Northern Highlands

This largely unexcavated archaeological site dates from around AD 1100 and is located 17km south of Chachapoyas near the village of Levanto. A visit here won’t appeal to everyone – there are no panels, guides or well-defined paths to aid you on your misty mountain hop – but for those who like their ruins well and truly ruined, Yalape will leave you imagining how explorer Hiram Bingham must have felt when he rediscovered Machu Picchu in 1911.

Yalape was once the Chachapoyas’ second-largest settlement after Kuélap. To get there you need to take a combi (minibus; S5, one hour, twice daily) or taxi (S50) from Chachapoyas to Levanto and get off at the Km 17 post. An orange sign beside the road marks the site's entry. It’s a 200m climb to the ruins through a cow field to a cluster of stone structures, some of which still sport visible trapezoid friezes.

A visit to the ruins can be combined with a hike along part of an old Inca trail back down to Chachapoyas afterwards. The trail starts 2km further up the Levanto road next to an orange sign saying ‘camino prehispanico’ (beware, this is the first and last sign you’ll see). The ancient path intersperses irregular paving with muddy sections and can be slippery when wet. Navigation is a little tricky, but stay on the main trail and, after about 3km, you’ll see Chachapoyas laid out below you. It’s a total of 13km of mainly downhill walking to the city center.

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