The Incan ruins of Machu Picchu outside Cusco, Peru grab the lion's share of that country's travel press. But before the Incas stormed through this region in the 15th century, there were actually some other clever people living in Peru. They built an impressive city and lived in circular houses on a mountaintop in the north, near the town of Chachapoyas (meaning “People of the Clouds”).
A shot of the ruins of Kuelap, the citadel they built in those clouds, can be seen in the panorama below.
We tend to carry a healthy dose of skepticism with us when visiting ruins, but this particular pile of rocks — and its stories — exceeded our expectations.
360-Degree Panorama: Pre-Incan Ruins at Kuelap in Northern Peru
Our Kuelap tour guide was refreshingly honest — he admitted that almost all the information available about the ruins was speculation. He offered competing theories from archeologists the world over and suggested that we decide which explanations made most sense to us.
Wonder why the “cloud people” lived in circular homes? One theory suggests that this structure offers better protection against earthquakes. Another keys off inhabitants' superstition: circular homes don't provide corners for spirits to hide in.
Our money is on the latter.
See those short rock wall dividers inside the dwellings? (You have to look really hard.) Piles of cuy (guinea pig) bones found in those areas suggest that they were family guinea pig pens. Now, before you think how cute it was for parents to allow their kids to keep their pets inside the house, we remind you of #1 on this post.
Although the Incas steal the limelight for Peru, remember there were groups of people living there before them…and no one really knows much about them.
That's part of the fun.