The north of Peru is relatively isolated from the rest of Peru and therefore it is a great way to see an undiscovered side of Peru. Away from the beaten track and the famous sights of Peru and visit the Amazon! I have discovered the north of Peru and I fell in love with this beautiful part of the fantastic Peru. What’s a great travel route for the north of Peru?
My tips for a travel route for the north of Peru!
The north of Peru
This travel route in the north of Peru takes you through the Amazon region of Peru! It is green, there are many mountains, rivers, small villages, winding roads, rich flora and fauna, coffee plantations, palm trees and there are few tourists. What a great pity, because this region is beautiful. From Lima you fly to the Amazon in about one and a half hours or you take a bus that takes about 15 hours from Lima. The best option is to start your travel route in the north of Peru in the city of Chachapoyas. In a week you can use this city as a base to discover many beautiful places in this region!
Do you want to know more about Lima? Read The 11 best sigths of Lima
A few days in the Amazon is a must for anyone visiting Peru and for your travel route for the north of Peru!
The city of Chachapoyas
Chachapoyas is the perfect starting point for your travel route for the north of Peru. It is one of the oldest cities in Peru and lies at an altitude of 2,335 meters. Chachapoya culture ruled over a large area of what is now the Amazon region of northern Peru. The name Chachapoya is derived from the Quechua language: rainforest. The city of Chachapoyas is a pleasant place to stay for a number of days and from which you can make various nice day trips.
How do you get there?
From Lima you can fly directly to Chachapoyas, but this is a flight that is occasionally canceled due to the weather (rain) in combination with the small airport in Chachapoyas. If you want more certainty about your flight, it is advisable to book a flight from Lima to Jaén. From Jaén it is about four hours drive to Chachapoyas. This road is bumpy and meanders through the mountains, but is beautiful. You see the landscape becoming ever greener as you go deeper into the Amazon and thus into the rainforest.
Best travel time
The best time to visit Chachapoyas is during the dry season, which runs from April to December. In the months of June to September there is the least rain, but in the rainy season it seldom rains longer than a few hours at a time.
Haciënda Casa Achamaqui is a nice location to stay overnight. The hacienda is particularly suitable for families and the location is beautiful in a valley surrounded by mountains and a river. This hacienda has a large garden with swimming pool! It is beautiful and activities are organized. The disadvantage of the hacienda is that it is a half hour drive from Chachapoyas. When you visit the various places in the region you will lose extra travel time, because each time you have to drive out of the valley to get to the main roads.
Hotel Villa de Paris is a nice and small hotel near the center of Chachapoyas. The garden around the hotel is very nice and makes it nice and quiet in this hotel despite the central location. Rooms are spacious and fully equipped. The cozy center of Chachapoyas is within walking distance and this ensures that you can visit the shops and restaurants from your hotel.
- Not what you are looking for? Find here more great places to stay in Chachapoyas!
Tip restaurant Chachapoyas
Cafe Fusiones is a cozy place to have a coffee or lunch. This cafe is centrally located on the Plaza de Armas and is a cozy place to dine. The interior is very artistic with a lot of art and the staff friendly. Location: Jr. Ayacucho 952.
The Gocta waterfall
You may not miss this waterfall during your travel route for the north of Peru!! In fact, for me this waterfall was the highlight of my travel route for the north of Peru. With a height of 771 meters, the Gocta waterfall is very high. It is even the third highest waterfall in the world! But there is also discussion for years whether the waterfall should not be in place sixteen in terms of highest waterfalls in the world. This is because the water falls down in two levels. Whether this waterfall is in place three or sixteen, it is an incredibly beautiful and impressive waterfall!
A visit to the Gocta waterfall is an impressive experience and you experience how overwhelming nature can be.
The discovery of the Gocta waterfall
The Gocta waterfall has been known to the local population for centuries. This is because you have a great view of the waterfall from the village of Cocachimba. But it is bizarre that the rest of the world only discovered this waterfall in 2005. The locals thought that the Gocta waterfall was bewitched and so they avoided the waterfall. But in 2005 the German Stefan Ziemendorff went on an expedition to the waterfall and he convinced the Peruvian government that they had to put the waterfall on the map. Thank you Stefan!
How do you get there?
The Gocta waterfall lies between villages of San Pablo and Cocachimba. From Chachapoyas it is about an hour’s drive to Cocachimba. From Cocachimba you walk to the waterfall in about two and a half hours and this is a great hike. You first walk through open fields with a wide view and later through the rainforest. The path is winding and goes up and down. In total you walk about five hours (back and forth). You can also choose to ride the first few kilometers on horseback. However, the last part is not passable for the horses and you have to walk that part. The waterfall is also accessible from San Pablo, but this walking tour is a lot heavier.
Best travel time Gocta waterfall
In the months of May and June, the waterfall is the largest in terms of volume. I myself visited the waterfall in October and the waterfall then had a size of about 20% (according to the guide). But as you can see in the photos, the waterfall is also very impressive with 20%. The months of May and June are also the months when the waterfall is visited by most tourists.
We started the hike early in the morning (around 9 o’clock) and we hardly met other tourists along the way. Upon arrival at the waterfall we were almost the only persons! This is cool! On the way back we met considerably more tourists on the way to the waterfall. So start your walking tour around an hour or 9 to get ahead of the tourists.
How do you get to Cocachimba?
You can visit the waterfall via a day trip from Chachapoyas and this is about an hour away. This is fine to do and you can easily arrange through one of the travel agencies or through your hotel in Chachapoyas. But Cocachimba is certainly a very nice village to spend the night. More and more tourists visit the Gocta waterfall and these are mainly Peruvians. You notice that in Cocachimba tourism is developing. There are more and more restaurants and hotels and often with a view of the waterfall. But tourism in the village is still in its infancy.
A nice place to stay in Cocachimba is Gocta Miradors. You have a great view of the waterfall. It is a small hotel with very nice owners. The rooms are clean and the breakfast is top-notch. At the hotel you can arrange a guide for the walk to the waterfall.
- Not what you are looking for? Find here more great places to stay in Cocachimba!
You can not miss Kuélap in your travel route for the north of Peru! The ruins of Kuélap are known as the ‘undiscovered’ alternative to Machu Picchu.
Kuélap is older and bigger than Machu Picchu!
Kuélap is a wonderful city and one of the important archaeological sites in Peru where you can find relics of the Chachapoya culture. The Chachapoyas are a relatively unknown people and they ruled in Peru for the Incas.
The location of Kuélap
Kuélap is in a great location at about 3,000 meters above sea level in the north of the Amazon. You have a phenomenal 360 degree view of the entire region and you clearly see how nature protected this place. I understand why they chose this fantastic and unreachable place! High from the mountain they saw their enemies coming from far away. There are 420 stone houses in total, all of which are perfectly round. But unlike Machu Picchu, Kuélap looks more like a ruin in the forest. A large part of Kuélap is green and wild and gives you the feeling that you are the first visitor in this ancient realm. I found a great feeling!
The history of Kuélap
Kuélap is built in the pre-Inca culture of the Chachapoyas, between 800 and 1,470 AD. It was built to defend the city, but the Chachapoyas were eventually driven out by the Incas. It was only in the year 1.843 that Kuélap was discovered and in 2003 it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage. The government of Peru only started renovating Kuélap 3 years ago and this means that a large part of the ruins is still under the ground.
How do you get there?
The entry for Kuélap is 20 soles and you can visit Kuélap with or without a guide. It is advisable to arrange a guide or when booking the tour or just at the entrance of Kuélap. History is incredibly fascinating and comes to life more when you hear stories. From the entrance it is about 20 minutes walk to the ancient ruins.
Walking: From the city of Chachapoyas you can make a walking tour from 4 to 4.5 hours. This trip is best arranged through an organization and with a guide who knows the way around.
Car: Via a tour or taxi you can drive from Chachapoyas to the ruins. This tour takes about 3.5 hours and crosses bad and winding roads.
The cable car: This is my favorite option! From Chachapoyas you drive in an hour to the place where this spectacular cable car leaves. The cable car ride is a great experience and takes you to Kuélap in 20 minutes. Unfortunately, there was maintenance on the cable car on the day that I went to Kuélap and so we had to drive 2.5 hours further by car to get there.
As far as I know, there are few or no options to stay overnight in an accommodation near Kuélap. Kuélap is high on a mountain in a fairly uninhabited area and during the car ride I have seen few villages. That is why Kuélap is best visited with a day trip from Chachapoyas.
Best travel time Kuélap
The best months to visit the ruins are April, May, June, July, August, September and October. This is the dry season. Kuélap lies at 3,000 meters altitude and it is fresher than in Chachapoyas for example. The other months of the year it rains regularly, but never for very long.
Visit a coffee plantation
In this region of Peru, a visit to an (organic) coffee plantation should not be missed in your travel route through the north of Peru. There are several coffee plantations and it is nice to see how the coffee is made step by step. I have visited a coffee plantation in Mendoza, but there are certainly enough coffee plantations to visit that are a bit closer to Chachapoyas.
What does a visit to a coffee plantation look like?
My visit to the coffee plantation starts with helping the farmers to pick the beans. I get a bag hung over my arm and have two hands free to help with picking. They give a clear explanation: I can only put the red berries in the bag and absolutely no sticks or leaves! This in order to guarantee the quality of the coffee.
I soon discover that coffee picking is a very precise job.
The whole process on the coffee plantation in Peru
After picking beans for half an hour, they show me how the process continues. After picking, the red beans are washed by putting them in a special machine. The farmer proudly tells me that this machine has recently started running and they no longer need to operate the machine manually. I see how the beans are extracted from the coffee berry and then prepared for the fermentation process. The beans are laid to dry in a special room where it is nice and warm. After they have dried sufficiently, the coffee beans are stripped of the drips and then they are roasted on an old-fashioned wood-fired stove. The beans have to cool down before they can be peeled and ground.
After seeing this whole process, I look at something different from the coffee I drink. It is really a lot of work and most of the work is done by hand. The love and passion for coffee radiates from the farmers! Day after day, the farmers are busy with this and this usually for generations.
As a reward for helping with picking, I get a delicious cup of coffee. That is enjoyment!
How do you get there?
From the city of Chachapoyas there are several coffee plantations that you can visit. Ask at your hotel for information or arrange it through a travel agency in Chachapoyas.
Beach holiday in Peru
Almost no one thinks of a beach holiday in Peru. I regret that, because the beaches in the north of Peru are beautiful. And how good is it to end your travel route through the north of Peru with a few days relaxing on the beach.
- Do you want to know more? The most beautiful beaches in the north of Peru
Travel route north of Peru
Day 1: Fly from Lima to Jaen and from there you continue to the Chachapoyas. Or you fly directly to Chachapoyas, taking into account the fact that these flights have a greater chance of being canceled. The rest of the day is fun to spend by exploring the town of Chachapoyas. Wander around the town, visit a few shops and drink some delicious coffee from the Amazon.
Day 2: The whole day to Kuélap. Start the day early so that you arrive at the ruins as one of the first. Kuélap is open from 8:00. Arrange transport to the cable car and that is an hour’s drive. Get on the cable car and 20 minutes later you are at the entrance of Kuélap. Wander around for a few hours at the ruins and then lunch, for example, at the restaurant which is located near Kuélap. Then you drive back to Chachapoyas and you can possibly make a stopover in one of the small villages that you pass.
Day 3: Leave your hotel in Chachapoyas and head for Cocachimba to visit the waterfall. This is about an hour’s drive and you can choose to visit a coffee plantation. Check in at your hotel in Cocachimba and wander around in this small village. Meet the friendly and hospitable people of this town. In the afternoon you can take a short walk through the great area or chill out in a hammock at your hotel and enjoy the view of the waterfall! Dine in one of the small restaurants in the village.
Day 4: Start early (around 9 o’clock) with the hike to the Gocta waterfall, so that you as first person see this amazing natural phenomenon. Take some food and drinks along the way and when the weather comes you can take a dip in the water at the waterfall! Spend the afternoon in Cocachimba or choose to arrange one of the other walks in the beautiful surroundings.
Day 5: Go to the airport in Jaen at three hours drive from Cocachimba and fly back to Lima. But it is more fun to fly to Talada and visit the beaches in the north of Peru.
What do you think of this travel route for the north of Peru? Do you have tips for a travel route through the north of Peru?
- Do you want to know more about Peru? Read 23 things you didn’t know about Peru
Guide for your travel route through the north of Peru
My advice is to visit this region and follow your travel route in the north of Peru with a guide. You can choose to arrange each part yourself, but I have spent all these days with the same guide. Christian from Chachapoyas was my guide and he graduated in natural sciences. He knows everything about the region, nature, history and tells nice and fascinating stories. He knows many people in the region and brings you in a natural way in contact with the locals. Something I always really like! He arranges the transportation from the airport to Kuélap and Cocachimba. He can be reached on Whats App via: +52 979724565.
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