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.
As of October 2018, there are commercial flights once again, at least to/from Lima. Ground transport into town is slowed by road construction. (According to Rome2Rio the flight is 75 minutes and the drive to town is 103 minutes.) Do updated research before planning to fly in here.
The information below is accurate as of May 2018.
The Chachapoyas airport has been closed to commercial flights since a plane crashed there more than a decade ago. The nearest airport with flights is in Jaen, a 4-hour drive to the north, which is served by LATAM twice daily from Lima. Jaen is a very small airport without any bus service. Tourist taxis meet all flights and charge 100 soles for a seat to Chachapoyas. Alternatively, you could take a taxi into Jaen and then make your way to Chachapoyas by combi changing vehicles in Bagua Grande, which would cost a lot less. The drive is very scenic as you climb from the airport at 700m to Chachapoyas at 2300m above sea level.
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 used to take 2 days from Vilcabamba or Loja in Ecuador crossing the frontier at La Balsa & going via San Ignacio and Jaen (Peru) to Chachapoyas. Since 20th July 2018 there is a new convenient option to get from Ecuador to Jaén. Nambija has started a direct connection from Yantzaza (Ecuador) via Loja, Vilcabamba, Zumba, La Balza (border), San Ignazio (Peru) to Jaén. Currently there is one bus daily leaving Yantzaza at 3:45 arriving in Jaén around 19:00. In August they might add a second one daily departing Yantzaza at 11:50. The tickets from Vilcabamba to Jaén cost US$20.60 and from Loja US$21.60. From the terminal in Jaén take a mototaxi S/.2 to the combi terminal for Bagua Grande (1h, S/.5, leaving about every 15 min). There catch a combi to Chachapoyas (2h, S/.10, leaving also about every 15 min). As the combi run til quite late it should be possible to get to Chachapoyas in one day.
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 offers overnight and sometimes daytime service by bus to/from Cajamarca. If the day bus is not running, Rojas offers a daytime combi to/from Celendin. From Cajamarca, take a combi at 5am to connect in Celendin to the Rojas combi (May 2018). This is a spectacular route to travel on a (mostly) paved road that is definitely not for the faint hearted. Fares range from 40 - 50 soles, and the journey time is 10 hours when the roads are in good condition.
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 surrounding villages and sights. For Kuelap there is no need to go to the closest village (2 hours walk from Kuelap) Maria, as there is a bus+cable car system leaving from Nuevo Tingo (20S). 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 fortified stone city with walls up to 12 m high that once housed 3000 people - the largest pre-Inca ruins in South America. Until about a decade ago, the only way to access the site was to climb the mountain yourself, a hike that takes several hours. You can still hike it (and people do -- see below), but now there is a cable car system that takes you from Nuevo Tingo to the Kuelap ticket office on the mountain in 30 minutes for 20 soles. Admission to the site is an additonal 20 soles. From the ticket office there's a 1km uphill stone path to the site which takes about 15-20mins to walk. If it's raining the site can get very muddy, so take decent shoes.
The easiest way to visit the site is to take a tour from Chachapoyas. All the tour agencies offer this trip, and it doesn't matter much which agency you use since they pool their clients. Ask for an English speaking guide. The tour costs 80 soles (May 2018), and includes transportation, the cable car, admission, a guide, and lunch.
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 still 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 (around the main square). 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.
- 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 It is inside in the "giant waterfall forest" in Cuispes- measured in 2007 at 895.4m making it the world's 3rd highest waterfall. Entrance fee is S./10. 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. You can find a lot of waterfalls in the "giant waterfall forest", You can make trekking across them and make canyoning as well. For that you can manage it with "Yacu Urco" Association or the enterprise "Canyoning Explorer SAC"
- 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 per stage of the waterfall and can be purchased in one of the offices. There is no ticket checkpoint on the hike to the falls. 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.
- 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 hours 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 (Av. Long distance buses to Trujillo, Chiclayo, Lima leave from the different company offices spread around town.
- Kuelap independently - If you take the cable car to Kuelap, you can find public transport (combis) from Chachapoyas. As off July 2018, take a combi heading towards Nuevo Tingo (S/.7, about 1 hour). The final stop will be at the Kuelap cable car ticket office.
Alternatively, 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