Chulla Chaka (Andean Sweat Lodge)
The Andean sweat lodge, or chulla chaka, is an ancient tradition that has been passed down from generation to generation here in Peru.
Our large chulla chaka at Source Peru is constructed of clay and mud and is conveniently located beside a step-down plunge pool that is constantly filled by the fresh, cold waters of the 100ft waterfall cascading above the property.
“Chulla chaka” is a Quechua word which translates to “bridge of dew.”
The chulla chaka has a deep hole in the center inside with boughs of fresh plants and herbs suspended above, and a large sacred fire pit located just outside the doorway outside. When the ceremony begins, the fire pit is filled with logs and large stones called apuchai – meaning little mountain in Quechua – that heat up in the flames of the sacred fire.
Before entering the chulla chaka, each participant is required to make a Q’intu from three coca leaves bound together with animal fat. You set your intentions into the Q’intu and then toss it into the sacred fire. Your body is then cleansed with the smoke from burning sage and you are invited to enter the chulla chaka. You are asked to kneel at the entrance and repeat a blessing in Quechua before entering the sacred space and moving to the left to find your place inside.
The process of the chulla chaka takes place in four stages, or doors, each representing one of the four elements. Once everyone has entered the chulla chaka, the first door is opened. At that point, hot stones are brought in from the sacred fire and transferred to the interior pit. One by one the stones are marked with symbols and blessed as they pile up in the center of the chulla chaka. When sufficient stones have been brought into the space, the door is closed, water infused with various plant essences is poured over the stones and the hot steam rises to fill the chulla chaka. Prayer and song fill the space as the steam intensifies. Eventually the physical door opens and the process repeats 3 more times, one for the “door” of each remaining element.
Because the process takes place in four rounds, or doors, the chulla chaka does not get as hot as many saunas or sweat lodge ceremonies that you may be accustomed to. There is also an opportunity to exit and cool off between rounds if you find the heat to be too much.
During the fourth and final door, each participant receives a massage and healing treatment using the plant properties of chamomile, eucalyptus, and muña for physical ailments and ajo macho, rata rata and ruda for energetic ailments.
At the end of the fourth door, the ceremony is closed and participants are welcome to either stay in the chulla chaka and continue to bask in its healing warmth or exit and wrap in a thick towel and stand by the fire outside. Daytime ceremonies are often followed by a dip in the plunge pool.