Chachapoyas: Peru's most unexplored region?

When I worked at the South American Explorers clubhouse in Lima from 2006 - 2007, one of the amenities was a collection of every map of Peru issued by the government Instituto Geografico Nacional (IGN). These were the best topographic maps available, and yet leafing through them, I was amazed to note that the one covering the Amazonas region near Chachapoyas had large areas of white, labelled 'Insufficient Data', beginning just 24 km (15 miles) southeast of the city. 

The important archaeological site of La Laguna de los Condores (Condor Lake), near Leymebamba, lies a similar distance to the south of Chachapoyas, yet it was not properly explored until 1996.  

Moreover, the 771 m (2,531 ft) high Gocta Falls is the second highest waterfall in Peru, yet was not scientifically measured until 2006, at which time they were declared the third highest in the world (an opinion since revised several times). They are barely 32 km (20 miles) north of Chachapoyas as the crow (or condor!) flies, and yet had escaped the attention of travellers and researchers.

Ten years later, just how remote and unexplored is Chachapoyas? Well, Gocta Falls is now an established highlight of any visit to the region, with an emerging infrastructure to facilitate this. You still need to hike some two or three hours to get there, through cloud forest and agricultural land, so it certainly is not a tourist trap, by any means. 

Meanwhile, there are superb, fully-supported three-day treks that allow one to visit Condor Lake; and many of the archaeological wonders found there have now been stored and labelled at the excellent Leymebamba Museum

Still, estimates suggest that there are some 300 archaeological sites in the region which have yet to be examined by experts.

And in the category of natural wonders, the Chachapoyas region still retains a number of secrets. There is an 800 m (2,625 ft) deep canyon at Sonche, near Huancas, which is just a 20-minute drive from the city and yet, at time of writing, does not merit a mention on Wikipedia

And if little-known - but very high - waterfalls are your thing, then a visit to the village of Cuispes, an hour's drive from the city of Chachapoyas, should be on your list. From here, you can access the 5th-highest waterfall in the world, Yumbilla, at 869 m (2,851 ft), as well as Chinata Falls (580 m / 1,903 ft) and Pabellon Falls (400 m / 1,312 ft).

So, it is fair to say that there is plenty of exploring left to be done in and around Chachapoyas, by researchers and visitors alike. And luckily PeruNorth is now here to assist, with our Hidden Chachapoyas itinerary!