Peru’s ‘second Machu Picchu’ is opening up

18th Dec 2014
Written by: Ben Roberts

Ruins to become more accessible

Machu Picchu, appropriately, sits at the top of many a travel bucket list, a rewardingly hard-to-reach Inca site and bonafide wonder of the world. Now it turns out that Peru has been hiding something even better up its sleeve.

The stone fortress of Kuelap lies in the north of the country, almost a thousand kilometres apart from its famous cousin. It was built by the Chachapoya people, known as the ‘cloud people,’ on top of a high mountain ridge overlooking the Utcubamba Valley. It’s been a cultural heritage site since 2003, but has remained somewhat obscure due to its inaccessibility and lack of name recognition.

That’s all about to change. In an effort to boost tourism in the north of the country the Peruvian government has granted permission for a cable car to be built to allow unprecedented easy access to the ruins.

‘Kuelap could be a second Machu Picchu, easily,” said Peru’s president Ollanta Humala, according to newspaper Gestion. “With Kuelap, we can create a tourist circuit that will be as competitive as the south.”

The fortress is one of the largest ruins in the world, featuring more than 200 buildings spread over 600 metres. It was built sometime around 500AD to deter aggression from the Incas, making its upcoming tourism face-off with Machu Picchu all the more apt.

Until now only visitors intrepid enough to tackle the steep mountainside terrain have reached Kuelap. Increased accessibility, of course, could be something of a blessing and a curse. Opening the site up is undoubtedly of benefit to curious travellers who want to visit somewhere untouched by tourism, but when the cable cars open in 2016 it might not stay that way for long.

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