Aracari trip to Kuelap and Chachapoyas

View of the valley from Kuelap

Marisol, Founder & CEO of Aracari, and the Aracari team are just back from an in-depth research trip to Kuelap and the Chachapoyas region. We’ve been hard at work (and play!) testing out accommodation, hikes, and other excursions to ensure that we’re experts on, and offer the very best of, the region.

Aracari’s Trip to Kuelap and Chachapoyas

Guide Julio on a tour of Kuelap

Why 2017 is the time to visit Kuelap and Chachapoyas

  • There is now a daily direct flight from Lima to Jaen, improving access to Kuelap and Gocta waterfall, two of the area’s main attractions.
  • A new cable-car system has been built at Kuelap (due to open 2017), cutting down the journey time and offering stunning panoramic views of the cloud forest and valleys.
  • Now that Aracari has done an extensive inspection trip, we have hand-picked properties, tried and tested activities, and established ‘insider-access’ experiences to offer through Marisol’s contacts.

Check out our 5-day ‘Peru’s Best Kept Secret‘ itinerary

Day 1: Flight Lima-Jaen, transfer to Gocta Natura and Gocta Lodge

After a quick flight we were met at the airport in Jaen by our guide Julio to begin the journey to Gocta. The drive was very scenic with the vegetation changing from fertile agricultural land with rice paddies and coconut groves to steep mountain ravines as you climb higher. There are a few interesting stops along the way including the rivers, views down the valley, and a waterfall.

Once we arrived to Gocta (the nearby village is Cocachimba), our group split in two, to stay at Gocta Natura and Gocta Andes Lodge. For dinner we reconvened at Gocta Natura and enjoyed a lovely home-cooked meal on the terrace.

Aracari insight: Gocta Natura is our top pick – think homely lodge with style. The owner Rocio treats you like visiting friends with her home-cooked meals and hospitality. Gocta Andes Lodge, may feel like a distinctly more conventional hotel but the pool is perfectly positioned to take in the views of the waterfall.

Day 2: Gocta waterfall and other excursions

After an early breakfast we again split into groups to test out hikes and excursions from Gocta: Hiking to Gocta waterfall, hiking to Yumbilla waterfall, and an excursion to the Sarcophagi of Karajía.

Aracari insight: there’s an alternative and more challenging route to Gocta waterfall for hiking enthusiasts. The little known, Yumbilla waterfall definitely merits staying another day for nature lovers.  

Lunch at Gocta Andes Lodge was very nice, out on the terrace with a view of the waterfall. The expansive menu offers popular Peruvian fare.

In the afternoon we visited a local weaver in Cocachimba village – the ‘Weave & Dye’ workshop is one of two activities organised by Gocta Natura Cabins where visitors can engage with the local community.

Day 3: Chachapoyas, trip to Kuelap and transfer to Leymebamba

Different perspectives on KuelapAfter a quick visit to Chachapoyas, we headed to Kuelap, the ancient pre-Inca complex built by the Chachapoya civilisation. While the cable car was not yet open, we were able to inspect the stations, and  continued by car to the citadel. Read more about our visit to Kuelap in our blog.

Aracari insight: Backpackers tend to base themselves in Chachapoyas. We scouted the best 3-star properties – our pick was Casa Monstante. But given the calibre and setting of the Gocta properties we’d stay there!  

We then enjoyed the scenic drive to Leymebamba and settled into Kentitambo for the night, after enjoying a warm welcome and tasty home-cooked meal with the owner Adriana.

Day 4: Leymebamba Museum and Tombs of Revash

In the morning we had a very special experience being guided around the Leymebamba Museum with Adriana von Hagan, one of the co-directors. The museum is home to over 200 Chachapoya mummies retrieved from a cliff-top tomb overlooking Laguna de los Cóndores. Adriana was part of the original salvage mission and her knowledge and personal experience brings the collection to life.

Aracari insight: thanks to the personal friendship between Aracari owner and co-director of the museum, Aracari can arrange exclusive, behind-the-scenes access  to areas of the museum not normally open to the public, like the impressive climate-controlled mummy depository.

After a hearty lunch at Kentitambo, we headed off with our expert guide Julio, for a long but scenic drive through the hills to the Tombs of Revash.

Day 5: Drive to Cajamarca via Celendín

Once again our group split, with the majority of us heading on a long but scenic journey to the city of Cajamarca via Celendín. Cajamarca was the location of the Battle of Cajamarca, signifying the defeat of the Incas by the Spanish. It was here that Atahualpa, the Inca ruler was captured and killed by the the Spanish forces led by Francisco Pizarro. We enjoyed a brief tour of the city, with its colonial religious architecture, and the ransom room of Atahualpa.

Marisol and Lisy stayed behind in Leymebamba, spending a few days testing out a few excursions including horseback riding and hiking in the nearby forest, before heading back to Jaen for the return flight to Lima.

Aracari insight: On balance, we recommend the latter of the two options above, returning to Jaen for the flight back to Lima, and skipping the Cajamarca leg — unless you particularly enjoy long scenic road trips!

Day 6: Fly Cajamarca to Lima.

For those of us in Cajamarca, today was an early start for our flight back to Lima.

Planning a trip to Kuelap and Chachapoyas

If you have any questions about the trip to Kuelap and Chacahpoyas contact us or email  Our recommended itinerary to take in all the highlights of this incredible region is laid out in our Peru’s Best Kept Secret.


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