Orientation The valley town of Leymebamba is famous in northern Peru for its museum, which houses over 200 mummies from the Chachapoya civilization. Many tourists through northern Peru do see the museum, but most miss the myriad hiking opportunities around Leymebamba that take you to the edge of the jungle and through largely un-visited ruins. […]
The valley town of Leymebamba is famous in northern Peru for its museum, which houses over 200 mummies from the Chachapoya civilization. Many tourists through northern Peru do see the museum, but most miss the myriad hiking opportunities around Leymebamba that take you to the edge of the jungle and through largely un-visited ruins. On some treks you will see condors, on some, pre-Incan cliffside tombs (like the ones pictured to the left), and on others you will simply see the seemingly endless green of the western Peruvian jungle. In short, if you are looking to do some trekking in northern Peru, read on – we’ve got the best off-the-beaten-path hikes and local contacts right here.
The Leymebamba Museum is fairly well known on the Chachapoyas tourist circuit and alternatively known as “The Mummy Museum.” While the museum does include many more artifacts, such as ancient Chachapoyan and Incan pottery, clothing, and tools, it is mostly known for its collection of over 200 mummies. The Chachapoyan people used to bury their dead inside of wooden sarcophagi in a crouched position, then wrap the sarcophagus in cloth and sew a human face on the front. Despite the humidity of the area, hundreds of mummies were discovered, with skin and even hair still intact. Seeing the room full of mummies is one of the more intense and memorable museum exhibits any Keteka team member has ever experienced.
There are many ways to categorize these hikes, but we have here decided to organize them by length.
Note about Prices: The prices quoted are guaranteed quotes for each hike. It may be quite possible to find lower prices from some guides, and to negotiate according to your accommodations.
Valle de Condores + Museum
An hour’s hike (or 15 minute car ride) from the Museum takes you into the Condor Valley, which is home to many species of birds, flowers, and yes, condors. There is no specific stopping point for this hike, which makes it a good option for those looking to simply enjoy the jungle and wildlife for a couple hours before returning to town. For those interested in seeing the condors, there is no guarantee you will see them, but you will greatly increase your chances if you go at dawn or dusk.
We recommend connecting this hike with your museum trip, since you can easily visit the museum, then walk up from there and walk back down (the walk down affords great views of Leyme’s valley). To begin the hike from the museum, take a right walking out of the entrance of the museum, and follow the main road along the hill. You want to take the first or second left you reach, within about 5 minutes´ walk at the most. The first left is a rocky footpath, and the second is a gravel road that goes more gradually into the valley. You´re now at the foot of the valley – just follow the road to go deeper into it.
Molinete, Cataneo, and Congona Ruins + Museum
All three ruins show the remains of weathered-stone roundhouses, which were typical constructions of the pre-Incan Chachapoyas culture. You will likely see orchids and thick forest at the Cataneo site, and rolling hills for the entire circuit.
Getting there with a guide: You can pay a local guide (several are listed below) S/.120 for the day, which includes transport, guide services, lunch, and entrance to the museum.
Getting there by yourself: It´s pretty difficult to do this walk by yourself – you can try to ask for directions down in town and then walk up a winding road and through the hills to the Congona site, asking the sparsely-located homeowners for directions along the way, but it is very easy to get lost among the trails. It would be even easier to get lost en route to the other two sites. In addition, the Molinete and Congona ruins are located on private property, and the landowners ask a small fee (S/. 5 each) for entry into each site. Guides are strongly recommended, to keep you on track and help locate the homeowners to pay the entry fee. For S/.30, a mototaxi will drive you to the museum (entrance S/.15), wait for you, then drive you to the trail-head that accesses the ruins. If you can figure out the trails, you can walk to each and then loop back down to Leymebamba on foot.
Petaca and Diablo Wasi
For an authentic, off-the-beaten-path hike through lush mountainous forest, we recommend the hike to the ruins of the cliffside tombs of Petaca and Diablo Wasi. The walk to Diablo Wasi and La Petaca is a gradual ascent through changing scenery. As you pass through the Canyon of the Cóndores (along the dirt and rock road, following the path of the Atuén River), you have wonderful views of the flora and fauna of the area, including toucans, hummingbirds, native fruit trees, and more. You follow the canyon until it ends (there is an abandoned fish-farming project there), and another valley opens up to views of green hillsides and flatlands, and sprawling tributaries. It is notably colder there. You take the valley to the right, going south towards the Tajopampa bridge, until you reach the lodge house for the ruins. From the lodge, a circuit of both ruins will take about 4 hours to complete.
We recommend hiring a local guide to take you on this trek (guides listed below). Perhaps the simplest option is to pay a S/.270 all-inclusive guided trip (includes three meals, lodging, carrying your heavier luggage, and guide services). Any guided trip is customizable, so if you just want the guide and not the rest, contact one of the guides and discuss.
Atuén, Peña Calata, and Cabildo Pata Ruins
The Peña Calata and Cabildo Pata ruins, with their complexes of round, stone houses, are classic examples of Chachapoyan architecture. Near them, you can also see cold-water Incan baths, set into the earth and fed by underground networks of pipes/aqueducts, in the town of Atuén. To get there you take the same walk through the Valley of the Cóndores, and at the fish hatchery when the next valley opens up, follow the Atuén River along the left fork. The earthen footpath and occasional bridges follow the river through rolling, green hills and sometimes steeper ascents, until you arrive in the small, chilly town of Atuén at 3,500 meters above sea level.
We’re not saying you have to hire a guide for this hike, but we have no idea how to begin to describe doing it on your own, so we highly recommend just hiring a local guide for a S/.370 all-inclusive trip.
This is a well advertised hike that, amazingly, few tourists seem to do. The walk to the Laguna is difficult, with steeper climbs passing through altitudes as high as 3,500-3,800 meters before descending to the farther side. You go through different micro-climates before arriving at the Lagoon, crossing a few rivers and passing through wetter areas as well. It´s highly recommended to do the hike in the dry season (about May to October), so you don’t get stuck in overly muddy conditions.
If you want to do it with a local guide (as opposed to a tour agency out of Chachapoyas), you can get all-inclusive guide services from any of the guides listed below for S/.370.
El Valle de los Chilchos
The hike to Los Chilchos takes you over and through one mountain range, on a packed-earth trail that is well-maintained and wider in many places. It is 10-12 hours of travel in all, with the option of staying the night in El Laurel, a halfway point on the trail with a wooden, covered cabaña to stay the night (sleeping bags and a sleeping pad are recommended). From the Cordillera Negra, the path is a general descent to 1,800 meters above sea level, where the climate is hotter and the vegetation is nearer to what you find in the jungle. There is great biological and archaeological diversity in the area, including the endemic Gallito de las Rocas (Andean Cock-of-the-Rock) and Oso de anteojos (Spectacled Bear), and tombs and a cave near Los Chilchos. The hike ends in the Chilchos Valley, where some 200 residents live spread out on their farmland (they grow coffee, yucca, pineapples, and more) on either side of the wide, Chilchos River. Further hikes are possible to visit a waterfall in the distance, and to seek out monkeys that live in the area.
We again highly recommend using a local guide: S/.740 all-inclusive guided tour.
Huayabamba Laguna and Vira Vira
The hike to these far-off, but beautiful locations continues from Atuén (listed above under 3 Day Hikes), moving farther into the countryside. It´s camping from here on out. After leaving town, you climb to the highest pass of 4,100 meters above sea level, and descend to the Valle de las Quinuas (Valley of the Quinoa). In this descent you finally experience the drier, central mountainside of Perú. It is colder here, green, and often foggy, but there is little actual vegetation except the smallish trees around the lagoon. You reach the ruins of Vira Vira first – circular houses in the Chachapoyan style – from which you take in a beautiful view of the valley and the laguna below. The Lagoon of Huayabamba is your final stop unless you opt for an extended hike through the hills to the Huayabamba Valley. Trekkers often move from here to the neighboring region of Cajamarca to continue their travels.
Local guide highly recommended: S/.740 for an all-inclusive trip.
This group of 15 local female artisans makes hand bags, bracelets, purses, and other wool garments and accessories. They model many of their items off of ancient Chachapoyan designs and sew everything buy hand.
Location: Their artisan house is conveniently located in the Plaza de Armas in Leymebamba, a few doors left of the church. Hours: 9-12AM, 2-5PM
Just down the hill from the museum, Miguel Huaman makes woodwork inspired by Chachpoyan artifacts and traditions. Pieces come in all sizes, for a variety of prices, so don’t shy away just because you are carrying a suitcase or backpack.
Location: Miguel works out of his house in the town of Dos de Mayo, which is uphill from Leymebamba. It is easily accessible on the walk down from the Museum – look for a staircase on the right leading off the road and straight down into the town. From the soccer field, put the mountain to your left and walk straight along the left-most street, uphill. When you crest the hill, take a left on the main street and look for Miguel’s shop on the right. If you have trouble, just ask a local for Miguel Huaman and they will point you the right way (if they don’t know him by name, just say artesania and they will know who you mean).
Marleny works a solo artisan operation out of her house, making various textile items.
Location: In the Plaza, face the church and go left down the road that runs past its front door. Marleny’s house is on the right, on the first block out of the Plaza. The street is called Jr. San Agustín and her house is number 325. Note that she keeps irregular hours, so if the door is closed at 325, do not be surprised and try again later.
The following are all seasoned guides that can take you on any of the all-inclusive hikes mentioned above. If you are looking to set up one of the hikes, we recommend calling them a few days ahead of time. We also recommend working your way down this list, if you can’t get in contact with the first three.
Phone: 941-856-029; Email: firstname.lastname@example.org (he checks his mail about once a week)
Speaks some English
Sinecio Garro Gutierrez
Phone: 957-471-938; Email: email@example.com
Eistein Adolfo Jauregui Tranco
(51) 941-932-304; (#)951-626-963
Omer Uililen – Omar will likely not be your guide, but if you have trouble getting in contact with the men listed above, he can get you connected.
All but one of the hotels in Leymebamba are all of similar quality, though the S/.20 ($7.70) options are a bit better than the S/.15 ($5.75) options. All have basic accommodations and mostly shared bathrooms with debatably hot water. These are the prices for simple rooms (i.e. one bed).
Diaz: Face the church in the plaza and take the street at the back left, Diaz will be on your left.
La Casita: Fact the church in the plaza and take the upper left street. Casita is a few doors up on the left.
Congona: Directly across from La Casita.
La Petaca: Right in the plaza, on the opposite side as the church.
Laguna de Los Condores: Go right from the Pollería Lucybell (in one corner of the plaza), along Amazonas Street. Laguna de los Cóndores is halfway down the block on the left, across from the Restaurante El Oriente.
(This nex one is a bit nicer – check out their website for more info)
La Casona: Go right from the Pollería Lucybell (in one corner of the plaza), along Amazonas Street. La Casona is one and a half blocks down, on the right, at the end of the street and the foot of the stairs.
Web: http://www.casonadeleymebamba.com/indexingles.htm; Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; Phone: (51) (041) 83-0106
Price: S/.83 for a simple
Tushpa: Basic menu (soup and main dish) for S/.5-S/.7. Located right on the plaza, left side if you’re facing the church.
Oriente: Also basic menu for S/.4-S/.5. From the plaza, face the church and go down left out of the back corner.
Polleria Reyli: The town’s biggest restaurant, it specializes in chicken dishes for between S/.5-7. From the plaza, face the church and go up the street in the upper left corner (16 de Julio street); Reyli is on the right.
Polleria Terrukito (Little Terrorist Chicken Place): The owner used to call her son a little terrorist (terrukito). He has since grown and is not a terrorist, but she still makes solid plates chicken, french fries, and salad for S/.4.
Pollería Lucybell: In the corner of the plaza, catty corner from the church, this pollería has menú from S/. 6 and rotisserie chicken / specialized plates from S/. 6 and S/. 10.
From the Plaza de Armas in Chachapoyas: Face the church and go two blocks down the back left street (Jiron Grau). You will pass a market on the left and at the next block see a parking lot with vans. Ask for the Leymebamba combi or look for Leymebamba written on the top of the windshield.
Schedule: The combis (vans) normally leave from Leymebamba to Chachapoyas at 5:00-6:00AM and at12:30 – 1:30 PM (midday). They leave from Chachapoyas to Leymebamba in the late morning and afternoon, from 10:00 AM – 6:00 PM.
*Note – be aware that travel times may change depending on road construction – as of July 2013 the road to Leymebamba is being paved, and there are only certain hours that vehicles can pass. The current combi times are 4:00 – 5:00 AM from Leymebamba to Chachapoyas, and 2:00 – 5:00 PM leaving from Chachapoyas to Leymebamba.