Florry Fleischman

Written by Florry Fleischman

Modified & Updated: 01 Jul 2024

Jessica Corbett

Reviewed by Jessica Corbett

Source: Peru.travel

Kuelap, a fascinating ancient city located in the northern part of Peru, holds a myriad of surprises waiting to be discovered. This monumental fortress, built by the Chachapoyas civilization, stands as a testament to their architectural and engineering prowess. While many people might be familiar with famous landmarks like Machu Picchu or the Nazca Lines, Kuelap offers a unique and lesser-known experience for history enthusiasts and adventurers alike.

In this article, we will explore 13 surprising facts about Kuelap that will ignite your curiosity and leave you in awe of this incredible archaeological site. From its impressive stone walls to its mysterious cloud-shrouded location, Kuelap is a treasure trove of hidden gems that will undoubtedly captivate your imagination. So, let’s delve into the secrets of Kuelap and uncover the wonders that await within its ancient walls.

Key Takeaways:

  • Kuelap, an ancient fortress in Peru, predates Machu Picchu and offers a quieter alternative for history enthusiasts seeking to explore the country’s rich cultural heritage.
  • With its stunning location in the cloud forest, intricate stone carvings, and UNESCO World Heritage Site designation, Kuelap provides a captivating glimpse into the lesser-known Chachapoya civilization.
Table of Contents

The Fortress of Kuelap predates Machu Picchu.

Kuelap is an ancient fortress located in the Amazonas region of Peru. It was built by the Chachapoya civilization and is believed to have been constructed as early as the 6th century AD, making it older than the famous Inca site of Machu Picchu.

Kuelap is often referred to as the “Machu Picchu of the North”.

Due to its impressive architecture and archaeological significance, Kuelap has earned the nickname of the “Machu Picchu of the North. Like its counterpart in the south, Kuelap showcases the advanced engineering skills of the ancient civilizations that inhabited the region.

The fortress is situated on a mountain ridge at an altitude of 3,000 meters (9,800 feet) above sea level.

Kuelap’s strategic location on a mountain ridge provides breathtaking views of the surrounding valleys and mountains. It also served as a defensive position, offering protection against potential invaders.

The main entrance to Kuelap is through a narrow passage known as the “throat of the serpent”.

The entrance to Kuelap is a narrow and winding pathway, reminiscent of a serpent’s throat. This unique feature adds to the mystique and charm of the fortress.

Kuelap is home to more than 400 circular stone houses.

Within the walls of the fortress, there are approximately 400 circular stone houses. These houses were once the dwellings of the Chachapoya people and provide a glimpse into their daily lives.

Archaeological excavations at Kuelap began in the 1840s.

Exploration and excavation of Kuelap started in the mid-19th century. Archaeologists have been uncovering the mysteries of this ancient site for over a century, unearthing artifacts and learning more about the civilization that once thrived here.

Kuelap features intricate stone carvings and friezes.

The walls of Kuelap are adorned with ornate stone carvings and friezes. These intricate designs depict various symbols and animals, providing insights into the cosmology and spirituality of the Chachapoya civilization.

The largest structure in Kuelap is the Temple of the Sun.

The Temple of the Sun is the most prominent structure within the fortress. It is believed to have held significant religious and ceremonial importance for the Chachapoya people.

The construction of Kuelap required an estimated 60 million pounds of stone.

Building Kuelap was an immense undertaking that required an estimated 60 million pounds of stone. The fact that such a monumental structure was built without the use of mortar is a testament to the engineering prowess of the Chachapoya civilization.

Kuelap remained largely unknown until the 20th century.

Despite its historical significance, Kuelap remained relatively unknown to the outside world until the 20th century. It was not until the 1980s that concerted efforts were made to promote and preserve the site.

The surrounding cloud forest adds to the allure of Kuelap.

Kuelap is enveloped by a lush cloud forest, creating a mystical and enchanting atmosphere. Visitors to the fortress can experience the natural beauty of the region while exploring its ancient marvels.

Kuelap was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2017.

In recognition of its historical and cultural significance, Kuelap was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in This prestigious designation further highlights the importance of preserving this ancient fortress for future generations.

Kuelap offers a unique alternative to Machu Picchu for travelers.

While Machu Picchu is undoubtedly a must-visit destination in Peru, Kuelap offers a quieter and less crowded alternative for those seeking to explore the country’s rich history. The ancient fortress provides a captivating glimpse into the lesser-known Chachapoya civilization.

These 13 surprising facts about Kuelap highlight the historical, architectural, and cultural significance of this ancient fortress. From its pre-Inca origins to its intricate carvings and its stunning location amidst the cloud forest, Kuelap continues to captivate visitors and archaeologists alike. Whether you are a history enthusiast or simply in search of off-the-beaten-path destinations, Kuelap offers a fascinating journey back in time.


In conclusion, Kuelap is truly a remarkable landmark that is rich in history and beauty. Its unique design, advanced engineering, and spectacular views make it a must-visit destination for travelers. The fortress’s remote location adds to its mystique and gives visitors an opportunity to experience a truly off-the-beaten-path adventure.Whether you are a history enthusiast, an adventure seeker, or simply someone looking to immerse yourself in the beauty of ancient civilizations, Kuelap offers something for everyone. Its impressive size, well-preserved structures, and breathtaking surroundings are sure to leave a lasting impression.So, make sure to add Kuelap to your travel bucket list. Explore the hidden wonders of this ancient fortress and uncover the secrets of the Chachapoya civilization. A visit to Kuelap will transport you back in time and give you a glimpse into the fascinating world of one of Peru’s most iconic landmarks.


Q: How do I get to Kuelap?

A: Kuelap is located in northern Peru, and the closest major city is Chachapoyas. From there, you can take a bus or hire a taxi to reach the fortress. It is recommended to hire a guide or join a tour to make the journey easier.

Q: Can I visit Kuelap on my own?

A: Yes, you can visit Kuelap independently. However, it is advisable to hire a local guide to learn about the history and significance of the site. Additionally, having a knowledgeable guide will enhance your overall experience.

Q: How long does it take to explore Kuelap?

A: The duration of your visit to Kuelap depends on your interests and preferences. On average, it takes around 2 to 3 hours to explore the main structures of the fortress. If you want to delve deeper into the history and explore the surrounding area, you may need more time.

Q: Are there facilities available at Kuelap?

A: Yes, there are basic facilities available at Kuelap, such as restroom facilities and a visitor center. However, it is advisable to carry your own water and snacks as there are limited options available on-site.

Q: What is the best time to visit Kuelap?

A: The best time to visit Kuelap is during the dry season, which is from May to September. During this period, the weather is pleasant, and there is minimal rainfall. However, it is important to note that Kuelap can be visited year-round.

Kuelap's fascinating history and stunning architecture captivate visitors from around the world. This ancient fortress, nestled high in Peru's Northern Highlands, holds many more surprises waiting to be explored. For those eager to learn even more about this incredible site, our article "11 Astonishing Facts About Kuelap Fortress" delves deeper into its secrets and revelations. Uncover the mysteries surrounding Kuelap's construction, purpose, and the people who once called it home. Embark on a journey through time as we shed light on one of South America's most remarkable archaeological treasures.

Was this page helpful?

Our commitment to delivering trustworthy and engaging content is at the heart of what we do. Each fact on our site is contributed by real users like you, bringing a wealth of diverse insights and information. To ensure the highest standards of accuracy and reliability, our dedicated editors meticulously review each submission. This process guarantees that the facts we share are not only fascinating but also credible. Trust in our commitment to quality and authenticity as you explore and learn with us.