Peru, the ruins of Kuelap, 10/30/2015

We left the Gocta Andes Lodge at 9 AM for a full-day tour to the ruins of Kuelap (#2 on map below) and the small city of Chachapoyas. We back-tracked down to the Rio Utcubamba valley, and then drove south and upstream, until we came to the turn-off for Kuelap.

Northern Peru Area Map

Northern Peru Area Map (click on map to enlarge)

We stopped only a little distance up the road, to view some ruins across the narrow valley.

Farming terraces

Farming terraces

Bromeliad ?

Bromeliad ?

We continued a short ways to the town of Nuevo Tingo, at an elevation of 6457′, and then climbed steeply westward into the narrow and precipitous valley of the Rio Tingo, with Kuelap situated on a mountaintop, directly across from us. At places, the road was hewn into cliffs, like nothing you will see in the US. We headed the valley and crossed the Rio Tingo at the town of Choctamal, at an elevation of 8648′. Then, we reversed direction, and began climbing to the east, passing through little villages and steeply-perched farms. The Visitor Center at Kuelap sat on a saddle, at an elevation of 9619′. From there, one walked up a trail along a ridge to the ruins, which occupied the top of the mountain.

1. KuelapSign Oct292015_8299

Entry sign

2. KuelapWall Oct292015_8300

Rounded wall at the southern end of the fortress

3. Path Oct292015_8301

Looking out at the vast extent of the Northern Highlands. The people of Peru seem to prefer living and farming at these higher elevations – probably because water is in greater supply here.

4. HillOfFarmsOct292015_8303

Cultivated hillside adjacent to the ruins.

5. SignOct292015_8306


6. Entry Oct292015_8308

We bypassed this entry and continued to the northern end of the fortress

7. Path Oct292015_8309

We pass a little farm on the way

8. Entry#3 Oct292015_8310

This entrance was used by people and llamas both, to resupply the inhabitants of the fortress

9. Entry#2Oct302015_8311

Looking down the passageway

10. Bromeliads Oct302015_8312

Bromeliads, in the trees that have colonized the ruins

11. RoundHouseOct302015_8313

Round house

12. FarmsAlongRoad Oct302015_8322

Looking back to the valley of the Rio Tingo, and the road we followed to Kuelap. The blackened fields have been burned prior to planting.

13. Wall Oct302015_8323

Wall detail

14. RidgeCrest Oct302015_8328

Ridge crest, at an elevation of 9984′

15. WatchTower Oct302015_8330

Northern watchtower

16. Flower Oct302015_8335


17. RoundWall Oct302015_8340

Round wall

18. WallCloseUpOct302015_8344

Rock work detail

19. RoundStructureWithVigaHolesOct302015_8346

Round structure with holes to accommodate timbers

20. Bromeliads Oct302015_8345


The decorative motifs seen below appear on houses everywhere in the region.

Decorative motif

Decorative motif

Decorative motif

Decorative motif

Glossy-black Thrush

Glossy-black Thrush

25. TwoRoundStructures Oct302015_8354

Two round structures

 Inverted cone structure

Inverted cone structure

28. Face Oct302015_8359


29. Structures Oct302015_8361

Clustered round structures

30. VisitorCenterViewOct302015_8362

Looking down the ridge to the Visitor Center. On our return there, I bought an authentic wine-colored woolen poncho from a woman who was selling her artisanal weavings. This I will treasure. We also took note of the beginning stages of construction of the top terminal of a tramway, which will span the distance from Nuevo Tingo to the Visitor Center.

As we drove back through Nuevo Tingo, we noticed the towers and other materials that would go into the making of the tramway. Progress marches on!

We turned back north along the Rio Utcubamba, and drove 10 miles to the Chachapoyas turn-off, and then an additional few miles into the city.

33. Chachapoyas Oct302015_8363

Kathy, in the Plaza. Chachapoyas is a pretty colonial town, at an elevation of 7654′.

34. Chachapoyas Oct302015_8364

A pedestrian street, where we got some tasty ice cream. This town is popular with “backpackers”, of which we saw a few.

We then returned to the the lodge, and left the next morning for the Huembo hummingbird station and the city of Moyobamba, the Orchid Capitol of Peru. Here is the link to the following post:

About Evensteven

I am a photographer and author, and live in Embudo, New Mexico, alongside the Rio Grande. I have published a book of photography and accompanying text on running the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon. The first (print) edition is out of print, but a second edition is available as an iBook (eBook) through the iTunes bookstore. All Grand Canyon, river and nature lovers will enjoy my book: The Grand: I have also published six additional iBooks: 1. The Salt River: 2. Coyote Buttes: 3. Four Cornered, the Land: 4. Four Cornered, The Rivers: 5. Rio Marañon: 6. Rio Grande:
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