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Chachapoyas Express (EA 81)

This is a program for travelers with limited time that want to visit the Chachapoyas, and explore the huge mountaintop temple and fortress of Kuelap, the Leymebamba museum-- with its collection of 200 mummies, and the Revash cliff tombs.

  • Daily departures
  • Available May to October

Schedule

Day 1: Lima-Chachapoyas
We take an early morning flight from Peru's capital to Jaen, then we pick you up from the airport to transfer you to your hotel in Chachapoyas. Free afternoon.
Day 2: Chapapoyas Journey to the Cliff Tombs of Revash and on to Leimebamba
We follow the Utcubamba valley upstream, spotting herons and perhaps an Andean torrent duck in the river as we slowly ascend the valley. At the village of Santo Tomás we turn off the main highway, crossing the river and ascending a side valley where vivid scarlet poinsettias the size of trees overhang the walls of typical Chachapoyas farms, with verandas surrounded by wooden columns, and topped with tile roofs. Soon we meet our wranglers and the calm, sure-footed horses that will carry us up the trail to Revash. Throughout this journey, we gaze up at huge cliffs that loom ever closer. These limestone formations, laid down in even layers over geological aeons, tend to break away in neat collapses, often leaving extensive overhangs and protected ledges beneath them. In such places, the ancient Chachapoya built the tombs where they buried their noble dead. A gigantic fold in the cliffs, testifying to millenia of unimaginable tectonic forces, lies ahead of us, and at the top of the fold one such cave houses a group of tombs, ruined structures still bearing their original coat of red and white pigment. However, they are far off, and this is not yet Revash. Another hour brings us to a viewpoint much closer to the cliffs, and here we see two adjacent sets of caves, featuring cottage-sized structures covered in still-bright mineral-oxide paintwork. Some of them look like cottages, with gabled roofs, others like flat-topped apartments. They are adorned with red-on-white figures and geometrical symbols -- a feline, llamas, circles, ovals -- and bas-relief crosses and T-shapes, which perhaps once told the rank and lineage of the tombs' occupants. They are silent, empty, their contents long ago looted, their facades still trying to tell us a story whose meaning was lost long ago. Retracing our steps, we continue our road journey to Leimebamba, which we reach mid-afternoon. This settlement was established by the Incas during their conquest of the region, and continued as a colonial town under the Spanish. It retains much of this antique charm in its balconied houses with narrow streets where more horses than cars are parked. We go a little further up the highway and pull in to the spacious garden environment of the Leimebamba Museum, where we visit a delightful collection of extraordinary artifacts recovered from another group of cliff tombs discovered as recently as 1997 at the remote Laguna de los Condores, high in the mountains east of the town. The exhibits, cheerfully displayed in well-lit rooms, offer a sample from the mass of artifacts recovered from this amazing discovery. In 1997, local farmhands spotted a group of undiscovered cliff tombs -- similar in style to those of Revash -- above the remote Laguna de los Condores. Although they looted and damaged the site, a mass of priceless objects and a trove of vital information was rescued. We see gourds carved with animal and geometrical symbols, an array of colorful textiles, ceramics, carved wooden beakers and portrait heads, and a selection of the dozens of quipus (Inca knotted-string recording devices) recovered from the site. A big picture window offers a view of the temperature- and humidity-controlled temporary "mausoleum" where more than two hundred salvaged mummies are kept. Archaeologists are still uncertain as to how most of this material came to be so startlingly well preserved, in tombs that during the rainy season were actually behind a waterfall! But perhaps the most striking thing about the tombs is that they contain burials from all three periods of local history: The Chachapoya cultural heyday, the post-Inca invasion period, and the post-Spanish conquest. Archaeologists are continuing to study the material, seeking to learn more about the Chachapoya and their relationship with their Inca masters. The quipu finds have been especially valuable to scholars seeking to decode the Inca record keeping system. Return to Chachapoyas(B, L, D)
Day 3: Kuelap, the great walled city of Northern Peru
We spend a full day visiting this huge and mysterious site, beginning with a drive through places whose names -- Choctamal, Longuita, and Kuelap itself -- evoke a lost language and a vanished ancient people who spoke it, the Chachapoyas. We don't know what they called themselves, but the Incas who finally conquered these fierce warriors knew them by their Quechua soubriquet, Chachaphuyu -- Cloud People -- after the cloud-draped region where they lived.Kuelap's existence was first reported in 1843. For years it was believed to have been a Chachapoyas fortress, and when we first catch sight of it from the fossil-encrusted limestone footpath that leads there it is hard to believe it was not. The massive walls soar to a height of 19m/62ft and its few entranceways are narrow and tapering, ideal for defense. Yet the archaeological evidence now suggests that this was principally a religious and ceremonial site. Chachapoyas was not a nation, or an empire, but some sort of federation of small states centered on numerous settlements scattered across their mountainous territory. The earliest settlement dates obtained here suggest that its construction began around 500A.D. and, like the Moche coastal pyramids; it was built in stages as a series of platforms, one atop the other. It is now a single enormous platform nearly 600m/2,000ft long, stretched along a soaring ridge top. Seen from below, its vast blank walls give no hint of the complexity and extent of the buildings above. When we reach its summit we find a maze of structures in a variety of styles and sizes, some of them faced with rhomboid friezes, some ruined and some well preserved. Here we can try to imagine the lives of the Chachapoyas elite and their servants who lived here, enjoying a breathtaking view of forested Andean mountains and valleys. So distant and neglected was this region until recently that little archaeological research has been done at this important site, and our knowledge of it remains vague. An adjacent site named La Mallca, larger though less dramatic than Kuelap, has not been studied at all. Even today, Kuelap's remoteness ensures that only a handful of other visitors are there to share it with us. We return to Chapapoyas (B, L, D)
Day 4: Chachapoyas-Lima
Early in the morning to the airport of Jaen to fly to Lima.(B)

Included

  • Transport to Chachapoyas and transfers in/out
  • Visits to Kuelap archaeological site, Revash burial building, Macro towers and Mummy museum of Leimebamba
  • (3) nights hotel accommodation
  • Meals described in itinerary as B=breakfast, L=lunch, D=dinner
  • Entrance fees
  • Horse

Not Included

  • Tips
  • Extra drinks
  • Personal expenses
  • Flights Lima Jaen-Lima
  • Travel insurrence

Notes

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Testimonials

  • A month ago we visited Tambopata, thanks to the recommendation of David, because his experience working for many years in this area, convinced us to know the jungle of Puerto Maldonado and we do not regret it. It was a unique and wonderful experience. The whole organization was perfect for us, we felt very safe with our specialized guide and traveling by boat. Thank you for the incredible moment visiting Tambopata!

    Gunter & Kornelia Billstein (2019) Germany
  • Our trip to the Tambopata Rainforest was a great experience!

    A wonderful place to get away from the outside world and have a moment with the environment and with ourselves. Thanks to David’s experience who recommended us to visit this beautiful place.

    Esther & Marta Pinedo, Martin Bengoa & Imanol Ruiz (2019) Spain
  • Our trip was over the top!! We have had and amazing time in the north of Peru and Cusco, visiting the Lord of Sipan, Chan Chan Archeological Center, Huanchaco beach, Machu Picchu and doing vivencial tourism in the Sacred Valley with the Yachaqs Community. Very impressed with every place we visited.

    Thank you very much for organizing an excellent time in Peru.

    Terry Hesselden, Arlene Westoby & Beverly Barker (2019) Canada
  • Very impressed by the effort, professionalism and responsibility of each one (guides, drivers, etc). We are very satisfied with our trip in Peru. Knowing the Amazon and Machu Picchu were part of my best experiences.

    Debbie Yip and Grace Goh (2019) Singapore
  • We have been travelling very often but honestly speaking the tour in Peru and the services around has been the best so far! … (the) staff very friendly and the guides experienced: Mauricio and David very passionate about their job, excellent knowledge … of Peru like history, geography, politics, religion, etc, and with our drivers felt safe in all our trip… excellent!! Always supportive and very flexible. Keep it up!! Many thanks

    Claudia Signorelli & Norman Memminger (2018) Switzerland and Germany