Also known as Chachas, Chachapoyas is a laid-back town awash in white and insulated by a buffer of rough unpaved roads and high-altitude cloud forests. The town was an important junction on jungle-coast trade routes until a paved road was built in the 1940s through nearby Pedro Ruíz, bypassing Chachapoyas altogether. The unlikely capital of the department of Amazonas, this pleasant colonial settlement is now a busy market town and makes an excellent base for exploring the awesome ancient ruins left behind by the fierce civilization of the Chachapoyas (‘People of the Clouds’).
Vast zones of little-explored cloud forest surround the city of Chachapoyas, concealing some of Peru’s most fascinating and least-known archaeological treasures. Although the ravages of weather and time, as well as more recent attentions of grave robbers and treasure seekers, have caused damage to many of the ruins, some have survived remarkably well. Kuélap is by far the most famous of these archaeological sites, though dozens of other ruins lie besieged by jungle and make for tempestuous exploration.