Kuelap & Gocta Falls, Northern Peru

What’s New in Peru ?
Kuelap, Chachapoyas & Gocta Falls

Alex Burridge – South America Travel Centre

Well if you can call Kuelap, an archaeological site in the North of Peru, that pre-dates Machu Picchu by 1,000 years ‘new’ then that could be included.  The other option for inclusion in ‘new’ could be Gocta Falls; the world’s third highest waterfall (with a fall of 771 metres) only discovered by the outside world in 2005.  Both can be discovered on a 5-6 day trip to the North of Peru.

For the last couple of years I’ve wanted to explore this less visited region in the North of Peru, and whilst February is not the perfect time to visit I decided it was an opportunity that was too good to miss out on.

Kuelap archaeological site

In November 2017 the Peruvian government employed a French cable car company to build a state-of-the-art cable car system to deliver everyone to the foot of the site.   I arrived at the start of the cable car journey hoping the weather would improve to be asked ‘did I have a poncho, as it would definitely be raining at the top’ .. oh well some opportunities just have to be taken no matter the weather.  I jumped into one of the cars to at first drop 200 metres and then climb another 1,200 metres – soon we were in the clouds, later fortunately emerging above them (well some of them at least).  A 20 minute hike on foot on a purpose built path, or horse ride, delivers you to the entrance to Kuelap.

Telecabinas Kkuelap 2

Despite the rain, and perhaps because of the conditions, the site appeared all the more mystical.  My guide took me around the many areas, which include ‘more recent Inca’ structures, and explained what had been understood to-date.  Some of the site is being restored/preserved (prevented from collapse).  In its prime it is believed some 2,000 people lived at the site, as to why or when it was abandoned no one yet knows.  Is it worth the journey – absolutely; the cable car journey alone is a wonderful experience (would be even more so if you could fully enjoy the views).

What Kuelap would be like in the dry season.

A trip to Chachapoyas is worth it just to visit this Kuelap.  Fortunately there are several other sites that are worth including in a trip to Peru’s North, in particular, the recently discovered (by outsiders), Gocta Falls – approximately 30kms away.  The falls were known locally for centuries and a combination of local beliefs and their location meant they remained undiscovered by outsiders until just 12 years ago.

This region has numerous additional ancient archaeological sites including Revash, Leymebamba museum in the Utcubamba valley, which houses some 219 mummies found at a nearby lagoon in 1997 and finally at Karajia, where various stylized 750 year old sarcophagi can be found set into a cliff face.

Getting There

Until recently vising these ancient sites required an hour and half long flight from Lima followed by an 8 hour (each way) drive from Trujillo.  With recent infrastructure improvements there is now a choice of a 2 hour flight to Jaen (some four hours drive away), or, on three days a week, a flight to the nearby town of Chachapoyas (approximately 1 hour away).   As I said at the outset – please don’t do what I did and go in the rainy season (November to April). The dry season, May to October, is definitely the time to visit.


With the significant investment by the Peruvian Government in the region (cable car, roads and airports) accommodation has also improved and there are several comfortable, characterful hotels/lodges including;

La Casa Monsante in Chachpoyas .

Gocta Andes Lodge or Gocta Cabins; both of which have incredible views to the falls.

Rangra Wasi near Leymebamba is brand new lodge built into the side of a hill with stunning views across the valley.

Rangra Wasi is likely the most comfortable property in the region it is a beautiful property.

Chachapoyas Hotel La Casa Monsante

Travelling to Peru in the dry season, from May to mid-October, is also a good time to join a 1 day hike of the Inca trail to Machu Picchu, you’re far more likely to see blue skies and views across the Andes.

For more information on travelling to Kuelap & Gocta Falls, tours in the region  contact one of our experienced consultants on email: contact@satc.com.au or call 1300 784 794.

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