Travellers looking for an off-the-beaten track experience should add the Chachapoyas region of northern Peru and the ancient city of Kuelap to their Peru itineraries, according to Lonely Planet, which has included it in its ‘Top Ten Regions’ for 2013.
Many travellers to Peru visit the southern regions, with Machu Picchu as the key icon monopolising the ‘to do list’, but Lonely Planet has flagged Chachapoyas and Kuelap as a must do experience and put it on the map.
Kuelap, Peru’s city in the clouds, contains more than 450 stone houses and one of the largest stone structures within South America. Located at the peak of a mountain higher than Machu Picchu, Kuelap dates further back than the Inca Empire and offers the visitor a glimpse of Peruvian past. As stated by Lonely Planet Kuelap is one of the most adventurous and culture ridden sites in Peru.
Adding to its mystery and intrigue, most of the Chachapoyas region is hidden amongst the soaring peaks of the northern Peruvian Andes but still its key sites, such as Kuelap, are able to be reached and explored.
According to e-Travel Blackboard, the region is so off-the-beaten track that little is actually known about the Chachapoyan people, also referred to as the Cloud Forest People, who constructed the impressive Kuelap site sometime between 900 and 1100 AD.
Visitors to this hidden, enigmatic city in the clouds enjoy breath-taking mountaintop vistas that few people can boast of. There are five day treks or shorter programs available and those who chose to explore the northern regions won’t be disappointed as there is plenty more to see.
Chachapoyas is not the only attraction lying in wait of discovery in the north, more roads are to be travelled with the ‘Moche Route’ which leads travellers along the northern coast visiting sites that are also more ancient than the Incan civilisation and rival its southern counterparts.
Chiclayo is the closest coastal town to Chachapoyas, along the Moche Route and from here travellers meander along the coast visiting a variety of attractions including Chan Chan Citadel (the largest pre-Hispanic mud citadel), Huacas del Sol and Luna (Peru’s own version of the pyramids), and of course travellers reenergise with the gastronomic delights of ancient dishes of Cebiche and fresh seafood.
To top it off Chachapoyas has also landed itself on another ‘list’ – it is home to one of the world’s tallest waterfalls, the Gocta Falls, and according to locals these falls are protected by a white haired mermaid like spirit with hair that can be seen flowing down the walls of the mountains into the pools at the base of the falls.