Explore the history of the pre-Inca civilizations that inhabited northern Peru on this thrilling 15-day tour. You will start in Lima, the coastal capital. Enjoy a cosmopolitan experience before heading north to Cajamarca to see temples and ancient graves. From here, you'll drive to the Amazonas region to visit mausoleums, mummies, and the ruins of Kuelap. Then, you'll drive to the coast for more archaeological excursions, including Caral, the oldest civilization in the American continent.

Highlights

  • See pre-Inca graves carved into the mountains in Cajamarca
  • Visit the Leymebamba Museum to see its 219 well-preserved mummies
  • Study the colorful murals of the Temple of the Moon near Trujillo
  • Tour the ruins of Chan Chan, the UNESCO-recognized capital of the Chimu Empire
  • Explore the Sacred City of Caral, the oldest civilization in the Americas

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Lima Lima
Day 2 Lima City Tour Lima
Day 3 Lima Free day Lima
Day 4 Transfer to Cajamarca Cajamarca
Day 5 Transfer to Leymebamba Leymebamba
Day 6 Mummy Museum & Mausoleum of Revash Leymebamba
Day 7 Citadel of Kuelap Tour Chachapoyas
Day 8 Sarcophagi of Karajia Tour Chachapoyas
Day 9 Transfer to Chiclayo Chiclayo
Day 10 Tour of Huaca Rajada, Tucume & Tumbas Reales Chiclayo
Day 11 El Brujo Archaeological Site & Trujillo City Tour Trujillo
Day 12 Sun & Moon Temples & Chan Chan City Ruins Trujillo
Day 13 Archaeological Site of Sechin Tour Casma
Day 14 Sacred City of Caral Tour Caral
Day 15 Depart from Lima  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Lima

Miraflores, Lima
Miraflores, Lima

Welcome to Peru! This exciting adventure begins as soon as you land in the capital city of Lima, where a representative will pick you up and transfer you to your hotel.

After resting, you will have the rest of the day off to explore Lima on your own. You will be staying in Miraflores, Lima's chicest neighborhood, where you'll get beautiful coastline views.

Day 2: Lima City Tour

Lima's Municipal Building
Lima's Municipal Building

Spend the day on a grand tour of Lima. You'll begin at the historic center, where the "City of Kings" was founded in 1535 by Francisco Pizarro. Then,  you’ll go to the Plaza Mayor, and the San Francisco Convent and its catacombs.

In the afternoon, you'll visit the Larco Herrera Museum, one of Lima's best museums. Inside, you'll get to see a large collection of pottery and fabrics made by the Moche civilization, as well as the Paracas and Nazca civilizations.

You'll have the evening to enjoy Lima at leisure. You can buy cocktails with coastal views in Miraflores, or treat your tastebuds to some exquisite local fare.

Day 3: Lima Free day

La Ermita, Barranco's most important cathedral
La Ermita, Barranco's most important cathedral

Take advantage of a free day in Lima to further explore the city.

We recommend heading a bit out of the way to the bohemian neighborhood of Barranco, which is notorious for its street art and small family-owned restaurants that never fail to deliver on flavor. 

You could also go for a walk along the Malecon, the seaside walkway that begins in Miraflores and continues all along the coast. You'll pass by the Parque del Amor, or "Love Park" and enjoy some gorgeous views. You can even catch a beautiful sunset.

Day 4: Transfer to Cajamarca

Pre-Inca graves at Ventanillas de Otuzco
Pre-Inca graves at Ventanillas de Otuzco

This morning, you'll get on the road with Cumbemayo as your destination. On the way, you'll stop at the Bellavista Viewpoint and the pre-Inca temple of Layson, where you will see a sanctuary and a sacrificial stone.

You'll then continue to the Stone Forest, a collection of sharp rocks protruding out of the mountainside like trees. After seeing this wonderful natural site, you'll head to the Canal of Cumbemayo, the most important pre-Inca hydraulic work in the region. 

In the afternoon, you'll travel to the Ventanillas de Otuzco, one of the most well-known pre-Inca cemeteries in Peru. Carved onto the side of the mountains like ventanillas (small windows), these graves belong to the Cajamarca culture, and are considered an archaeological treasure.

After the tour, you will head to Cajamarca to rest for the night.

Day 5: Transfer to Leymebamba

The road to Leymebamba
The road to Leymebamba

Get excited to head into the incredible Amazonas region! On the road, you'll pass by the astonishing Marañon valley, with its namesake river and seemingly-endless rows of lush mountain ranges. You'll stop at a local roadside restaurant for lunch, and get a true taste of the regional cuisine. Then, you'll descend to the valley of the Atuen River, finally reaching Leymebamba.

After a long day on the road, you can stretch your feet by walking around the town and taking in the mountain views You can also rest at your accommodation.

Optional: Wood Crafts Workshop
Visit Miguel Huaman, a local wood artist who makes all the replicas for the Leymebamba Museum. He has taught himself everything about traditional Chachapoyas wood carving, and loves sharing this knowledge with visitors. After a lesson on techniques and their significance, you'll be able to put your new knowledge to the test and paint your own sarcophagus—an important tradition for the Chachapoyas culture.

Day 6: Mummy Museum & Mausoleum of Revash

The Mausoleum of Revash
The Mausoleum of Revash

After breakfast, you'll embark on a day of archaeological exploration. First, you'll head to the Mummy Museum, which boasts 219 mummies, as well as artifacts of the Chachapoyas culture, including textiles, ceramics, woodcarvings, and Inca quipus. 

Then, you'll drive to San Bartolo, from where you'll do a 45-minute trek to the Mausoleum of Revash—a Chachapoya funeral construction. The graves are situated on a mountain cliff, and look like roofed houses with one to three levels. Many of the graves are decorated with symbols such as the Andean cross.

You will then continue to Nogalcucho for an overnight homestay with a local family in a private conservation area. Enjoy a delicious dinner with your hosts before turning in to rest.

Day 7: Citadel of Kuelap Tour

Kuelap
Citadel of Kuelap Ruins

Leave Leymebamba early in the morning and drive for about an hour to El Tingo district. From here, you'll take the cablecar up to La Malca, the gateway to the fortified citadel of Kuelap.

Built in the 5th century CE, the ruins of this citadel comprise more than 500 circular buildings, including the famous Major Temple. The buildings are decorated with friezes, diamonds, and stylized beings that represent major deities. You'll spend about 3 hours on a guided tour of this archaeological site, learning about the people who inhabited it.  

After the tour, you'll stop by a local restaurant for lunch, and then make your way to Chachapoyas, where you will rest for the night.

Day 8: Sarcophagi of Karajia Tour

Sarcophagi of Karajia, Chachapoyas
Sarcophagi of Karajia, Chachapoyas

Depart on an early morning ride through the Utcubamba Valley to Cruz Pata.

Once here, you'll walk for about a mile to the Sarcophagi of Karajia, the funeral statues of the Chachapoya culture. The sarcophagi are approximately 8-feet tall, have human forms, and are decorated with skulls, figures, and colors. Only the figures of utmost importance are buried in these tombs, so their significance cannot be overstated. Your guide will give you a bit of history and explain more about the rituals that were practiced at this burial site.

After the tour, you'll head back to Chachapoya for an evening at your leisure.

Day 9: Transfer to Chiclayo

Statues representing the arrival of the Incas in Yortuque Walk, Chiclayo
Statues representing the arrival of the Incas in Yortuque Walk, Chiclayo

It's time to leave the beautiful Amazonas region, and embark on a 7-hour drive to the coast of Northern Peru; more precisely, to Chiclayo.

Chiclayo is the gateway to several archaeological sites of importance, but continues to be somewhat neglected by international visitors. This evening, you'll get to walk around the town. We recommend visiting the Plaza de Armas, St. Mary's Cathedral, and the Mercado Modelo. At the latter, you can try different local dishes and buy fresh produce.

Day 10: Tour of Huaca Rajada, Tucume & Tumbas Reales

The Pyramids of Tucume
The Pyramids of Tucume

Get ready for a full day of archaeological excursions. You'll begin with a visit to the famous Huaca Rajada, where the grave of the Lord of Sipan was found. Although the grave and many of the artifacts that were excavated here have been taken to another museum (which you'll also get to see), the site is still incredibly interesting.

You'll then continue to the Archaeological Complex of the Pyramids of Tucume, a valley that is home to 26 adobe pyramids from the Lambayeque culture. You'll also visit the on-site museum and climb the viewpoint on top of the Cerro Purgatorio to enjoy a beautiful view of the valley and pyramids.

The next stop is the Tumbas Reales Museum. This is where you will find the remains of the Lord of Sipan, as well as over 2,000 pieces and jewelry in gold, silver, copper, feathers, and different fabrics. Many of the relics found in Huaca Rajada have been brought here to be enjoyed by the public.

After the tour, you'll go back to Chiclayo for the night.

Day 11: El Brujo Archaeological Site & Trujillo City Tour

Plaza de Armas, Trujillo
Plaza de Armas, Trujillo

Today, you will depart from Chiclayo and drive in the direction of Trujillo.

On the way,  you will stop at El Brujo Archaeological Complex and the Museum of the Lady of Cao. This is one of the most valuable archaeological sites on the northern coast of Peru. It was first occupied in the Pre-Ceramic Period around 3000 BCE, and was also inhabited by the Mochica people from 0-700 CE. 

There are two main discoveries in this complex. The first is a large adobe pyramid that stands at 98ft (30m), and has representations of the Mochica culture in high relief. The pyramid includes captivating images like “the Decapitator.” The second is the Lady of Cao, also known as the "Lady of the Tattoos." Discovered as recently as 2006, her tomb contained pottery and ornaments of gold, silver, and copper. It is the first found mummy of an ancient Peruvian woman who was buried in the robes of the warrior aristocracy.

After you have explored this fascinating complex, you will continue to Trujillo. Once you  arrive, you will begin a tour of the city, passing through the Plaza de Armas, the beautiful yellow Trujillo Cathedral, the Iturregui Palace, and other major landmarks.

Day 12: Sun & Moon Temples & Chan Chan City Ruins

Detail of Chan-Chan city ruins
Detail of Chan-Chan city ruins

The day begins with a visit to the Sun and Moon Temples in Trujillo. The complex is a Moche sanctuary and was once the capital of this civilization. The Temple of the Sun is a tiered pyramid that was used for administrative purposes. The Temple of the Moon is highlighted for its large polychrome murals, which often depict religious motifs and iconography related to important deities. Evidence of human sacrifices has been found here, further cementing the site's importance as a religious center.

After a thorough guided tour of the complex, you will have lunch in a local restaurant in Huanchaco. As you enjoy your meal, you'll get a beach view with the famous caballitos de totorra, traditional boat crafts that have been used by Peruvian fishermen for about 3000 years!

In the afternoon, you will go to the archaeological complex of Chan Chan, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The complex was the capital of the Chimu Empire, which flourished in the region after the fall of the Moches. The ruins are surprisingly well-preserved, and you can still see the fine details that decorated the adobe walls of the ancient city. 

Day 13: Archaeological Site of Sechin Tour

Stone carvings in Sechin
Stone carvings in Sechin

You'll depart in the morning for the archaeological site of Sechin. This stone temple was built around 1600 BCE. Its facade is decorated with bas-relief figures and more than 300 stone carvings representing severed bodies, warriors, and wakes. The walls in the complex are thought to be the oldest monumental sculpture in the central Andes.

You'll then head over to the nearby Max Uhle Museum, where you will see a mummy with tattooed hands, a relief model of the Pampa Colorada site, and ceramics and textiles from different cultures.

Spend the night in nearby Casma.

Day 14: Sacred City of Caral Tour

The Sacred City of Caral
The Sacred City of Caral

On your last full day in Peru, you will drive to the Sacred City of Caral. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is about 5000 years old, dating back to the Late Archaic Period of the Central Andes. By these estimates, it is thought to be the oldest center of civilization in all of the Americas; older even than the Egyptian pyramids!

You will see the city's pyramid buildings, circular sunken square, places of mass public gatherings, a large residential complex, domestic units, and officials storages. Your guide will take you through the well-preserved site, explaining what is known about life in Caral, which at one point was home to about 3000 people.

After the tour, you'll have free time to celebrate your last night in Peru.

Day 15: Depart from Lima

The coast of Lima
The coast of Lima

Head back to Lima in the morning to catch your outbound flight. We hope you enjoyed your time in magical Northern Peru!