Traveling to remote places off the normal tourist path really gets me excited so when I heard about the Pueblo de los Muertos outside of Chachapoyas, Peru I knew I had to go.
This site is an ancient burial ground for the rulers of the Chachapoyas people, a Pre-Inca civilization that lived throughout the cloud forests on the east side of the Andes just above the Amazon Jungle. It’s perched high on a cliff side that isn’t exactly easy to get to but its well worth the hike….and the heights.
The History of Pueblo de los Muertos
The Chachapoyas which means ‘Cloud People’ or ‘Cloud Warriors’ lived high in the Andean cloud forests perching their cities on mountain peaks. They’re burial sites were just as remote. The Pueblo de los Muertos was once two full ledges of adobe brick structures housing the mumified rulers and offerings to the Gods for their after life. This site in particular, the Chachapoyas reused from an earlier unknown civilization, as archeologists found wall paintings across the cliff side dating back around 10,000 years.
Among the objects buried with the Chachapoyas rulers were food offerings. In Peru, then and now, Cuy which is known in the rest of the world as guinea pig, is a delicacy. To ensure their successful entrance into the afterlife, mummified cuy were also placed in these tombs.
Due to lack of funding, this site has not been fully explored by archeologists and unfortunately grave robbers have destroyed much of the remains. In addition, frequent earthquakes in this area have further taken their toll actually collapsing one of the ledges into the ravine below.
Getting to Pueblo de los Muertos
Like I said, getting off of the usual Gringo Trail is what I really like. It’s even better when you can explore without the need for a tour or guide but Pueblo de los Muertos is certainly not a place you can get to without some help. If you want to explore this site you’ll need to book a tour and given the distance and limited number of people that visit Chachapoyas you may also have to wait for days until enough people are interested in going. My guide said that many weeks they don’t go at all.
From the city of Chachapoyas it will take about 2 hours to drive to the site over winding rocky roads (not too bad). The last stretch is driving through thick foliage until you reach a clearing where the hike begins.
It takes around an hour to hike down into the canyon to see the Pueblo de los Muertos winding over treacherous rocky paths. This only applies in the dry season. In rainy season I would avoid visiting all together as the narrow paths will turn into a muddy slip n slide that would be far too dangerous to make the descent.
When we arrived at the ledges I assumed we’d be viewing the ruins from afar but to the contrast we walked all the way along the cliff hugging structures as we narrowly stepped from one structure to the other. it’s certainly not a place for anyone even a bit afraid of heights as there’s less than inches to stand on at some points and it is a vertical drop of hundreds of feet or more into the ravine.
The hike back up takes closer to an hour and a half to two hours depending on how well adjusted you are to the altitude by the time you get here.