Kuelap is situated on an escarpment at 3000m (9840ft), two and half hours drive from the city of Chachapoyas. Massive walls form a giant platform on which the city is built. You don’t so much as walk into Kuelap as walk on to it. The exterior walls rise up to 20m (65ft) tall, and extend along the ridge for 584m (639yds.).
To enter the site there are three narrow entrances and once inside there are many roundhouses typical of Chachapoya design. There are two obvious religious places namely the Castillo which is a platform overlooking the second entrance and the unusual Tintero, which appears like a chopped off inverted cone. The outer walls are impressive but what makes a visit to Kuelap so special is the feeling of mystery in a place that once was lost and is still not fully understood. Much of the site is covered by trees, laden with bromeliads orchids and mosses and home to many birds.
The Main Temple (aka. the Tintero)
For travelers these are very interesting times at Kuelap as many new discoveries are being made. Teams of archaeologists, restorers and conservationists have been working on the site for over 4 years. Kuelap has always been a place to ponder as there have been many unanswered questions about Kuelap. From the information obtained during this latest dig, many questions have now been answered, but many more have also been asked.
We now know about Kuelap:
– the construction of Kuelap started in the 6th Century (from carbon dating)
– Kuelap was under continuous development
– the principal entrance way had a greater importance than the other two
– a massacre occurred in the southern area near the the Prinicpal Temple
For more information see the Wikipedia page on Kuelap.
Since 2017 a cable car/gondola - the first in Peru - has been operating to take visitors up to Kuelap. It doesn't usually work on a Monday, when they do maintenance checks. We have a special tour that purposefully visits Kuelap on a Monday, when very few visitors go to the site because generally tours from operators don't go that day. Having Kuelap without crowds is a wonderful experience.