The valley town of Leymebamba (also known as Leimebamba) is famous in northern Peru for its museum, which houses over 200 mummies from the Chachapoya civilization. Many travelers who visit the area stop by the museum, but most miss the myriad hiking opportunities around Leymebamba that take you to the edge of the jungle and […]
The valley town of Leymebamba (also known as Leimebamba) is famous in northern Peru for its museum, which houses over 200 mummies from the Chachapoya civilization. Many travelers who visit the area stop by 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 treks around Leymebamba, you can see condors, pre-Incan cliffside tombs, and the seemingly endless green of the western Peruvian jungle. If you are looking to do some hiking in northern Peru, read on. We’ve got the best community tips, off-the-beaten-path hikes, and travel recommendations right here.
The Leymebamba Museum, also called the Mummy Museum, houses pre-Inca Chachapoya and Inca artifacts such as pottery, clothing, quipus (Incan knotted strings for record-keeping), and tools, along with its most famous inhabitants – over 200 ancient Chachapoya mummies. There is even a mummified cat!
The museum itself is small and unassuming, surrounded by a manicured lawn. Several of the buildings are modeled after the round, cone-shaped Chachapoyas-style houses. Its garden has lovely orchids and is frequented by hummingbirds. But seeing the room full of mummies is the museum’s most memorable and intense experience.
The pre-Inca Chachapoyas buried their dead by positioning the body in a crouched position, then wrapping it in cloth or putting it in a bag. A human face was sewn on the front and the body was then placed in a wooden sarcophagi.
Despite the humidity of the area, hundreds of mummy-filled sarcophagi have been discovered since 2002, with skin and even hair still intact.
While all the mummies are in a similar position, some have their hands on either side of their faces, which makes for a creepy expression, especially if the mouth is open. Some of the mummies remain in their sarcophagi and others you can see fully or partially covered by ancient fabric. Even world travelers who have been to other high-quality museums will be impressed by the quantity of mummies, how well-preserved they are, and their strange expressions.
Right across the road from the museum is a nice cafe, Kenticafe, where you can relax and enjoy the scenery before heading to your next activity.
Asociacion de Mujeres Artesanales de Leymebamba (AMAL)
This group of 15 local female artisans makes handbags, bracelets, purses, and other wool garments and accessories. They model many of their items off of ancient Chachapoyan designs and sew everything by hand.
Location: Their artisan house is conveniently located in the Plaza de Armas in Leymebamba, a few doors to the left of the church. Hours: 9:00 am-12:00 pm, 14:00 pm-17:00 pm.
Just down the hill from the Leymebamba Museum, Miguel Huaman makes woodwork inspired by Chachapoyan 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, which is further up the hill. For directions, 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: Marleney lives a block away from the Plaza, on Jr. San Agustin Street, number 325. Note that she keeps irregular hours, so if the door is closed at 325, do not be surprised and try again later.
In addition to fantastic landscapes, the mountains around Leymebamba Peru conceal ancient ruins. Hiking is the best way to reach picturesque lagoons, fascinating ruins, and more. We’ve organized the hikes below by length, from day hikes to a six-day hike.
Note about Hiking Prices: The prices are approximate quotes for each hike. It may be possible to find lower or higher prices from some guides and to negotiate according to your accommodations.
Although the town sits at an elevation of about 7,080 ft (2,158 m), the climate is between cool and warm, with lush tropical vegetation. Average monthly temperatures stay pretty constant year-round at about 60°F (16°C), but can range from lows of 48°F (9°C) to highs of 73°F (23°C). We recommend visiting during the dry season, between June and September, although rain can come at any point during the year.
Valle de Condores & Museum
We recommend combining this hike with your museum trip, since Condor Valley is just an hour’s hike or a 15-minute car ride from the museum. The valley is home to many species of birds, flowers, and yes, condors. Plus, the return walk from Condor Valley back to Leymebamba also offers wonderful views of Leymebamba’s valley.
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. While there is no guarantee you will see condors, you will greatly increase your chances if you go at dawn or dusk.
From the entrance of the museum, take a right and follow the main road along the hill. 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, Congona Ruins, & Museum
Molinete, Cataneo, and Congona are all ruins that have weathered-stone roundhouses, which were typical constructions of the Chachapoyas culture. Enjoy the orchids and thick forest at the Cataneo site and rolling hills for the entire circuit.
We highly recommend getting a guide for this hike because it’s easy to get lost among the trails. What’s more, the Molinete and Congona ruins are on private property, and the landowners require an entrance fee of S/.5 for each site.
A guide can keep you on track and help locate the homeowners to pay the entry fee. You can pay a local guide S/.120 for the day, which includes transport, guide services, lunch, and entrance to the museum.
Alternatively, for S/.30, a mototaxi will drive you to the museum (entrance S/.15), wait for you, then drive you to the trailhead 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. But again, hiring a guide is the best way to make sure you stay on the correct trails and enjoy your experience.
Petaca and Diablo Wasi (Diablo Huasi)
For an authentic, off-the-beaten-path hike through lush, mountainous forest, we recommend hiking to the Petaca and Diablo Wasi ruins: cliffside tombs.
The walk to Diablo Wasi and La Petaca is a gradual ascent through changing scenery. You’ll pass through the Canyon of the Condors along a dirt and rock road, following the path of the Atuén River. Along the way, enjoy observing diverse local plants and animals. You could spot hummingbirds, toucans, fruit trees, and more.
Keep walking in the canyon until you reach the abandoned fish farm. From there, you’ll see the entrance to another valley with green hills, flatlands, and rivers. You’ll notice that the temperature drops there.
Go into the valley on the right, heading 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. The simplest option is to pay for 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 are only interested in the guide services and not the other included items, negotiate that with your guide.
Laguna de los Condores (Laguna de las Momias)
This is a well-advertised hike that, amazingly, few travelers seem to do. The walk to the Laguna is difficult, with steep climbs passing through altitudes as high as 11,480-12,470 feet (3,500-3,800 m) before descending to the farther side.
The path goes through different microclimates before arriving at the Lagoon, crossing a few rivers and passing through wetter areas as well. We highly recommend doing the hike in the dry season (about May to October), so you don’t get stuck in overly muddy conditions.
Tour operators in Chachapoyas offer this hike, but you can get an all-inclusive guide service with a local guide for S/.370.
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, in the town of Atuén, you can also see Incan baths, which were dug into the ground and received cold water from underground pipes.
To get to Atuén, walk through the Valley of the Condors. 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 steep ascents until you arrive to the small, chilly town of Atuén at 11,483 feet (3,500 m) above sea level.
We highly recommend hiring a local guide for a S/.370 all-inclusive trip.
El Valle de los Chilchos
The hike to Los Chilchos takes you over and through a mountain range on a packed-earth trail that is well-maintained and wide in many places. In total, the hike is 10-12 hours of travel, with the option of staying the night in El Laurel. This halfway point on the trail has a wooden, covered cabin and you can sleep there if you bring your own sleeping bags and pad.
From the Cordillera Negra, the path descends to an altitude of 5,900 feet (1,800 m). Temperatures rise and the plants become more similar 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). Plus, there are tombs and a cave near Los Chilchos.
The hike ends in the Chilchos Valley, where some 200 residents live spread out on their farmland on either side of the wide Chilchos River. Local farmers grow coffee, yucca, pineapples, and more. 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, who can offer an all-inclusive guided tour for about S/.740.
Huayabamba Laguna and Vira Vira
The hike to these far-off, but beautiful locations continues from Atuén (listed above under Three-Day Hikes), moving farther into the countryside. You’ll be camping for the rest of the journey.
After leaving town, you climb to the highest pass to 13,450 feet (4,100 m) above sea level. Then, descend to the Valle de las Quinuas (Valley of the Quinoa). During this descent, you’ll finally experience the drier, central mountainside of Perú. Although only a few small trees grow here, around the lagoon, the mountains are still green. Temperatures are lower and fog is common.
First, you’ll arrive to the Vira Vira ruins, which include Chachapoyan circular buildings. You’ll be able to appreciate the gorgeous valley and lagoon below. You can end your hike at the Huayabamba Lagoon, or continue in the Huayabamba Valley. Hikers 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.
Chachapoyas is the capital of the Amazonas Region and has the nearest airport to Leymebamba. You can fly to Chachapoyas from Lima for about $30-45 USD one-way. The flight takes about an hour and a half.
Another way to get to Chachapoyas is by direct bus from Lima, which costs about $30 USD and takes 24 hours.
To get to Leymebamba from Chachapoyas, head to Jiron Grau street, off of the Plaza de Armas. You’ll find a parking lot with combis (vans) marked with Leymebamba on the top of the windshield. If you have trouble finding it, ask a local for the combis to Leymebamba.
Combis (vans) leave at different times during the day, but ask a local for the updated schedule. It will take you about 3 hours by car to go between Chachapoyas and Leymebamba. The road is now paved all the way from Chachapoyas to Cajamarca.
Flying from Lima to Cajamarca is similar to the Lima-Chachapoyas flight: 1.5 hours, $30-50 USD one-way.
A direct bus from Lima to Cajamarca costs about $15-30 USD and takes 16 hours. From Cajamarca, you can take another bus to Leymebamba, which will take about 7 hours.
All but one of the hotels in Leymebamba are of similar quality, with basic accommodations, mostly shared bathrooms, and unreliable hot water.
Leymebamba Peru and its surrounding area have so much to offer, from fascinating ancient ruins to breathtaking mountain landscapes. Make the most of your trip to northern Peru by experiencing both the rich cultural heritage and unique natural environment of Leymebamba.