The capital of the province Amazonas is situated at 2334m altitude in a high valley at the eastern edge of the Andes.
It was founded in 1538 by Alonso de Alvarado, a General Pizarros as San Juan de la Frontera de los Chachapoyas. It served the Spaniards as a base for the conquest of the Amazon and as an outpost in search of the legendary El Dorado. One of the oldest Spanish city foundations in present-day Peru, Chachapoyas’ architecture is still characterized by spacious, brick-covered houses (casonas) with small, elaborate wooden balconies and planted courtyards, including the bishop’s house El Obispado and the Casona Monsante (today a hostal). The large square Plaza de Armas or Plaza Mayor with the cathedral is located to the west of the centre.
Chachapoyas is the gateway to the archaeological sites in Peru’s northern Andes, which see far fewer tourists than those of the Inca in the south.
Apart from the incomparable location of Machu Picchu, the Chachapoyas region can keep up with the enigmatic fortress of the cloud people of Kuélap (or Cuélap), the almost Asian-looking Sarcophagi of Karajía or the necropolis of Revash both scenically and archaeologically.
Unfortunately, dozens of other Chachapoyas settlements hidden in the cloud forest between Kuélap and the Marañón valley, which are known as the Gran Vilaya Complex, can only be reached on hikes of several days. Similarly, the path to the waterfall of Gocta, the third highest in the world and only “discovered” by a German development aid worker in 2003, almost becomes impassable when precipitation has fallen in the rather small catchment area of the rivers that feed it, which only allows the fall to fully take effect.