Leymebamba Hiking

  • A non-comprehensive list of the many spectacular hikes in Leymebamba region. 

  • 6 treks ranging in length from one to six days. 

  • Chance to explore recently-discovered Chachapoya ruins such as Vira Vira & Congona

The attractive Amazonas town of Leymebamba is gradually becoming a trekking destination - perhaps to rival Cusco or Huaraz, one day - as the region's remarkable archaeology reveals more fascinating ruins, set in stunning mountainous and jungle-covered locations, replete with flora and fauna. 

The wonderful trek to Condor Lake is already well-known, although far from busy; and below are a selection of six further hikes that can be done, beginning in Leymebamba. 

Please note that the lengths of the treks are only to be taken as guidelines, as there are a myriad ways to do them, and combine with other destinations. Feel free to get in touch with any queries you may have. 

1. Day Hike: Leymebamba Museum & Valley of the Condors: 

This is an ideal hike to combine with a visit to the must-see Leymebamba Museum. To get to the museum takes about 15 minutes in moto-taxi - or an hour walking - from town, and the visit lasts around an hour. 

On leaving the Museum, turn right and follow the main road uphill. After five minutes, you reach a rocky footpath on your left that descends into the Valley of the Condors. For a more gradual descent, take the gravel road a little further up. 

Spectacular Valley of the Condors. 

The hike down to the bottom of the valley, containing the Atuen River, takes an hour, and here you find many species of high jungle flora and fauna, including - if you are very lucky - condors! These are more easily spotted at dawn or dusk. 

Once in the valley floor, you can follow the road upstream as long as time and energy allows, before returning downstream to Leymebamba. 

2. Day Hike: Leymebamba Museum & Ruins of Molinete, Cataneo & Congona:

This is another hike which works well in combination with a visit to Leymebamba Museum. You can contract a moto-taxista to drive you to here, then wait while you look round, before taking you further up the road, for about 20 minutes, to a trail head on the right, that follows a mountain ridge northwards, across rolling hills. 

You soon come across Molinete ruins. Like all three sites, Molinete shows the remains of weathered-stone roundhouses, with rhomboid or zigzag patterns in the stonework, which were typical constructions of the pre-Incan Chachapoya culture.

Cataneo ruins, showing classic Chachapoya friezes. 

The next ruin on the circuit is Cataneo, which is still quite-heavily jungle-covered, with a generous spattering of orchids. 

The last and largest ruin is Congona, located at 2,520 m (8,268 ft) above sea level. This is in keeping with many Chachapoya structures that were positioned in hard-to-reach places, perhaps for defensive purposes or to avoid natural disasters. However, Congona shows signs of Inca influence in its South sector, where the 34 buildings do not have the same level of decoration in the outer stonework as the 30 buildings in the North sector; and there is a singular, rectangular building measuring 16 m x 6 m (52 x 20 ft) and with six trapezoidal doors.  

From Congona, you descend to Leymebamba in the valley below. 

It is advisable to hire a guide for this hike, as the path to the ruins is not always obvious, and the fact that they are quite overgrown means they are easy to overlook. Moreover, both the Molinete and Congona ruins are located on private property, and the landowners ask a small fee for entry, which a guide can facilitate. 

NB. A guided hike to Congona and Cataneo is included on PeruNorth's Hidden Chachapoyas 7D itinerary. 

3: Two-Day Hike: Leymebamba - Petaca, Diablo Wasi & Boveda

For an authentic, off-the-beaten-path hike, through lush, mountainous forest, the cliffside tombs of Petaca and Diablo Wasi (also spelt 'Diablo Huasi') are highly recommended.

There are various ways to get to Tajopampa, which is the base for visiting these ruins, from Leymebamba. You can drive along a dirt track, or take a horse. 

If you choose to walk, it is a gradual ascent, taking most of the day, through ever-changing scenery, along the Condor Canyon, following the path of the Atuen River, with wonderful views of the flora and fauna of the area, including toucans, hummingbirds, native fruit trees, and much more.

Follow the canyon to its end (there is an abandoned fish-farming project here), and another valley opens up with views of green hillsides and flatlands, and sprawling tributaries. It is notably colder here.

Chachapoya tombs at Diablo Wasi. 

You take the valley to the right, going South towards Tajopampa Bridge, where you can find basic lodging. 

From here, a circuit taking in Petaca, Diablo Wasi and the concentric terracing of Boveda, takes about five hours to complete. 

The return to Leymebamba involves retracing your steps back down Condor Canyon. If you are walking back, you will probably want another night in Tajopampa, before setting off the next day. Again, a local guide is recommended. 

NB. A day's hike to Tajopampa and La Petaca Cliff Tombs is included on PeruNorth's Hidden Chachapoyas 7D itinerary. 

4: Three-Day Hike: Leymebamba - Sierpe Lake, Atuen, Peña Calata & Cabildo Pata Ruins

To visit the Peña Calata and Cabildo Pata ruins, with their classic Chachapoya complexes of round, stone houses, you need to follow the same route along the Valley of the Condors as in Hike #3 (above). But, on reaching the abandoned fish hatchery, follow the Atuen River along the left fork. 

Sierpe Lake next to the tiny settlement of Atuen. 

A footpath, with occasional bridges, follows the river through rolling, green hills and sometimes steeper ascents, until you arrive in the small, chilly village of Atuen at 3,500 m (11,483 ft) above sea level, where there is lodging and can serve as a base to explore the surrounding countryside.

In Atuen, there are cold-water Inca baths, set into the earth and fed by an underground networks of pipes and aqueducts. You are also on the banks of Sierpe Lake (Sierpecocha in Quechua). 

5. Four-Day-Hike: Leymebamba - Chilchos Valley

In 2012, 46,000 hectares of the Chilchos Valley was declared a Private Conservation Area (ACP, to use the Spanish-language acronym), in the hands of the Leymebamba Farmers' Community, by the Peruvian Government. This was in recognition of the area's rich biological and archaeological diversity.

Cock-of-the-Rock, endemic to Chilchos. 

The valley, which is six km (3.7 miles) long and 700 m (2,300 ft) wide on average, is home to 240 species of bird, such as the iconic Andean Cock-of-the-Rock; 64 species of mammal, including the endangered Yellow-Tailed Woolly Monkey and Spectacled Bear; 25 species of amphibian and 9 reptiles. 

Archaeologically, the mausoleums of El Dorado, which are thought to have belonged to the last kingdom of the Chilcho culture, and Yacahuasi, which has the ruins of residential buildings that show classic Chachopoya stonework designs, are the currently-known highlights. 

To get there involves a hike or horse ride over the Cordillera Negra, to the East of Leymebamba, on a packed-earth trail that begins in the village of Palmira (2 km / 1.2 miles along the main road from Leymebamba), and is well-maintained and quite wide in places.

It is 10 - 12 hours of travel in all, with the recommended option of staying the night at a purpose-built camp hut in El Laurel, a halfway point on the trail, reached after 6 hours (NB. bring sleeping bag and mattress).

Once over the mountain pass, the path is a general descent through cloud forest to 1,800 m (5,906 ft) above sea level, where the climate is hotter and the vegetation is semi-tropical rainforest.  

In the Chilchos Valley, some 200 residents live spread out on their farmland, growing crops such as coffee, yucca and pineapples, on either side of the wide, Chilchos River.

From Los Chilchos, it is a six-hour hike to get to the Blanco River, where the El Dorado site is to be found, and a five-hour hike to get to Yacahuasi. These trips necessitate staying overnight. 

Shorter day hikes are possible to visit a waterfall, and in search of the monkeys that live in the area.

6. Six Day Hike: Leymebamba - Huayabamba Lake & Vira Vira Ruins

The hike to these remote, but beautiful, locations continues from Atuen (listed above in Hike #4), moving deeper into the countryside and camping along the way.

After leaving Atuen, you climb to Ulila Pass at 4,100 m ( ft) and then descend into the U-shaped Valley of the Quinoa (Valle de las Quinuas), experiencing the drier, central mountainside of Peru, as you do so. It is colder here, green, and often foggy, but there is little actual vegetation, except smallish trees around lagoons.

You reach the ruins of Vira Vira first – circular houses in the Chachapoya style – from which there is a stunning view of the valley and Lake below.

Huayabamba Lake is your final stop ... unless you opt for an extended hike through the hills to the Huayabamba Valley.

Rather than retrace their steps back to Leymebamba, many trekkers choose to continue south-west to the small town of Uchucmarca, from which a dirt road connects to Balsas, which is on the road between Cajamarca and Chachapoyas