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The Kuelap Fortress
Amazonas Peru

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: The rainy climate and the steamy forest mean the best time of year for visiting Kuelap is from May to September, although the climate is always hot (maximum 22°C and minimum 13°C).

Access: The Kuelap fortress lies 74 km (5 hours) southwest of the city of Chachapoyas. The city, capital of the department of Amazonas, is 410 km from the city of Chiclayo. There are no regular flights, but groups can charter planes in Chiclayo.

Located at an altitude of 3,000 meters, in the cloud forest of the department of Amazonas, Kuelap 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 high and completely surround the complex. The complex of Kuelap must have been impregnable to invading warriors from neighboring kingdoms, although finally the Inca soldiers managed to conquer the Chachapoya.

The citadel of Kuelap is made of stone, but unlike Inca architecture, featured fantastic and animal figures, and changed the traditional pattern of geometric designs. The common buildings were circular, and some of these have been reconstructed so that the few visitors who come here (due to the difficult access) can see how the people lived here, amidst orchids and bromeliads.

Basically, the fortified city of Kuelap consists of two gigantic human-made overlying platforms above which stands what was once the settled area. It has three entrances; two of these located at the East and the third at the opposite end of the fortress.

Its impressive defensive battlements, made out of limestone, rise 20 meters high and delimit the "lower town" and the "upper town" of this citadel.

The Lower Town consists of 335 circular structures. Standing out in the southern section is a construction resembling an inverted cone known as the "Tintero" (Ink well) and measuring 5.5 meters in height and 13.7 meters in diameter. Inside, it has a bottle-shaped chamber, which is over 5 meters deep. It is believed to have been a ceremonial construction.

The Upper Town has 80 stone constructions. The "Castillo" (Castle) and the "Torreon" (Watchtower) are the most outstanding. The former consists of three overlying platforms and is also thought to have been used for holding ceremonies. The "Torreon", in the north section of the Upper Town, is 7 meters high.

The skill and wisdom of its enigmatic inhabitants, the Sachapuyos, is evident throughout the fortress of Kuelap. They built their city on a mountain summit for purposes of controlling access and making use of the slopes as land for cultivation.

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