Northern Peru is becoming increasingly popular among tourists . This region has a lot to offer and they also found out in Peru. They embrace their natural wonders and are on their way to making the area more accessible to tourists. Kuelap is one of the highlights of this region. It is also called the Machu Picchu of the North, with the big difference that this place has yet to be discovered by mass tourism. In the past you could only come here after a big hike or a long car ride, but since 2017 it is possible to reach this place using a 20-minute ride on the cable car. From the nearby village of Chachapoyas there are many tours to Kuelap, but on your own it’s really easy to do (and even more fun).
Kuelap is 3000 meters above sea level and this archaeological site is almost 65,000 m2. The surface contains a total of more than 450 stone buildings and is therefore even larger than the Machu Picchu. The Chachapoyas culture built the fort in the pre-Inca era and they lived here between 800 and 1470 AD. In 2003 it was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Kuelap day trip
If you stay in Chachapoyas then uou can’t miss the tours to Kuelap. Dozens of agencies offer the tour, but it doesn’t matter where you book it because they (almost) all come from the same organization. Often you can also arrange it at the reception of your hotel. The tours depart around 8.30 am and the price for a day trip to Kuelap is 85 soles including transport including cable car, entrance and lunch.
Kuelap on your own
Since we don’t like to walk in a group, especially in spectacular places like Kuelap, we went from Chachapoyas to Kuelap on our own. And it was  really chill! Make sure you are just before the tours and enjoy the overwhelming nature around Kuelap in peace. Would you like to use a guide? These are available on the site. If you arrange this privately it is  a bit more expensive than with an organized day trip.
Transportation from Chachapoyas to the cable car
Walk early in the morning to the bus terminal, where collectivos (minibuses) leave for Kuelap. The ticket sellers of the mini-vans are probably immediately approaching you because it is the front vans that leave for Kuelap. The trip to Kuelap costs 7 soles as standard and takes approximately one hour. Keep in mind that the bus only leaves when it is full and that you sometimes have to wait a while … If you have little time, you can also take a taxi. This is of course more expensive than a colectivo but perhaps you can share it with other travelers.
Tip: leave on time (between 7 a.m. and 8 a.m.) to stay ahead of the organized tours. This saves you (in high season) waiting time at the cable car and it is still nice and quiet upstairs.
Kuelap cable car
On arrival you first buy a ticket for the cable car (20.40 soles p.p). Then you take the bus to the starting point of the cable car (7 minutes) and from here the exciting adventure starts. The cabins are suitable for up to 8 people and the beautiful ride takes approximately 20 minutes. For people with fear of heights it might be exciting (read: keep your eyes closed for 20 minutes) but the view is truly breathtaking. When you arrive at the top, you can buy your Kuelap entrance ticket (30 soles per person). Here you also have the possibility to use the toilet and get a nice cup of coffee. There are also some sandwiches / snacks available.
Note: keep your ticket well, you will need it later to actually enter the fort.
The stroll
The route up is fairly steep in the beginning. The walk is short, a fifteen minute walk, but in combination with the height you can still notice that your breathing is getting a bit noisier. Along the way you already have fantastic views so take a moment for a photo and a sip of water. Are you agile or a little lazy? Then horses are also available. The route to Kuelap is well signposted so it is almost impossible to get lost.
In total you are approximately 2.5 hours up (including walk and coffee). The weather in Kuelap is very variable. You can be lucky with a clear blue sky and distant views, but you can also go completely in the clouds, like us. Although we were disappointed at first, we thought it was a ‘mystical’ experience afterwards. We were, however, particularly happy with our umbrellas (tip!).
Practical information:
– Minibus Chachapoyas – Kuelap: 7 soles per person each way from the bus terminal / approx. 1 hour
– Opening hours: 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. – Please note: the cable car is closed every Monday due to maintenance
– Cost / duration cable car: 20.40 soles per person for a return / 20 min each way
– Kuelap entrance: 30 soles p.p.
– Food / drink: there is a coffee bar at the entrance and on the way you will come across a small shop one more time
– Duration: 2.5 hours on location (excluding transport)

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