2,334-m/7,700 ft above sea level.
The Department of Amazonas is located in northeast Peru, in the High Jungle on the Andes Mountains eastern slopes. It limits to the north with Ecuador, to the south with San Martín and La Libertad departments, to the east with the Department of Loreto, and to the west with Cajamarca. Despite the area’s predominantly warm weather, up to 40°C/104° F°, in some areas in the department’s southern mountains temperatures may fall as low as 02°C/35 F°.
Amazonas spreads over 41,297 km², and is home to more than 335,000 people. Chachapoyas, the capital, is a Spanish Colonial city of spacious mansions, tiled roofs, and big yards surrounded by orchards, gardens and beautiful balconies.
A Brief History
Amazonas was home to the Kuelap civilization, also called the Sachapuyos or Chachapoyas, which developed during the Inca Empire, under the rule of Inca Tupac Amaru. The Chachapoyas continued to widen their area of influence until the beginning of the Spanish conquest.
Spanish conqueror Captain Alonso de Alvarado founded the city of Chachapoyas on September 5, 1538 in its present strategic location. Ever since, the city has served as the center of activities for Peru’s eastern region. Its area of influence spreads from the right margin of the Marañon River to Peru’s northern international borders.
Main Tourist Attractions of Amazonas
FORTRESS OF KUELAP
It is a majestic Chachapoya architectural work located in the upper part of the Utcubamba River Valley, nearby the hamlet of Kuélap, Province of Luya, in the Department of Amazonas, at an altitude of 3,000 m.a.s.l. The fortress of Kuelap was built and inhabited by the Chachapoyas, between 1000 and 1400 a.D.
Called “The Fortress” and built on top of a high mountain, it is Peru´s mountainous jungle´s most important archaeological complex which presents itself to visitors, like an unconquerable place, surrounded by cliffs and precipices, on three of its four sides.
The Archaeological Complex of Kuélap is composed of two gigantic superposed artificial platforms, on top of which was erected a metropolis occupying an approximate surface of 450 hectares.
The contention walls that form the above mentioned platforms, give the impression of gigantic fortified walls, protecting that site, as they reach up to thirty meters high, in some stretches. Furthermore, that impression is strengthened by the presence of architectural elements identified as watch posts, a tower and three entranceways; two of which are oriented towards the East and the third one, towards the West.
Inside its “fortified walls”, Kuélap shelters 505 living quarters, the majority of which have a circular base layout. Outside the fortified city, another 198 living quarters or so were built, adding up to a total of more than 700 constructions.
SARCOPHAGUSES OF KARAJIA
This sanctuary is located 48 km. North-east of the city of Chachapoyas, after two hours by car and a short 20 minute hike. Karajía Sarcophaguses date back between 1100 and 1300 a.D.
They belong to the Chachapoya culture and are inside the Archaeological Complex of Chipuric. These are pre-Incan tombs erected at the top of a precipice, which are 2 meters high and are shaped in mud and decorated with geometric designs. Thus, they are an original form of burials, as they are located on cliffs and appear in groups of 4 to 8, laterally united and reclined, with their backs against the cave´s rock. It is interesting to note that the sarcophaguses are composed of two parts: The head and bust carved in mud and decorated with geometric designs. These sarcophaguses are also called “Purumachos”.
These are 1 or 2 floor rectangular-shaped funerary “chullpas”, with double-slanted roofs, located in a place called Ingenio. They are built on inaccessible cliffs, in caves excavated in the rocky walls of out-jutting rocks and imposing precipices, and their walls are built with stones and gravel united by clayish mud cement, with red ocre colored animal shapes, and they have no front door access. Revash’s mausolea were collective sepultures, as show the residues of bones they still contain and it is estimated that their construction dates back between 1100 and 1300 a.D., and belongs to the Chachapoyas culture.
SARCOPHAGUSES OF THE CONDORS LAGOON
Located on the high rocks over The Condors´ Lagoon´s shores, in the District of Leymebamba, these mausolea might have belonged to the high chiefs and caciques of the Chachapoyas culture which was dominated by the Incas who even instored their chieftainship (Apu Chuillaxa, first Incan Chief; 1475 -1490), in the village of Leymebamba. The place is of fascinating beauty, due to the lagoon and the mausolea´s mystery, as well as because of the typical gastronomy based on trout and delicious curd.
SARCOPHAGUSES OF CHIPURIC
It is a funerary complex of the Chachapoya culture, from the late intermediate period (900 a.D., 450 a.D.), associated to the Chipuric style which, along with that of Revash, constitutes one of the main funerary complexes of that culture. Funerary statues stand out that were deposited on hardly accessible cliffs and made in the following manner: In the statue´s center, there is the body wrapped in an animal´s skin or cotton blankets and placed in a net of ropes.
This funerary bundle is covered with a thick coat of clay and pebble stones sustained inside it, by a cone-shaped frame made with four sticks united above the defunct´s head. Thus, the “package” has a conic or cilyndrical shape, and the height of the bundles is of 1.30 to 1.60 meters.
It is located nearby the Peruvian hamlets of Cocachimba and San Pablo, District of Valera, Province of Bongará and Department of Amazonas. The cataract is situated at a distance of five hours of hiking along an extensive valley of virgin cloud forest, from the hamlet of Cocachimba, in the surroundings of which, one can appreciate a total of 22 waterfalls, some of which are of impressive beauty, especially during the rainy season.
Gocta Cataract, locally known as “La Chorrera”, is a 771 meter high straight waterfall, and for a long time, it was considered as the world´s third highest cataract. Today, studies made by the National Geographic Institute (IGN), have shown that Yumbilla´s Cataract, also located in Amazonas, has a greater height. So, Gocta´s Cataract would then be the fourth highest in the world, after the Angel´s Leap in Venezuela, with 972 meters, Tugela Falls in South Africa, with 948 meters in height and Yumbilla, with 895 meters.
Gocta Cataract was discovered by the German Stefan Ziemendorff who indicated that the place was not found on any map, given the wild and distant place in which it is located. However, the inhabitants of the nearby villages and hamlets already knew the existence of the cataract. But, they did not make it known, because they feared legends and myths, like that of the presence of a siren and a snake that watch over the place.
ARCHAEOLOGICAL COMPLEX OF MACRO
It is a pre-Incan habitational compound that dates back between 1100 and 1300 a.D. and is located on the South-west slope of a steep rocky spur. Inside it, there are five platforms that support huts and towers built with stones and mud cement, on an area of three hectares. There are several platforms and foundations of houses decorated with rhomboidal friezes and niches in the walls. It is calculated that it sheltered about 100 people, at the time the Chachapoya culture flourished.
ARCHAEOLOGICAL COMPLEX OF YÁLAPE
It is located 21 km. south of the city of Chachapoyas, at an altitude of 2,700 m.a.s.l. and a 40 minute journey by car. It was inhabited by members of the Chachapoyas culture, between 1100 and 1300 a.D. Its stone buildings present circular constructions decorated with high-relief friezes, in the shapes of rhombus and zigzags.
ARCHAEOLOGICAL COMPLEX OF MACHUPIRCA
It is a pre-Incan funerary site, with stone constructions, located at the entrance of the Shihual Cave, and which belonged to the Chachapoyas culture. To get to the place, one can hike from the city of Chachapoyas or the villages of Tingo and Magdalena.
ARCHAEOLOGICAL COMPLEX OF COLLACRUZ
It is an archaeological compound in which one can observe circular living quarters of different sizes, around a “cancha” or square. Its architecture is of Shachapuyo Incan origin and it might have been a small inhabited center.
ARCHAEOLOGICAL COMPLEX OF LA PIRQUILLA
It is a circular-shaped stone and mud architectural compound of living quarters, with circular shapes, located on the way to the Huaylla Belén Valley.
VILLAGE OF THE DEAD
It is a place dedicated to the worship of mummies of high rulers of the Chachapoyas culture, and their decorated, round and square funerary statues and sarcophaguses are set on a surface of one hectare. This compound belonged to the pre-Incan Chachapoyas culture which dates from 1100 to 1350 a.D., and is located in a place of difficult access.
LA PITAYA PETROGLYPHS
It is a set of over 3,000 year old graphic representations of flora, fauna and hunting scenes. One can appreciate a total of 30 rupestrian paintings, representing zoomorphic and phytomorphic figures carved in high-relief, with the scraping technique.
MARÍA TEXTILE HANDICRAFT WORKSHOP
It is a communal enterprise managed by peasant women, which presents a permanent exhibition of skillfully elaborated textile products.
LEYMEBAMBA MUSEUM OR MALLQUI CENTER
Leymebamba Museum, inaugurated in June 2000, has three exhibition halls, with archaeological objects, that shelter the material recuperated from the area of The Condors´ Lagoon, which consists of more than 200 mummies and archaeological pieces, such as decorated gourds, ceramics, bamboo recipients, woven bags, ear pendants, wooden combs, cotton capes, khipus and others. In the second hall, an ethnographic exhibition was implemented, in which are presented the different expressions of the way of life of the human societies that, presently live on the ancient Chachapoyas territory, and the third hall is destined to promote scientific and cultural diffusion activities. The museum’s design presents a reconstitution of elements of local architectural traditions, using building technologies and materials from the area. Meanwhile, the rich and varied native flora makes the gardens that surround it, even more beautiful, as the collection of orchids stands out, with more than 100 local varieties. The Leymebamba Museum Association composed of inhabitants of the locality and the NGO Mallqui Center, promote the permanence of that important museum.
THE GRAN VILAYA VALLEY
This valley is situated west of the Kuélap Fortress, and shelters archaeological remains, such as La Pirquilla, Paxamarca, Peña Banca, Los Getones and Lanche, among others. Given its extension, it is calculated that there are nearly 5,000 constructions, between circular and rectangular ones, built in limestone, with ornamentation.
The journey is full of adventure and starts in the Belén Valley, crossing the cloud forest, with abundant flora and fauna, and ends with the visit of Kuélap Fortress. Truly, this pre-Incan Chachapoyas path is the propitious place for hiking and ecotourism.