Stunning waterfalls, ancient ruins, and tasty foods are just a few reasons to visit Chachapoyas and its surrounding areas. The mid-sized city is located in the Amazonas region of Peru and is becoming increasingly popular for the one-of-a-kind attractions that lie there. Our only regret when visiting Chachapoyas is not having more time to see everything there is to see. Here are some general recommendations and a simple guide for your time here.
Getting To and Away from Chachapoyas
From Lima, you can fly to Jaén and then head to Chachapoyas by bus or car, or you can take a bus straight to Chachapoyas. We were coming from the north and took a bus from Chiclayo to Chachapoyas overnight. Many of the busses are overnight, putting you into Chachapoyas early in the morning. We thought this was great because we didn’t have to waste full day on the bus. We also saved money on a night in a hostel. Companies such as Cruz Del Sur, Civa, Movil, and Oltursa are reputable companies.
Getting away to your next destination is pretty much the same: by bus. There are many bus stations around the city where you can ask for routes and prices and book tickets. You can also do it online beforehand with many companies.
When to Go
Chachapoyas is in the Amazonas region, but the weather isn’t quite like what you would find deep in the jungle around Iquitos or similar areas. The temperature is generally pretty mild, with an average temperature of 20°C (68°F). The temperature can drop to freezing at night and during cooler times of year and reach into the high 20s (mid 80s in Fahrenheit) during warmer times.
The best time to go is during the dry season, which spans between May and October. During this time, rain is less frequent and the humidity isn’t as extreme. We were there in November, and the days were fairly warm with cooler nights. Shorts were fine during the day, and we threw on a jacket at night. We did get poured on, but the rains passed quickly, and you will be fine with a rain jacket and some shoes that don’t mind the mud.
Where to Stay
Chachapoyas has many hostels and affordable hotels, making the city a great stop for backpackers. If you don’t have a car or driver, we recommend staying close to the Plaza de Armas, as many restaurants, cafes, convenience stores, bus stations, and tour operators are located around the square. The best deal is on dorm rooms at hostels, but there are plenty of great deals on private rooms as well. We stayed at Chachapoyas Backpackers, a popular and great hostel that also offers tours. We found the place on Hostel World, which lists a variety of hostels in the area.
Where to Eat
There are many options for food, many of them sitting in the areas surrounding the Plaza de Armas in Chachapoyas. For breakfast, there are various cafes, such as Café Café, that offer great deals on breakfast sandwiches, tamales, coffee, and fresh juice. Café Fusiones is a chic café that is popular with tourists, and they offer great coffee, smoothies, full breakfasts, Wi-Fi, and a chill ambiance.
If you’re looking for a really cheap and easy meal, smaller panaderias, or bakeries, are also a good option. They offer bread and all sorts of goodies that fed both of us for less than seven soles (USD$2). Pair the bread with fresh fruit from the market that lies a block north of the central plaza and you’ll be set! Panaderia San Jose is a fancy-looking bakery and restaurant at the plaza that serves great desserts and complete meals like pasta and salads.
We hardly ate lunch in town because tours typically include this, and we spent the days outside the city. But, the options for lunch and dinner are essentially the same. Pollos el Tizón and various restaurants around the Plaza offer unbeatable prices on great local eats, including chicharron (fried meat), lomo saltado (steak strips), trucha (trout), and more. If you are craving more western-type foods, there are many pizza pubs and burger places. Mass Burger will serve you up a giant burger with all the toppings for just over two bucks.
Finding Tours in Chachapoyas
Why a Tour?
Many of the attractions around Chachapoyas can be reached on your own, but the headache and cost to get there without transport makes taking a tour worth it in our opinion. There are many great attractions, such as Kuelap, Gocta waterfall, Sarcophagi of Karajia, Mausoleums of Revash, and more, all of which you can learn a great deal about with the information provided by a local guide. We had an absolute blast on our trips to Kuelap and Gocta.
Finding a Tour
The amount of tour options is overwhelming, really. To find a tour, just walk around the central square and ask around for pricing on the tour you desire and ensure that they include the things you need. Asking around before making a decision is a good idea to make sure that you know what you are getting and what the price should be, as some people may try to rip you off if you are unaware of what the tour should cost. Our hostel offered tours, as many hostels do, but we went with Santa Maria Travel and Tours located at the north end of the Plaza de Armas.
You will usually pay before the tour to reserve your spot. Some places accept card, but others require cash payment. If you are a student, bring your student ID and ask about discounts, as a fellow traveler in our group received a discount for having her ID card. This cost generally includes transportation, lunch, a guide, and the organization of entry tickets and other requirements.
Most small restaurants, hostels, and markets only take cash, and it is best to have smaller change to pay. You may have to wait a while for change if you pay with anything over a 100 sol bill. There are hostels, hotels, tour companies, popular restaurants and cafes, and some supermarkets that take cards, but make sure to carry your passport to show if you opt for this payment method.
There are a few ATMs and banks around the Plaza de Armas, but beware of the high fees. In Chachapoyas, there are no money exchangers in the street as there are in other Peruvian cities, so you can change dollars from the ATMs into soles at the banks or just take out soles. Make sure you get bills that are in good shape, otherwise they may be rejected when you try to pay for things afterwards.
Have you been to Chachapoyas? Tell about your experience in the city!