The altitude here is 1,800 m (5,900 ft), so it is warmer than Chachapoyas, and the vegetation is lusher. It is very tranquil, with a pleasant main square.
However, the most compelling reason to visit is for the Museo Leymebamba, a superb, community-run rural museum 2.5 km (1.5 miles) outside the village, on the road to Celendin.
Opened in the year 2000, the museum covers both the Chachopoya and subsequent Inca cultures. Among its exhibits are over 200 mummies, and accompanying funerary offerings, recovered in 1997 from the Laguna de los Condores (Condor Lake) site.
The Chachapoya used to bury their dead in a crouched position, inside wooden sarcophagi, then wrap the sarcophagus in cloth and sew a human face on the front.
Despite the humidity of the area, and the activities of huaqueros, hundreds of mummies were discovered, with skin and even hair still intact. Seeing a room full of mummies is undoubtedly a highly-memorable museum experience.
The museum also has a unique exhibition of quipus (the famous 'talking knots' by which the Incas recorded facts and figures, in the absence of a written language). They are in an exceptional state of preservation.
The building was largely funded from overseas donations, but is constructed with local materials and influenced by regional architectural traditions. The garden contains over 100 species of orchid.
Currently there is no on-site café, but just across the road from the museum's entrance is the relaxing Kenticafe, where you can have a drink and watch some of the 17 species of hummingbirds found in the gardens flitting around the feeders.
To see the impressive, cliff-side buildings where the museum's mummies came from, involves a strenuous 10 to 12-hour uphill hike or horseback ride to Condor Lake. This is usually done as part of a three or four-day trip, and is just the best-known of a number of wonderful treks to Chachapoya archaeological sites that can be undertaken from Leymebamba.
For less strenuous activities in Leymebamba, you can visit the outlet of the Asociacion de Mujeres Artesanales de Leymebamba (AMAL), located on the main square, near the church. This group of local, female artisans makes hand-sewn handbags, bracelets, purses, and other wool garments and accessories, many of which are modelled on ancient Chachapoya designs.
There is also a short path down to the Atuen River, if you head up a couple of blocks (southwards) from the square.
Heading in the opposite direction, there is a dirt, switchback road that climbs up above Leymebamba, giving great views of the town and the Utcubamba Valley.
How to Visit: The Mummy Museum in Leymebamba is another must-see of the Chachapoyas region and so included on all Peru North overland itineraries to the area:
- Tarapoto & Gocta 5D / 6D / 7D
- Chiclayo - Cajamarca 6D / 7D / 8D
- Chiclayo - Tarapoto 8D
- Tarapoto - Chiclayo 8D
- Trujillo - Tarapoto 12D
- Tarapoto - Trujillo 12D
If the museum is not included in your tour package, it can be reached in mototaxi, costing a couple of dollars from Leymebamba centre, or on foot, taking about an hour each way.
The area in and around Leymebamba is great for spotting many bird species, such as the Torrent Duck, Band-winged Nightjar and Koepcke’s Screech Owl, so is also included in Peru North's 16-day birding itinerary.