Chachapoyas Archaeology: 4 Sites Not to Miss

View of the valley from Kuelap

Aracari’s pick of best Chachapoyas Archaeology

The pre-Inca Chachapoyas civilization left behind many mysteries. While they had no written language, and were defeated by the Incas, they achieved great things – building the largest ancient stone structure in South America, and developing sophisticated mummification techniques to preserve and honor their ancestors.

The region of Chachapoyas in northern Peru is named after the ancient people, and the word Chachapoyas means ‘people of the clouds’ a fitting moniker for this mystical land of dramatic scenery shrouded in cloud forest. The land is full of hidden treasures – not just for history and archaeology buffs. The natural landscape includes some of the tallest waterfalls in the world – offering beautiful hikes to Gocta waterfall and Yumbilla waterfall, and beautiful forests that you can explore hiking and horseback riding.

Described by many as the real ‘Indiana Jones territory’s here’s Aracari’s pick of the top four Chachapoyas archaeology sites, not to be missed.


To visit the region and tour the Chachapoyas archaeology sites with an expert guide, check out our Peru’s Best Kept Secret itinerary, and contact us to start planning your tailormade trip!


Kuelap fortified city

View of the valley from KuelapUndoubtedly one of the highlights of the region. Perched atop a ridge overlooking the Utcubamba Valley, the fortified city of Kuelap and its monumental walls are enough to stop you in your tracks. It’s still unclear why the Chachapoyas built this place – many think of it as a fortress because of its huge walls, but the complex includes buildings that suggest religious, civil and domestic use – so plenty to explore with an expert Aracari guide. Read more about Kuelap.

Sarcophagi of Karajía 

The sarcophagi of Karajía stand proudly on a ledge above a river gorge in the Chachapoyas region. Standing 2.5 meters tall, the figures were constructed of clay, sticks and grass, and then painted white with yellow ochre and red pigment. Showcasing one of three types of Chachapoya burial techniques, each is home to an individual mummy, arranged in the foetal position. They are unique because of the human skulls that sit atop their heads. Read more about the sarcophagi of Karajía.

Leymebamba Museum

The perfect complement to the archaeological sites. Home to over 200 mummies recovered from a clifftop tomb overlooking the Laguna de los Cóndores, along with burial gifts, artefacts and exquisitely preserved quipus. Aracari guests are offered exclusive behind-the-scenes access to areas of the museum not usually open to the public, including the special climate-controlled depository where the famous mummies are kept. Read more about Leymebamba museum.

Tombs of Revash

High on the hills of Peru’s northern cloud forest, this collection of tombs from the Chachapoya civilization sit on the edge of a limestone cliff. Built from mud-set stones, they resemble houses and are painted in red and white hues, collectively forming miniature villages along the face of the cliff. Unlike the sarcophagi of Karajía, these are communal mausoleums, demonstrating another Chachapoya burial technique. Read more about the Tombs of Revash.

How to see it all – Chachapoyas tour with an Aracari specialist guide

Aracari specialises in luxury, tailormade travel. Most of the sites above are in remote, secluded places, but with an expert guide, private vehicle and dedicated driver, you can visit it all in comfort and style, staying at our favorite handpicked hotels.

For inspiration, have a look at our Peru’s Best Kept Secret itinerary, and to discuss your trip contact us or email travel@aracari.com

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