that visit between Cajamarca and Kuelap with the family, on the road to the northern Peruvian border (towards Ecuador)? This region is just starting to open up to tourism, yet we really liked this area! And the Kuelap site is just magical for those who love old stones in their juice!
After enjoying the joys of the sea towards Trujillo, direction Kuelap in 4X4, passing through Cajamarca and the Impossible Cloud Road between the towns of Cajamarca and Chachapoyas! a detour off the beaten track that even few long-haul travelers do, preferring to enjoy the beaches of North Peru with family
Contents: Visit of Cajamarca and Kuelap with the family
- Family visit to Cajamarca
- Route Cajamarca – Kuelap: a spectacular route
- Visit of Kuelap
- Gocta waterfall
- Other visits intre Cajamarca and Kuelap
- Where to stay in Kuelap
- Border crossing
Visit of Cajamarca: historic site of the fall of the Incas
We wanted visit Cajamarca with the family, because after reading many books and novels about the Incas, we wanted to see theplace that marked the beginning of the fall of the Incas. Indeed, it is in this city that was imprisoned then killed the Inca chief Atahualpa by the famous Pizzaro !
After a long rather monotonous day on the road, we struggle for 1 hour to find the road that rises above the city. GPS brings us up and down stairs all the time! Not practical in 4X4!
Finally, we find our corner of bivouac with a superb night view of the city. We then imagine the thousands of Incas, surrounding the city at night to study the 200 conquistadors under Pizzaro. While these hid in the houses, the Incas descended without weapons and were surrounded and defeated by the Spaniards! We believe it!
Everything to prepare your trip to Peru
Parade in Cajamarca Square of Arms
The next morning, we go down to the city center. A festival of schools and colleges in the city occupies all the central place. We watch the children go by. Many come to talk to us! Peruvians are wearing a new hat, this is the common thread of the trip: knowing what kinds of hats will wear the different communities encountered during our road trip in Peru!
Visit of the Inca room: cuarto del rescate
Then, direction the visit to Atahualpa prison ! When you have read so many stories about this battle and this killing of the Inca leader, when he had fulfilled his word to fill his dungeon with gold, this place is truly incredible! However, these are only old stones, but we can see the trace of height, which marked the place where the gold had to arrive, for Atahualpa to be free!
The visit is completed fairly quickly since almost nothing is accessible, surrounded by a rope! I highly recommend that you read the novels and stories about this battle to get a better feel for the place!
Now the building has no roof and is protected by a modern dome to prevent wear and tear from the elements (rain, wind, snow)!
THE’Church of Belen
We also visit a church in the heart of the pedestrian streets of Cajamarca, the monumental complex of Belen, built in 1774 without really being finished. This church also housed a hospital; you can still see the niches (rooms) that housed the patients! To forget the gloomy atmosphere of this room, go out onto the pretty patio and the small garden at the back.
The missed visits to Cajamarca
With fatigue and the cold, at this time of the trip, we did not take too much time to prepare the “must see” visits, but we did not miss it, we preferred to live quite simply! But so that you can make an informed choice here is what you can see on Cajamarca.
- The Inca Baths
- The rock formations of Cumbe Mayo
- The strange cemetery of Otuzco
After this visit, we take the road towards Kuelap and Chachapoyas by a small mountain road …
How do I get to Cajamarca?
In 4 × 4 from Trujillo, the road especially along the coast seemed interminable to us. We weren’t used to those endless roads / expressways that run along only inhabited areas! The road is correct to this town and paved!
- Travel time: approximately 4h30
- Km: 303 km
By bus, I invite you to find all the information on the RometoRio site
Where to sleep in Cajamarca with the family?
As said above, our 4X4 bivouac was on the edge of a dirt road, above the city, but I don’t remember which mountain!
For those who would be without a vehicle, here is a nice family accommodation that I would have liked in Cajamarca: The Urune Tambo Boutique Hotel, located near the Place d’Armes.
The incredible road from Cajamarca to Kuelap: the road of the clouds?
How to get to Kuelap – road conditions?
I warn you right away: do not take the road in bad weather ! This 340 km long road, which we cover in 8h30 over 2 days, is so narrow that in case of heavy rain it can be cut off completely!
The condition of the road is quite good, a large part of it was paved, but it is very, very narrow! A portion was under construction! Even if in some areas you can see the asphalt suspended in the void, the mountain crumbling below! Better to hug the side of the mountain!
For the bivouacs, it’s very complicated! As the road is suspended over the mountain at an altitude of 3000 m, there are very few places to land. We found a small parking lot where construction sand was stored near a small hamlet called Balsas, that was enough for us to sleep there!
Not a lot of traffic, better! It’s very complicated to cross paths! You have to know how to reverse in a narrow zone!
- Cajamarca – Kuelap route: 1.5 days
- 1 stage Cajamarca – Balsas: 200 km – 6h30 drive
- 1 stage Balsas – Kuelap: 3h30 for 140 km
Visit Kuelap with the family: Machu Picchu in northern Peru, Chachapoyas version
We decide to land as close as possible from the cable car departure to Kuelap, in the brand new village of Nuevo Tingo rather than Chachapoyas! This is the advantage of being in the car and free to move around.
We could even have gone up by ourselves, by car, directly to the citadel of Kuelap, but that represented a few 3 hours of driving to go! We are therefore leaning towards the cable car!
Cable car ride to Kuelap
We had booked our tickets the night before, to make sure you have room early in the morning! No problem, the morning of our visit the weather is really foggy, we can’t even see the citadel from below! The cable car takes you up and through the incredible gorge.
However, when getting off the cable car, there are still a few steps to climb to reach the site of Kuelap itself. The rain has joined us. The top of the citadel is surrounded by clouds!
This allows us to understand the name of the people of the Chachapoyas: the people of the clouds ! Here at 3200 m, especially in this season, this name takes on its full meaning.
Visit of the citadel of Chachapoyas: Kuelap
We find a guide on site for more explanations of this very ancient civilization, older than the Incas. The position of this perched citadel testifies to the difficulty of protecting oneself in this period VII – 10th century approximately (The Incas came to the scene in the 16th century, it seems to me). The Chachapoyas lived in troubled times with frequent attacks between communities.
For access the fortified city, a good climb begins to join the walls 10 to 20m high, with rocks of more than 3t in some places. The citadel has 3 doors, but 2 are secure (one to enter the other to exit). These openings are very narrow, uphill and at the end only allow one person to pass! Notice to invaders!
This site and this civilization are still little known by archaeologists and even less by us; the site is said to have housed some 7,000 people, while the Chachapoyas civilization would have counted 300,000 individuals in the region ! Several levels are found in the fortress: the “quality” people (priests, elite?) Resided on the top platform while the rest of the population sprawled around and below.
The houses built in a circular fashion, included a hearth for cooking, a place to keep pets.
However, many traces of rituals attributed to the Incas have been found on the spot … Peru’s history may soon be turned upside down with the discovery of all these pre-Inca civilizations already so developed!
The visit with a guide was essential. So much so that at the end of it many Peruvians “stuck” to us to take advantage of our guide!
Our opinion : Quite frankly, for us lovers of old stones, this site has won us over. Much less frequented than Machu Picchu, the discoveries are enormous. The vegetation that invaded the site is simply contained and not eradicated, reminding me of parts of the Angkor temples in Cambodia. It adds mystery and magic to the visit. However, the site is left untouched, there will be no reconstruction, the imagination can be free.
- Access: Nuevo Tingo Cable Car
- Duration of visit: 3 to 4 h
- Children’s equipment: good hiking shoes, hat, kway – baby carrier essential
- Schedule and price:
- For what age: from 6/7 years old so they’ll be really interested if you tell them the story! smaller as a ride
- To know more
- To book here
Where to eat on Nuevo Tingo?
In April we were out of season, so there was no restaurant open in this small village ! So we bought small chicken skewers in the street, with the locals! Delicious! and a good opportunity to chat!
Where to sleep in Kuelap – Nuevo Tingo?
Our bivouac was again a dream bivouac! in the garage of a hotel in Nuevo Tingo! A very small brand new village that I thought was built just for the tourist site, but no! The ancient village of Tingo was swept away by a land collapse causing great loss of life and property. If we looked carefully, we could have slept in the surroundings, but the weather was too humid and we wanted to meet people! It was not lacking, we talked a lot with the family who welcomed us in the garage of their Jherl hotely.
Hike to Gocta Waterfall
The Gocta Falls is a must-see in northern Peru. With its 771 m high (on several levels) it is the 5th highest fall in the world. A nice promenade provides access to it. Better to be well shod and protected from the sun!
The visit was free in 2019 from the village of Cocachimba. Hiking with a 14 years old and an 8 year old lasts about 4 hours AR.
- To get to Nuevo Tingo Cocachimba : About 2 hours (1 hour from Chachapoyas)
- Distance: 74 km
- Road condition: Asphalt road until the junction towards Cocachimba
For the record, one of the biggest shouts of the trip prevented me from seeing this waterfall! I preferred to take advantage of a day alone in the 4X4 to let everyone’s nervousness subside! You have to know how to deprive yourself in order to set off again on a long trip!
Where to sleep in Gocta:At the start of the village, we found a parking lot at the end of an alley! No more precise address!
Other missed visits to northeastern Peru
Around Kuelap, several sites may be worth a detour. I admit that fatigue drove us not to visit them to rest a little! Given the state of the roads, the journeys are not easy with some very stressful passages such as when the road was washed away by the torrent after a heavy rain! But here is what made me want!
- Leymebamba museum: a museum that brings together several objects allowing you to better understand the Chachapoyas civilization: kipu, incredible mummies that can mark your children if they are the first they see! This museum is a 1.5 hour drive from Nuevo Tingo. We forgot to stop there when we arrived in a hurry to finish this long road of the clouds and did not have the courage to go back!
- The sarcophagi of Karajia: this site near Cruz Pata contains sarcophagi in the form of statues of more than 2m, erected, balanced on the wall! They are located between Nuevo Tingo and Gocta Falls at 1h30 from Chachapoyas! missed because of fatigue and the famous shouting match!
- Further east, you can reach the city of Iquitos to discover the Peruvian Amazon.
Crossing the border to Ecuador at La Balsa
The road to reach the Peru – Ecuador border crosses a completely unexpected landscape in Peru. We admire the rice fields, and we believe we are in Asia! Very surprising !
>> For the formalities for crossing the border, it’s here
Please feel free to ask me questions in the comments if you need further explanation if you are planning a family visit around Kuélap.
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