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4. Kuelap & the World’s Third Highest Waterfall
Explore the Mysteries of the North

Long before the Inca swept through Peru, the Chachapoya people of the northern Andes established a mountaintop city called Kuelap (circa 500 a.d.) that holds its own in any battle of ancient engineering marvels. It’s been known to the modern world since 1843, when it was hailed as northern Peru’s "Tower of Babel," but since it didn’t have Hiram Bingham (and National Geographic’s ink) to tout its glories like Machu Picchu did, Kuelap remains little known and rarely visited to this day. The monumental fortress is an easy 23-mile drive south from the town of Chachapoyas. Kuelap has only three entrances, each a narrow staircase that slices through the outside wall, leading to a city of hundreds of limestone structures inside. Near Chachapoyas, you can also trek to the two-tiered, 2,530-foot Gocta Waterfall, the third highest in the world.

Vitals: The best way to reach Chachapoyas is to fly to the coastal city of Chiclayo from Lima. From there, take an overnight bus to Chachapoyas and explore the region on your own ($35; moviltours.com.pe). World Class Travel also offers a six-day combo that visits Kuelap and Gocta ($874, including transfers; peruperu.com).

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