Festivals and customs in Chachapoyas
Peruvians love to celebrate and, of course, it’s the same in Chachapoyas. Even if none of the “big” festivals (which often have a religious origin) is due, it is not uncommon to see colorful processions or musical performances. And when you dance on the street, sometimes it can happen that they also ask you as a tourist and suddenly you move through the streets.
On June 6 of each year, the “Pampas de Higos Urco” festival is celebrated. The battlefield where the last battle was fought before General San Martin declared independence can still be seen today. Today, many parades, lots of music, traditional dance performances and good food are reminiscent of the successful battle for independence. Festivities usually start on June 1 and last a full week.
The Fiestas Virgen Asunta is a religious celebration in honor of the patron Virgo Asunta. And here too, the inhabitants of Chachapoyas celebrate long and happy: from August 1 to August 15 (Assumption of the Assumption), the festivities continue, culminating on August 14. At the same time, there is the sugarcane must festival, the Guarapo Festival.
During the festivities, a statue of the Virgin is carried from church to church, where a lovingly decorated altar is ready for the Assunta Virgin. The procession is accompanied by music at high volume and confetti throwing children, who then present candy.
Last but not least, there is Hatun Luya. The festival usually takes place around September 13 and is a traditional festival with numerous folk parades and culinary delights in the streets.
The Gocta Waterfall – the secret of the Chachapoyas
Just 20 km from Chachapoyas, in the middle of a nature reserve, is the waterfall of Gocta, which is one of the highest waterfalls in the world with a drop of 771 m. However, since waterfalls are often valued differently, you can not say exactly where you lie. Some say it is the third highest in the world, others say it is in a modest 14th place. What you can certainly say about the waterfall is that it can leave you breathless.
The waterfall was officially discovered only “recently”, namely, 2002 and that of a German. Stefan Ziemendorff, a development worker, saw the masses of water that fell during an expedition to the natural reserve, but only four years later, with Peruvian support, he was able to measure it again.
However, the descendants of the Chachapoyas would probably have liked it more if the Gocta waterfall had not been detected. There are still many gloomy legends around the waterfall today and you will not find it on any map made by the locals. It is said that the waterfall is highly dangerous and anyone who approaches it plays with his life. A legend, for example, tells of a mermaid who lives in the basin that protects the creatures in the river and carries each man with his song to a wet tomb. Of course, how much one wants to believe in legends depends on one’s own level of superstition, but one can not help noticing that there is a very special atmosphere here. The waterfall falls in two steps, and both deserve a visit, but only under guidance.
The waterfall was named after the village of Gocta, which is nearby. From Chachapoyas, you can arrive by taxi in less than half an hour in the nature reserve (in bad weather, of course it can take a little more time, depending on how far away the roads are from the rainfall). However, one should abstain during a visit to the Gocta waterfall to book a full visit in Chachapoyas. Instead, you can take a taxi to the town and register there (it costs 10 soles, approximately 3.5 US dollars). Here you will also find a local guide and the opportunity to stock up on supplies. Then you can not only enjoy the trip to the waterfall, but also you have the certainty that you have done something personally to improve the living conditions of the inhabitants. Community tourism is the name of the concept and helps support this region materially poor but historically rich at least a little.
It takes approximately two hours to climb one of the two steps of the waterfall. Climbing can be slippery, narrow or challenging in some places, a reason why you can only visit the waterfall on your own if you confirm in writing that you have been informed of the risks.
The sarcophagi of Karajia – the east-facing view
About 60 kilometers northeast of Chachapoyas is the small town of Karajia on a hilltop and about 300 meters below, in the middle of a steep rock face, are the six “wise men” in their majestic sarcophagi. How did you get there? Who were they? And why do the six stone people “look” to the east?
Also for the sarcophagi was for a long time: Who does not see me, does not know that I am there. And then the inhabitants knew about the 6 stone sarcophagi, but not the rest of the world. This changed in 1985, when the Peruvian archaeologist Federico Kauffmann discovered the six 2.5 meter high sarcophagi in one of his expeditions. The stone figures are side by side and look in the same direction: to the east, where the sun rises and many Andean peoples believe that life begins there, even after death.
According to scientific studies, the sarcophagi dated back to the year 1460. Originally, it is said that 8 figures resisted, but two earthquakes and extreme climatic conditions have been victims. In total, there are two more groups with sarcophagi on the steep wall, which come from another time and are a little less elaborate.
The sages were made of a mixture of clay, straw and boulders. The meanings of the red ornaments, which cover the white figures, could not be clarified until now if and what the geometric patterns mean. It is assumed that the “inhabitants” of the sarcophagi were tall and deserving members of the Chachapoyas. Since one of the sarcophagi has a jump, researchers might discover that the body was placed inside and wrapped in cloths. Inside, they have found some funerary objects, such as ceramics and gold.
The sarcophagi could survive for centuries relatively without damage or traces of footprints, and this is also evident in its location with hardly any access, without special equipment. It is believed that in the past a rocky ledge must have led to the niche on which the Chachapoyas could place the sarcophagi here. Then they should be cut after completing the work piece by piece, in order to destroy the access. The serious invaders had almost no chance, apart from the fact that no native dared to mess with the dead.
The sarcophagi are located near Luya and can be reached from Chachapoyas. Even if the distance is only 60 km, the trip on sometimes bumpy roads takes 2 to 3 hours. But not only will you be rewarded with the fascinating sages, but you will also have a breathtaking view of the entire valley, which is thrown at your feet. Especially on clear days, you can take unique photos of the unspoilt nature here.
And while you’re here, you should definitely plan a visit to the Quiocta Cave, an ancient ritual site of the Chachapoyas.
The Quiocta Cave – Wellington boots recommended
Almost round the corner of the Karajia sarcophagus is the Quiocta Cave, actually a vast system of widely branched caves that has been explored to a limited extent to this day. The cave is largely in its original state, which means one meter high stalactites and stalagmites, but also extremely wet clay soil.
Numerous signs, such as ceramics and bones, have been found in the entrance area of the cave, suggesting that the place was used for rituals.
But with the announcement of the cave, of course, came the grave robbers, mostly from abroad, and looted what they contained. Finally, the Peruvian government intervened and closed the entrance with a latticework.
If you want to visit the cave today, you have to book a licensed guide to the city, and while doing so, equip yourself with a lamp over your head, because the cave is barely illuminated and a bad step can end up very wet, even if you throw yourself away River. Boots are essential for a visit to the cave. The clay soil can soften extremely, so wet feet are guaranteed.
But there is a very special atmosphere in the cave: there is a skull half sunken in the clay, there is a stalagmite two meters high, you should definitely pack the camera with a good beam, because that is almost like an old Indiana Jones movie!
The “Pozo de Yanayacu” – the source of love
Chachapoyas has always had fluctuating and sometimes climatic problems. The heavy rains and the heavy snow alternated with periods of great drought under which agriculture, especially the cultivation of sugarcane, suffered.
It was in such a dry period that the second archbishop of Peru, Toribio de Mogrovejo, visited Chachapoyas. And here begins the legend: it is said that De Mogrovejo touched with his cane a rock a kilometer from the Plaza de Armas. And just then, the water gushed from the rock and saved the inhabitants of Chachapoya from drought.
Two centuries later, the wealthy residents of the city wanted to commemorate the “Miracle of Yanayacu” and built a stone sanctuary with a small canopy over the fountain, which can still be visited today.
And, as is often the case with such sources of mystical origin, the healing powers are, of course, also attributed to the water of the source of love. Not only should life expectancy increase, but also help with all kinds of physical ailments. And, as a little extra for the ladies, the water should have the power to “captivate” the beauty of the woman and preserve it forever.
Another legend says that you can not remove a stone from the well. Thus, in 1936, a school principal stole one of the stones, after which it was assumed that the well had completely dried overnight. Only when the villagers noticed his theft and discovered that the stone was well hidden in one of his classrooms was he taken to his original place under the eyes of the locals’ eagle.
And when the inhabitants of Chachapoya ran to the well at dawn, the water gushed forth in all its splendor.
The Chapel of the Virgin Asunta
The patron saint of Chachapoyas, the virgin Asunta, was formerly known as “Virgen de la Asunción”, “Virgen de la Asunción”. And here too, as is usually the case in Peruvian culture, history is mixed with legend.
Then, a rich Peruvian should have had a painting of the Virgin, but refused to leave this to the local clergy. But one night, it is said that he appeared to the Virgin in a dream and so he ran to the church the next morning and instructed him to build a new chapel in the hills of Luya Orco. The cleric, astonished, but convinced of a miracle, began construction immediately and it is said that he heard from the mountains the ringing of the bells throughout the construction period.
Today, the chapel of the Assunta Virgin belongs to a retirement home, but you can still visit, of course. The statue of the Virgin is extremely animated and there is a separate room in the adjoining room of the chapel for all its different costumes and its precious jewels. And the Virgin is better equipped than some fashionistas: more than 100 different costumes are attracted to the statue on certain occasions.
Every year from the 1st to the 15th of August, the feast of the Blessed Virgin is celebrated. And, of course, the statue gets its best clothes and the most precious and extraordinary jewels, and is carried through the streets with a solemn procession. Each church in Chachapoyas is visited, no matter how small a chapel is, and on the way the children throw colorful confetti, dance groups offer their folk dance shows and in general there is a very happy mood.
The churches themselves erect a special altar for the Asunta honors for them in the church, which is then blessed by a priest. By the way, the feast of the Assunta Virgin is celebrated in many parts of Peru. At Culco, it has been officially part of Peru’s cultural heritage since 2015.
Other attractions in the city
Hotels in Chachapoyas
Here you can stay overnight
Chachapoyas can only be reached by land. Alternatively from Lima by plane to Tarapoto and from there by car. continue.