The department of Amazonas, named after the Amazon River, provides an extraordinary view of endless leafy forest for those flying over the region. Here and there one can spot villages and towns, even large cities built with great effort in the middle of the jungle. One of these cities is Chachapoyas, capital of the department of Amazonas.
The cradle of the ancient Chachapoya civilization, this city was overrun by the Incas in the fifteenth century, and decades later, after the Spanish conquest, was founded once more by the Spaniards, with the name of Chachapoyas. The main square and the narrow pebbled streets that have been preserved until today date back to these times. Some 70 km (43.4 miles) west lies the fortress of kuélap, the bastion of the Chachapoya tribe, a citadel whose access is through narrow walled passages like sloping funnels which helped to keep out invaders. Those same passageways today host tours led by experienced local guides. Other attractions include Laguna de las Momias (a region where archaelogists discovered more than 280 mummies), or the Karajía burial tombs, which stand 2 meters (6.56 feet) high and are made of hardened clay. These sarcophagi, wedged into a mountain cliff, appear to guard over their ancestral grounds.
Amazonas is known for its joyful dances and colorful festivals. The town of Jalca, held to be the capital of jungle folklore, holds a series of celebrations all year-long, blending the rituals of local tribes with Christianity. Tasty local dishes worth sampling include the Purtumute, Tacacho and Cecina.
:: THE KUELAP FORTRESS
Located at an altitude of 3,000 meters (9840 feet), in the cloud forest of the department of Amazonas, Kuélap is proof of the engineering skills of the Chachapoya, a tribe who inhabited the area from 1000-1400 AD.
The towering ramparts that protect the citadel are studded with three guardposts, a tower and three narrow entrances which could be defended by a single warrior. The walls stand 8 meters (26.24 feet) high and completely surround the complex. The complex must have been impregnable to invading warriors from neighboring kingdoms, although finally the Inca soldiers managed to conquer the Chachapoya.
The citadel is made of stone, but unlike Inca architecture, features fantastic and animal figures, and changes the traditional pattern of geometric designs. The common building are circular, and some of these have been reconstructed so that few visitors who come here (due to the difficult access) can see how the people lived amidst orchids and bromeliads.
Ancient Peruvians were highly successful in integrating with nature. The Chachapoya, whose secrets still lie buried in the dense jungle, created harmonic structures in a privileged site, a timeless land where the jungle-clad hills are wreathed by mist.
• Purtumute. Black beans cooked with kernels of sweetcorn and cilantro.
• Cuy con papas. Potatoes and fried guinea pig.
• Juanes de yuca. Grated and boiled manioc mixed qith rice and chicken and / or beef jerky wrapped in corn husks.
• Enrollado. Beef or pork rolled and stuffed with raisins, carrots and hard-boiled eggs.