of Macro, a group of pre-Inca dwellings and burial chambers built on the side of a mountain - they're viewed from across the valley. There is also rumoured to be a public colectivo that leaves early in the morning (5am, TBC) to Maria, the last village before the ticket office, ask around in Chachapoyas or at the bus terminal. From Maria you still need to walk 2h to reach Kuelap on an easy trail. A new cable car was tested in Dec 2016 and is expected to be open for regular service in Feb or March 2017. Companies in the new combi terminal advertise trips to Kuelap for 15 soles; however, in Feb 2017, I was not able to find such a service available that would be useful to tourists visiting Kuelap: only one trip leaves at 2 pm, requiring you to stay overnight somewhere and visit Kuelap the next day. The 8:30 am departure to Kuelap advertised by the same company is actually a tour and costs s/.50.
- Karajia - anthropomorphic sarcophagi built on a narrow cliff ledge (this is the photo you will see most of the time in Chachapoyas). To reach it DIY (as of Feb 2016): take a collectivo from the Chachapoyas terminal to Luya (s5; 50min) and then a collectivo to Cruz Pata (s6; 40min). Cruz Pata is a tiny village where you will find the ticket office (s5 pp), a restaurant, a shop and a house renting boots (s2). From Cruz Pata you need to walk 1km to reach the viewpoint. The path is very clearly marked; downhill will take you 20min and the way back up 30min at a good pace. The path gets quite muddy during raining season so hiking boots might be good (but not a must, although depending on how much it rained). You can also hire horses for both or either ways. Note that although the Lonely Planet says you need binoculars to look at it from 400m away, it is not at all the case. You can walk just below (perhaps 20m away) the statues and see them very clearly. Getting a car back might be a bit tricky as it is located at the end of the road. Ask around or walk a few hundred meters to the next village from where more cars are leaving. Tours (~S/.60) combine this with a trip to Pueblo de los Muertos (Town of the Dead), another site with several different types of sarcophagi built on cliff sides, along with houses. When it's raining then the Pueblo is inaccessible and Quiocta Cavern is used as an alternative, you'll need rubber boots but the tour operator usually will rent them for S/.2.
- Revash - cliff tombs that look like small houses with many pictographs.
- Museum of Leymebamba - houses and cares for 219 mummies and thousands of artifacts recovered from cliff tombs in 1997.
- Gran Vilaya - a popular trekking route through cloud forest.
- Tajopampa - cliff tomb sites.
- Huancas - 8km, 2-3hour walk or 15 min taxi/colectivo ride (S/.3). Peaceful small village with old church, plaza, some restaurants and artisanal shops. Mirador de Huancas, a 15minute walk from the plaza, (S/.3) provides a spectacular view of Canon Del Sonche. There is another mirador about 4.5km from the plaza, it is possible to get a taxi here, or to walk. The public colectivo will often continue to the prison, from where it is only a further 3.2km.
- Yumbilla Waterfalls - measured in 2007 at 895.4m making it the world's 3rd highest waterfall. Entrance fee is S./5. You will need to hike 2 hrs to get there on a muddy trail. Yumbilla waterfall is located in Cuispes a small village in a mountain at 25 minutes from Pedro Ruiz and just over 1 hour from Chachapoyas.
- Gocta Waterfalls - measured in 2007 at 711m, the world's 4th highest waterfall. Actually a 2-stage waterfall, the lower falls being the higher at over 500m. Entrance fee is S/. 10 (s5 for students). From Cocachimba you will need to hike 2.5 hrs to get there on a sometimes muddy trail (not bad). Boots are available to rent for S/. 3. If you don't want to take a tour, take any "Pedro Ruiz" combi as far as Cocohuayca (S/. 5, 45mins), then either take a moto-taxi up to Cocachimba (normal route, closer to lower falls) or San Pablo (if you want to make a loop, about 17km taking in both the higher and lower falls). It is also possible to walk up from the highway to either village - to the trail on the San Pablo side is about 4km (the locals are constructing a path which skips many of the switchbacks on the road). There is a small campsite near the higher falls and it should also be possible to pitch your tent somewhere near the lower falls if you want to camp for a night.
- Yumbilla" (Amazon Waterfalls Association), located, ☎ 41-94196, . Yumbilla Waterfalls was discovered and measured in 2007. It is by far Peru's highest waterfall 895m, or almost 3 times as high as the Eiffel Tower. A volunteer organization built a trek on a pristine, nearly level ledge of a cliff for 10 km that passes 8 waterfalls as high as any of the continental USA. An ecological reserve was formed that contains 4 critically endangered species. We would like anyone that have tried other world class treks to compare those with this one as we are sure it will become "the world's best ecological trek". Its location is 20 minutes above Pedro Ruis on a moped taxi, and tickets gotten through the village as this is a sustainable income project to give the natives incentive to protect their ecology. The Amazon Waterfalls Association is seeking volunteers for these exciting world class projects. edit
- Amazon Waterfalls Trek (Yumbilla), Cuispis or San Carlos (20 minutes by moto-taxi from Pedro Ruis), ☎ 41-94196, . Yumbilla is by far Peru's highest waterfall almost 3 times as high as the Eiffel Tower. Discovered and measured in 2007, at 895 meters. A 10km trek has been made that passes 8 waterfalls as high as any of the contental USA. The trek follows a nearly level cliff ledge covered in a pristine uncut Amazon forest. The Amazon Waterfall Association is volunteers working with villages to give them a sustainable income incentive to protect their ecology. A private reserve was formed to protect the 4 critically endangered species that are numerious only in this zone. Tickets can be bought from the village for an economical trek to the individual waterfalls, but reservations must be made for the trek along the ledge. AWA is seeking volunteers to continue with equally exciting projects to make this zone better and preserve their resources. edit
- Levanto, (The nearest ruins to Chachapoyas, 2 hours by vehicle), . Perhaps the best unrestored major Inca 3000km road passes through here and the section from Levanto to Chachapoyas is a spectacular 3 to 4 downhill walk. It starts at an restored Inca Military Garrison that guards this major intersection. A side path will take you up to Yelape, the 2nd largest fortress after Kuelap, with many more buildings. Levanto has a church started in 1558ad by the Conquestadores, with a high gold plated altar. The village has a modern lodge built to look just like an ancient Cloud Forest building, and this same team also built the restored house in Kuelap and the Military Garrison. Levanto was the last and largest Chachapoyan city conquered by the Incas, and later the Spanish capitol until it was moved to a warmer elevation of Levanto's annex of Chachapoyas. edit
- Cañon del Sonche. This absolutely spectacular canyon should be at the top of the list of things to see in Chachapoyas because it is easily accessible in 20 minutes by car (or combi) from the center of Chachapoyas, without taking a tour and without spending more than $2 (Jan 2017). The new lookout tower (mirador) is located an easy 10 minute walk from the plaza of the small village of Huancas, just north of Chachapoyas. You can take a combi (s/.3) from the new central terminal or, even closer, from a small unmarked terminal three blocks north of the Plaza de Armas just off Jr. Aeropuerto (Jr. Ortiz Arrieta), on Via Evitamiento (on my internet map, the street is called Jose Santillan). When you get close, ask someone for the combi to Huancas because there is no sign of any kind; the combi parks about 15 meters from the street corner. There is frequent service. After a rough 20-min. ride on a dirt road, the combi stops (last stop) in the center of the small village of Huancas where there are large clear signs pointing the way to the canyon. The entrance fee is s/.3. Be sure to check out the very small interpretive center just next to the gate; it has a model of the canyon to orient you. On the other side of the very deep canyon, you can see several high waterfalls. edit
There are several tour agencies, many located on the Plaza. They all offer identical itineraries for around the same price, but each runs their own tours so the quality of guides and drivers may vary - ask around.
- Before you pay for a tour, you may wish to meet the guide to ensure yourself that he actually can speak your language. Some agencies will tell you what you want to hear just to sell their tours, they do not always deliver what they say they will. Tours to Kuelap cost about S/.50, to Karajía about $24 and to Gocta about $16, each takes a whole day.
There are many agencies and guides available, and trekking offers from the 1-day trip to Gocta (a 6 h walk there and back) to a 4-5 day trip visiting other archaeological sites. Tierras Vivas specialise in tailor made trips to Chachapoyas and Kuelap.
Tourist Week is the first week in June, with a large parade from many villages of all the provinces of Amazonas participating on the Sunday. Lots of traditional clothes and customs to be seen.
The Patron Saint of Chachapoyas is the Virgin of Asunta and they celebrate the festival in Her honour during the first two weeks of August.
- Chachapoyas Tours (Los Tambos Chachapoyanos), 452 Santo Domingo, . Chachapoyas Tours is the original land provider and built 2 lodges for the villages to give them the incentive to protect their archaeological ruins. One is near Kuelap in Choctamal and the other in Levanto, with perhaps the best un-restored Inca roads in Peru. From Levanto it goes downhill for 3 to 4 hours with spectacular panoramas and Inca engineering. An Inca Military garrison guards over 3000km of major Inca roads and a side branch takes you to Yelape, the 2nd largest fortress after Kuelap. edit
- El Eden, Jr Grau 448. Simple Vegetarian restaurant with daily menu's of 6 soles. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. edit
- El Tejado, Santo Domingo (a couple blocks from the plaza). Good peruvian restaurant. Lunch menus for 8 Soles. edit
- La Tushpa, Jr. Ortiz Arrierta N. 753 (1 1/2 blocks from the corner of the big Church on the placa the armas), ☎ 041-777471. 1-11pm. simple local restaurant with a friendly owner and really good steaks and other meat dishes. 12 soles for a steak with rice and alittle salad. edit
- Candela, Jiron 2 de Mayo 728, ☎ +51 947 895 651. open from 7 pm. Good Pizza from a stone oven. Traditional pizza as well as peruvian fusion. Cozy restaurant and friendly staff. Personal pizzas for 20-25 Soles. edit
Chachapoya is famous for its fruit liqueurs. In bars around the corner of Ayacucho and 2 de Mayo you get a shot (copa) for 2 Soles/ jar (jara) of 1/4 l for 5 Soles.
There are many hotels (at all types of prices) spread around town, including many in the streets close to the main square.
- Casa Monsante, Jr. Amazonas 746 (From the church, uphill 2 blocks), . Casa Monsante is a restored ancient mansion in the historical section of town with extensive orchids. edit
- Chachapoyas Backpackers Hostal, Jr. 2 de mayo 639, ☎ (+51 41) 478879, . This place is a great budget choice. 40 Soles private room shared bathroom or 15 Soles per dorm bed (june 2016), shared bathroom, good and clean kitchen facilities, wi-fi and very friendly owners will make you feel at home. 2 minutes walk from Plaza de Armas so it will be far enough to be quiet and close enough to access all areas in Chachapoyas. Jose (owner) knows english good and is also a tour guide, he can give you some idea about where to go and what to do. Also he can arrange tours for you if you want. A lot of friendly folk stayimg here also. WiFi a bit dodgy but think that's the area more than this backpackers. Have fun ... edit
- Hostal Amazonas, Jr. Grau 565 (In front of the Plaza de Armas), ☎ (+51 41) 478 839, . Hostal Amazonas, an old colonial house that until now kept its design unchanged. Since 1936 he has been recognized as cultural heritage located in the Plaza de Armas (main square). edit
- La Posada de Cuispes, Plaza de armas de Cuispes, ☎ +(51) 956030811, . checkin: 12:00; checkout: 11:00. There is one Hotel in Cuispes (a small village in a mountain at 30 minutes from Pedro Ruiz and just 1 hour from Chachapoyas), it is manage by Galoc Family, very gentle people from this village, who are going to treat you with hospitality and give all their experience and knowledge of Cuispes an the waterfalls. They offer treks to Yumbilla Waterfall 895 meters, Chinata Waterfall 540 meters and Pabellon Waterfall 400 meters. They can also organize and prepare your visit to the Sarcophagus of San Jeronimo and the Caves of Hatupampa in San Carlos and Gocta waterfalls. The profits they earn with the treks are completely for the people of the village. 45. (soles,) edit
Note: collectivos leave from the terminal away 1km from the main square. Long distance buses to Trujillo, Chiclayo, Lima leave from the different company offices spread around town.
- Kuelap independently - There is no public transport (combis) from Chachapoyas to Kuelap. You can take a public combi to nearby Pueblo Maria (about 2 hours travel) and from there follow the road to Kuelap, an easy 2 hours walk. You may find a taxi in Pueblo Maria but do not count on that. Combis and colectivos to Pueblo Maria leave Chachapoyas early in the morning (around 5.00 am), look for the office of Roller's two blocks down from the plaza, passing the market. At Pueblo Maria you can stay the night in one of the several rooms made for visitors by villagers. There are several restaurants as well at Pueblo Maria (good trout). You can go back to Chachapoyas by public combi or walk down to the village of Tingo, which lies halfway on the road between Chachapoyas and Leymebamba. The walk is interesting but quite long, going down about 1,200 meters. Calculate some 2 to 3 hours walking. There is a basic hotel in Tingo and 2 restaurants. In Tingo you can pick up a bus or combi to travel on to Leymebamba (about 70 minutes) or Chachapoyas (about an hour). Combis to Chachapoyas pass by regularly. Buses from Chachapoyas to Cajamarca and vice versa pass through Tingo. You can also go from Tingo to Leymebamba picking up one of the combis or the micro passing at buses to Cajamarca via Leymebamba and vice versa with a lunch stop in Celendin. Some buses will terminate in Celendin - from here you can catch a connecting bus to Cajamarca. The trip from Cajamarca to Chachapoyas or reverse takes about 11-12 hours. From Chachapoyas there is a direct bus at 5:30am (S/. 45) but most buses to Cajamarca leaves in the evening (around 7pm, 7.30pm, 8pm). The route is very beautiful, crossing the deep canyon of the Marañon river, but also very curvy. The road is now completely paved but is only a single lane and the many switchback curves still make it a slow trip. Between Leimebamba and Celendin the scenery is spectacular with steep slopes plunging below the barrier-free road, almost straight down 2-3 km in places. If the combi driver is fast or a bit reckless, it can be a stressful and scary trip. A big bus (Virgen del Carmen) is probably a better choice for the faint of heart.
- There are a few combis per day direct to Tarapoto (S/. 35, about 8hours). They leave from the Central Terminal de Buses on Calle Triunfo, near the edge of town. They will make several stops en route in towns such as Pedro Ruiz, Nueva Cajamarca, Rioja and Moyobamba and another stop for a meal break. You can buy a ticket all the way to Yurimaguas (S/. 45), although you will need to change vans in Tarapoto.
- Combis leave frequently from the Central Terminal de Buses for Pedro Ruiz (S/. 5, just over an hour) where you can find more bus connections - it is on the main road between Tarapoto and Chiclayo and is called "Ingenio" on GoogleMaps.
- GH Bus and Movil Tours have daily buses to Trujillo, between S/. 55-75 and about 12-14hours, leaving around 7-8pm (no day buses).
- Many companies (incl. GH Bus and Movil Tours) have buses to Chiclayo (9-10h. s30 for economic class. s40 for normal class with meal. s60 for "bed" seat) leaving in the evening (different times between 6pm and 8pm. No day bus)
- Some companies also have direct buses to Lima