History in Chachapoyas
The Chachapoyas culture was conquered – but never fully defeated – by the Incas a few decades before the Spaniards arrived. When the Europeans showed up, local chief Curaca Huamán supposedly aided them in their conquest to defeat the Inca. Because of the relative lack of Inca influence, the people didn’t learn to speak Quechua and today Spanish is spoken almost exclusively. Local historians claim that San Juan de la Frontera de las Chachapoyas was the third town founded by the Spaniards in Peru (after Piura and Lima).
The Chachapoyas, also called the Warriors of the Clouds, were Andean people living in the cloud forests of the Amazonas Region of present-day Peru. The Inkas conquered their civilization shortly before the arrival of the Spanish in Peru in the 16th century. Their incorporation into the Inka Empire was fraught with constant resistance to the Inka troops. The name Chachapoya is the name that was given to this culture by the Inka; the name that these people may have used to refer to themselves is not known. The Chachapoyas were devastated by the 18th century but remain as a strain within general indigenous ethnicity in modern Peru.
The Chachapoya’s territory was located in the northern regions of the Andes. It encompassed the triangular region formed by the confluence of the rivers Marañón and Utcubamba in the zone of Bagua, up to the basin of the Abiseo River, where the ruins of Pajáten are located. This territory also included land to the south up to the Chuntayaku River, exceeding the limits of the current Amazonas Region towards the south. But the center of the Chachapoyas culture was the basin of the Utcubamba River. Due to the great size of the Marañón River and the surrounding mountainous terrain, the region was relatively isolated from the coast and other areas of Peru, although there is archaeological evidence of some interaction between the Chachapoyas and other cultures.
Where is Chachapoyas?
Chachapoyas town is in the north-western corner of Peru, about 400km inland from Chiclayo and 300km from the El Chorro/La Chonta border with Ecuador. It is a wonderful base for exploring the archaeological sites of the region, and for hikes to nearby waterfalls and canyons. It sits at an elevation of just over 2,200m and, during rainy season, is almost completely cut off from the rest of the country. The capital of the Amazonas region, Chachapoyas enjoys a premier location, cradled by the very arid Western Andes and very luscious Eastern Andes. This unique location offers an eclectic topography of verdant rainforests and arid high-altitude peaks and plateaus.
How to get to Chachapoyas?
Located nine hours north of Chachapoyas, there are daily bus departures to this overlooked city. You’ll probably want to make Chiclayo a flying trip as the city itself is a little rough around the edges. Despite this, a day trip to the Sipán burial site is well worth a look.
Head over to energetic city Trujillo for your fill of Peruvian cuisine or to explore the nearby Chan Chan ruins. Located just 15 minutes outside of the city, beachside town of Huanchaco is a nice place to wind down with a chilled backpacker vibe.
The capital of Peru is the world’s second largest desert city, giving it a unique setting on a global scale. Try para-triking over Lima’s famous beaches or sipping on a Pisco Sour in one of the many bars and restaurants. Chachapoyas has an airport with regular departures to Lima and there is the option of night buses for travellers on a tighter budget.
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