Kuélap, Peru – Fortress of the round houses

It shall be South America’s largest construction. To build it more stones shall have been used than for Egypt’s Cheops Pyramid. Its grandeur is only outdone by Machu Picchu. Without knowing Machu Picchu yet, I entertain doubts. Kuélap is an imposing excavation worth seeing, but if it is a match for the Inca showpiece remains an open question. Built between 1200 BC and 900 AD by the relatively unknown Chachapoyas culture, the perfectly fortified citadel could never be conquered by the Inca, although they defeated other Chachapoyas towns.
Kuélap was constructed on a 3.100 m high rock plateau with vast view to the environs. The 700 m long oval fort is surrounded by ab12 m high wall. Only three narrow entrances lead into the inside – an ingenious safety system that transformed intruders to easy victims. The city contained 400 circular stone houses inside the fortification wall where probably 3,500 people lived. Some houses are decorated with geometrical patterns. One of the roundhouses from which only wall remnants are left was reconstructed by archaeologists, including the steep thatched roof. A watch tower and an upside down conical building are the most conspicuous buildings in that cloud forest, overgrown with bromeliads, and appearing as an enchanted garden.
Admission fee was recently reduced to 10 PEN (for most excavations, for locals and foreigners alike). Guides are available at the pay station. It’s a 2.5 km walk uphill. The good thing: There are not too many tourists yet.

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