Posts Tagged ‘incredible’

The Northern Highlands; Kuelap & Chachapoyas

Want to travel off the beaten track? Then check out Peru’s northern heritage! In these majestic Northern Highlands you find yourself on a challenging and deserted backpackers track. Covered by cloudy mountains in the middle of the mysterious jungle there is no end to its natural beauty while you stay in basic hostels. Top this up with one of the worlds’ greatest waterfalls and amazing ruins equalling Machu Picchu and you can see the adventure.

This not often visited area was once home to a civilization referred to as the Warriors of the Clouds (The Chachapoyas). That is, before they got conquered by the powerful Inca civilization. These ancient civilizations left some gems of culture behind in a gorgeous environment, to be explored by the adventurous backpacker. And believe us, it will be worth your while!

Starting point: Chachapoyas, capital of the Amazonas

The relatively small capital of the Northern Highlands was housesinclifffounded in 1538 and appropriately called Chachapoyas (or Chacha, as called by the locals). This city functions as starting point to move on to all the smaller villages and cities around the region. You might find it here a bit cooler than other areas in Peru, with an average of 18 degrees on the meter. In some areas it even gets down to freezing point, so don’t forget to bring some warm clothes!

There are plenty of things to do in Chachapoyas and around. Start off on one of the many breath taking mountain tracks through the region, stop by the legendary Cuyana fountain or explore one of the many caves just outside the city.

Around Chachapoyas are some of Peru’s best hidden gems; the fortress of Kuelap, better known as the undiscovered Machu Picchu of the north and the amazing Gocta waterfall, one of the biggest ones in the world.

fortressKuelap, the Machu Picchu of the north

The city of Kuelap is only a few hours away from Chachapoyas and is known as the archaeological hot spot of Peru. The excavation of Kuelap’s fortress continues on a daily basis, revealing an amazing sight in the mountainous Northern Highlands. This sight receives few visitors on a yearly basis and is considered the “Machu Picchu without the crowds”. In comparison, this site receives some 20,000 visitors on a yearly basis against 1 million per year in Machu Picchu. And with a variety of basic backpacker hostels around, you don’t need to worry too much about planning out your entire trip, just go with the flow!fortress2

No matter how many ruins you may have seen along your travels, Kuelap should be on your to-do list when visiting these Highlands, as the combination of a stunning environment combined with an adventurous trek and ancient building structures is a unique experience!

The huge Gocta Waterfall

The amazingly tall Gocta waterfall has been kept a secret until only a few years ago and astounding backpackers ever since. With its 771 meters in height, this waterfall ranks amongst the highest in the entire world.
The sound on the bottom of the waterfall displays an amazing thundering sound and clouds of rain in your face. Check out our video and article about the Gocta Waterfall.

Other places
There are also other amazing sights, like an ancient fortress, burial complexes, caves, more waterfalls and so on. Below we compiled a short list of great stops along the way that are worth visiting, depending on your time schedule.

  • Visit the cultural burial sight of “Sarcophagus of Kirajía”
  • Take a trek to the unforgettable Lake of Condors
  • Be amazed in the wilderness of the Gran Vilaya Valley
  • Cerro Olan
  • Levanto, Jalca Grande & Yalape
  • Revash (painted burial site in the cliffs)
  • Quiocta Caves


You will find the Northern Highlands around 1,000 kilometres north of the capital Lima. You can either take a bus (16 hours from Lima) or plane to Chachapoyas (1 hour, although they don’t run that often).

If you want to find out more on how to get there and how to get around in this great region of Peru, you can check out our video and article on recommendations to explore Kuelap, Gocta and around.

Pariwana hostel Cusco

Our hostel in Cusco your main stop to travel to Machu Picchu and well deserved one of the highest rated hostels in entire South America by the world’s main hostel booking sites. Situated in a huge 400 year old colonial mansion, it has won the award of best 2010 hostel in Peru by Hostelworld and 2nd best hostel in all South America by Hostelbookers in the category of best atmosphere. Read more about this in our article about the awards that our great hostel has won.

Cusco can be found in the middle of the southern Peruvian highlands and has gained a lot of popularity as main hub before making your way to Machu Picchu. Cusco has an incredible amount of history in its roots and many backpackers describe entering Cusco as going back through time, feeling the mystical Inca culture awakening. Pariwana hostel Cusco makes sure that all backpackers feel at home to make their preparation for one of the many places to visit around Cusco, or to take their well deserved rest after experiencing an adventureous hike on the Inca trail.

As Cusco is becoming increasingly popular for all types of travellers, also the prices are constantly rising. Pariwana hostel, however, is able to offer you very cheap backpacker prices for one of the best services in town! Not only will you experience the great atmosphere that our hostel is known for, we also offer you the best location in town, being just a short stroll away from the main central plaza (Plaza de Armas) where the active nightlife starts.

Like our Lima hostel, the Cusco hostel is fully decorated with Peru’s rich culture and history by brilliant local artists Victor Zuñiga. The hostel offers an extremely clean and safe feeling with all necessary facilities to live it up backpacker style! Our big internal courtyard is the perfect place to socialize, exchange travelstories and to catch some sun while hanging back in one of the many beanbags or getting competitive on the pingpong and foosball tables. Or go up to our internet lounge or to our tv room to enjoy our huge DVD collection.

Also our bar is immensely popular with backpackers and locals due to its great custome parties, live music, cheap prices and active and friendly staff. Besides that, our cuisine offers a range of great genuine Peruvian dishes if you don’t feel like cooking you own pot in our spacious kitchen.

Furthermore, Pariwana Cusco is a great place to get to all famous local places, with the local San Pedro’s market on the main square in Cusco, to getting the best deals in town by our own travel agency on horse back riding, or trips to the amazing historical city of Machu Picchu, San Blas, Sachsayhuaman, the 12-angle stone, Koricancha, Maras & Moray and many other places!

Recommendations to explore Kuelap, Gocta & around

cavesLooking to explore the undiscovered jungle of Peru? Well, here we have some very practical tips to backpack to and around the Northern Highlands. For stunning views, the most recommendable route to reach Chachapoyas, the capital of the Amazonas in the Northern Highlands, is through Chiclayo. Take a bus from Lima to Chiclayo, and then another bus from Chiclayo to Chachapoyas.

From Lima it will take you around 10 hours by bus to get to Chiclayo, costing around US$ 30. From Chiclayo the bus ride will take you around 12 more hours to reach Chachapoyas.

So how many days do you need for this adventurous experience?

tostayThis depends on how you travel; on a time schedule, or wondering freely around without any constraints. Let’s look at both options. If you want to take a quick tour visiting only some of the highlights we can recommend you to stay 5 to 6 days, visiting at least Chachapoyas, the fortress in Kuelap and the Gocta Waterfall. These three places mark the must-sees while backpacking in the north!

But if you are looking for a more Indiana Jones alike experience, visit also places like thhe Great Vilaya Valley and the Lake of Condors. You can stay at least 2 weeks highly entertained in this challenging terrain!

Let’s give you some practical pointers on how exactly to get around in the Northern Highlands.

How to hop from A to B in the Northern Highlands


The capital of this region is Chachapoyas. We also take this as the starting point to get to all the different places in the Northern Highlands (described below). In this city you will find plenty of locl touristic agencies that could take you to all the below spots, so feel free to arrive without an agenda or previously purchased tours.

kuella_fortressThe fortress of Kuelap

In this location you’ll find a great fortress, also known as the Machu Picchu of the north. This is worth a full day trip from Chachapoyas. To get to the fortress, take a local bus from Chachapoyas to the town of Tingo. Here your journey starts; a 2,5 hour trek (8 kilometres) to get to the fortress. The track is an adventurous and rough hike through the wild. You do not really need a guide, although some people do arrange this, mainly from Chachapoyas. Alternatively, you can take a car ride from Tingo which takes you around 1 hour to get to the fortress.

If this is intriguing for you, then check out our awesome video and article about the Northern Highlands right here!

Gocta Waterfall

This is one of the worlds’ highest waterfalls and worth a daytrip from Chachapoyas. The waterfall is a short bus ride north of Chachapoyas, dropping you off in Cocachimba. From that point on, you will a have a challenging hike ahead (+/- 2,5 hrs.), with a breath taking waterfall scenery as “grand finale”. Expect to see birds, butterflies, local producers of sugar cane local alcohols and the real Peruvian jungle.
Check out our great video and article of the Gocta waterfall right here!.

The Lake of Condors / Lake of Mummies

This lake is known for its 200 some mummies and more than 3000 Chachapoyas & Inca artefacts that have been found in the banks of the lake. First travel to the town of Leimebamba, which is around 3 hours south from Chachapoyas by bus or car. From here you can get to the lake on a hike of around three days Check out one of the many travel agents in the area to verify the exact times of this trek.

Gran Vilaya Valleyclimb
This almost untouched valley is covered by rough terrain, mainly accessible by walking or horse. It lies between 1 and 3 days west of Chachapoyas, depending on whether you take a bus, car or want to stretch your legs for a hike.

Revash is a full day trip from either Chachapoyas and Leimebamba. Revash is located on a 3,5 hour steep hike from the Leimebamba – Chachapoyas highway, right at the turnoff for Santo Domingo.

This is a full day trip from Chachapoyas. To get here take a minibus from Chachapoyas to the villages of Luya (50 minutes) and from there take another one via Cohechán to San Miguel de Cruzpata (another 50 minutes). From here you need to confront a 45-minute walk to reach the site. After the other walks, this should be a walk in the park for the true backpacker!

When (not) to go, hiding from the rain

Finally, beware of the rain…and with that, the roads! The climate in the mountains of the Northern Highlands is totally different than in the rest of Peru. You are basically dealing with a dry and a wet season, rather than the regular four seasons. The dry season is by far the most comfortable to travel in this region, this is between May and October.

But if you don’t mind taking the adventurous route, the wet season is great for the true adventurer as usually you won’t see that many mountainviewbackpackers around in this season. Keep in mind that the ancient route from Cajamarca to Chachapoyas might be temporarily closed in the wet season.

During the wet season the transport over the road can take a bit longer, as not all the roads are 100% perfectly paved yet. And yes, even these bumpier rides add to the experience of backpacking Peru, as you’ll end up finding the undiscovered secrets of The Northern Highlands!