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Called La Fortaleza and built on top of a high mountain, it is the most important archaeological site in the Peruvian highland jungle. It is presented to the visitor as an impregnable place, surrounded by cliffs and precipices on three of its four sides. Built in an area of beautiful landscapes that combine the heights of the Andes and the Amazon jungle creating an incomparable spectacle.

It is possible that its name, Kuelap, derives from the deformation of the word “Cónlap”, which is the name of a town that inhabited that region according to Spanish colonial documents dated 1591.

Kuélap is the main attraction in the Chachapoyas region. The Kuelap fortress is also called the “Machu Picchu of the North”. It has a size of almost 65,000 square meters; even larger than the Inca citadel of Machu Picchu.

While Traveling and discovering extraordinary historical places like this imperial fortress you may need to use one of our mobile phone plans for tourists to have a tourist SIM card. In order to understand and find new adventures, here in PeruSIM

Now let’s find out more about this historical treasure to Peru and to the world:

About Kuelap:

Kuelap was built by a pre-Inca culture, the Chachapoyas culture, one of the lesser known Peruvian cultures. Recently, the Peruvian government started working on the development of Kuélap as a tourist destination in northern Peru. 

Therefore, they introduced the use of cable cars in 2017. The cable car transports tourists to the Kuelap fortress located at an altitude of 3,000 meters on a hillside in the Peruvian Andes.

Prior to 2017, tourists needed to walk for three to four hours to reach Kuélap, or they had to drive a car for an hour and a half. 

Attracting the attention of more and more tourists and growing in popularity, Kuélap has been named among the “52 Places to Go in 2018” by the New York Times. Kuélap ranks 29th on this list.

The Chachapoyas

Kuelap was built and inhabited by the Chachapoyas (1000 to 1400 years A.D.), a nation formed by a group of curacazgos, which is the political organization whose ruler is the Curaca. 

Who have left us many beautiful monuments along the Utcubamba River, mainly, as Olán, Yalapé, Purunllacta or Mount Peruvia, Gran Vilaya, Vira Vira, Karajía, Gran Pajatén and Leimebamba, among others. 

About them, Father Blas Valera said in the XVI century that their name derived from the words “Sacha” which means forest and “phuyu”, cloud.


According to researchers, the founders of Kuelap began its construction during the Late Intermediate period (1100 to 1450 AD) and was in operation during this period and the following, Late Horizon, time when they lived under the rule of the Incas of Cusco, until 1532, the year in which the Spanish Diego de Alvarado, after conquering the Incas, moved all the inhabitants of this site and its surroundings to a new city.

The Spanish conquistadors had as a control policy to move and gather the conquered population to new cities called “reducciones de indios”, located in low areas of the valleys and easily accessible.

Geographical location

Kuelap is located in the upper part of the Utcubamba River valley, near the village of Kuelap in the district of Tingo, Province of Luya, Department of Amazonas (Peru) at 3000 meters above sea level. 

It is 35 kilometers south of the modern city of Chachapoyas. The climate is warm during the day (26 to 35 degrees Celsius) and cool at night with periods of rain during the months of December to April.


After the forced abandonment of Kuelap in 1532 at the hands of Diego de Alvarado, this city was forgotten by most of the people, until 1843 when Don Juan Crisóstomo Nieto, a judge in the city of Chachapoyas was taken to this site to resolve some land disputes. 

He was taken to the top of a mountain where, to his great surprise, he saw an enormous wall built with high quality carved stones and hundreds of houses, also made of stone. 

He was so impressed that he wrote a report titled “Tower of Babel in Peru” for the Geographic Society of Lima who years later published it in their Bulletin.

In later years this archaeological site has received the interest of researchers such as the Italian scholar Antonio Raimondi. 

In 1860, Charles Wiener, Adolph Banbelier, the Swiss geologist Arturo Werthemann, Loors Langlots, Paul Henri Reichlen in the following decades until today the archaeologist Alfredo Narvaez, between 1985 and 1987, made a complete and detailed description of the site.

Inside Kuelap

Kuelap is formed by two gigantic superimposed artificial platforms, on which a city that covers an approximate extension of 450 hectares was built. 

In general, and seen from the air, its shape resembles an elongated bird’s wing with a north-south orientation and measures approximately 584 meters long by 120 meters wide on average.

 According to some specialists, 25,000,000 cubic meters of material were used in its construction.

The retaining walls that form the platforms before mentioned give the impression of being a gigantic wall that protects this site since in some stretches it reaches the 30 meters of height, impression reinforced. 

In addition, by the presence of architectural elements identified as guard posts, a tower and three narrow entrances, two of them oriented toward the east and the third toward the west. 

The aforementioned entrances are long ramps excavated inside the platforms that have the peculiarity of being funnel-shaped, with an initial width of 3 meters on the outside, gradually narrowing to 70 centimeters at the inner exit, thus forcing the entry of only one person at a time, which has been understood as a measure of control and defense.

Within its “walls”, Kuelap houses 505 dwellings, most of them circular in plan. Outside the city, at least 198 more houses were built, totaling more than 700 buildings.

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