The Peruvian government intends to found a second Machu Picchu from the Chachapoya ruins in the north of the country, which were originally built in the 6th century.
These ruins were buildings created by the cloud people, who pre-dated the Incas and almost all record of whom was lost upon the arrival of the Spanish.
While nigh on every one of Peru’s callers will visit Machu Picchu, Chachapoya remains largely unexplored other than by the hardiest of backpackers. The government intends to alter that, taking some pressure off the crown jewel, which is endangered by ever-increasing footfall.
The centrepiece of the new attraction will be the fortress at Kuelap, almost 10,000 feet up, one of the largest ruins in the world.
There are around 200 buildings within. Its highest walls are 66 feet high. Use will also be made of neighbouring sites that include Chan Chan, Gran Pajaten, Leymebamba and Sipan.
These sites are little-visited because they’re inaccessible and not widely known. A cable car system is to be constructed to address the first of these problems, which will hopefully also lead to resolution of the second. This, the first step to popularising Chachapoya, was announced in December 2014.
The president of Peru, Ollanta Humala, expounded that “Kuelap could be a second Machu Picchu, easily.”
He hoped to initiate a tourist trail in the same league as the one in the south. It will open for business in 2016.
Each hour, 1,000 people will be conveyed by the $18 million cable car. The site will be developed by Telecabinas Kuelap SA, a joint venture between Peru’s Ingenieros Civiles y Contratistas Generales SA and the French company, Pomagalski SAS.
Kuelap made the news in January 2015 when a study by the University of Florida that was published in the International Journal of Paleopathology spoke of the earliest evidence of bone surgery: two male skeletons found at Kuelap that dated to between 800 and 1535CE.
One was an adolescent while the other was an adult aged between 30 and 34. The skeletons had holes drilled in their legs, possibly to relieve pressure from an injury or infection – the holes would have drained fluid.
Peru combines impressive archaeological remains with great biodiversity. Tourism is an increasingly important element of its economy.
Cover photo by Nicholas Waton