Go off the beaten path in northern Peru to discover some of the country's most incredible archaeological sites. Besides touring pre-Columbian temples and pyramids, you'll also visit Indigenous and Spanish-colonial landmarks in cities like Cajamarca. As a bonus, you'll hike up to one of the country's most beautiful waterfalls, tour "Machu Picchu of the North," and visit an actual mummy museum.


  • Discover pre-Hispanic ruins like Chan Chan
  • Visit the Mummy Museum in northern Peru
  • Tour the grounds of the impressive Kuélap citadel
  • Hike to Gocta Waterfall, the tallest in Peru

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Lima, Optional Activities Lima
Day 2 Fly to Trujillo, Temple of the Moon Trujillo
Day 3 Day Trip to Chan Chan & Huanchaco Trujillo
Day 4 Transfer to Cajamarca, City Tour Cajamarca
Day 5 Day Trip to Cumbemayo & Ventanillas de Otuzco Cajamarca
Day 6 Transfer to Leymebamba, Mummy Museum Leymebamba
Day 7 Visit Kuélap, Transfer to Chachapoyas Chachapoyas
Day 8 Day Hike to Gocta Waterfall Chachapoyas
Day 9 Karajia Sarcophagi & Quiocta Caverns Chachapoyas
Day 10 Fly to Lima, Depart  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Lima, Optional Activities

The Lima Cathedral sits on the Plaza Mayor (main square)

¡Bienvenidos! Welcome to Peru! This country's famous history is evidenced in its Spanish-colonial landmarks, ancient Inca ruins, and other archaeological sites that predate even those two historical periods. You'll arrive in the capital of Lima, which is Peru's largest city. This metropolitan hub has its own complex history, as it was part of the Inca empire in the 15th century and later conquered by the Spanish. Today its population of over 10 million people represents a diverse mix of cultural influences, including Amerindian, Afro-Peruvian, and Asian—especially Chinese and Japanese.

At the airport, a driver will pick you up at the terminal and transfer you to your hotel in the upscale Miraflores neighborhood. The ride takes about an hour, and after checking into your hotel, you'll have the rest of the day to explore Lima on a self-guided tour. Lima's breezy location on the Pacific Ocean and mild desert climate make it the perfect city for exploring on foot.

Perhaps start in the historic center, which is filled with Spanish-colonial landmarks, such as the Lima Cathedral, which dates to 1535. For culture and history, head to Museo Larco, which is housed in a restored viceregal mansion and boasts a vast collection of pre-Columbian art and artifacts. Later in the day, return to Miraflores and Parque del Amor (Love Park), which sits on the coastal cliffs and is the perfect spot to enjoy an unforgettable sunset over the Pacific. Then maybe enjoy a nightcap at a trendy bar or restaurant in Miraflores. 

Day 2: Fly to Trujillo, Temple of the Moon

Temple of the Moon
The Temple of the Moon near Trukillo predates even the Incas

In the morning, a driver will pick you up for the ride back to the airport, where you'll catch a one-hour flight to Trujillo. Located in the far north of Peru, this city is known for its rich Spanish-colonial heritage, as seen in the colorful facades of the well-preserved churches and buildings in its historic center.

Upon arrival at the airport, another driver will transfer to your hotel. After settling in, you'll take a 30-minute ride west of the city to the Temple of the Moon, one of the most impressive archaeological sites in the region. This pre-Hispanic mud pyramid was sacred to the ancient Moche people, a civilization that flourished in this area from 100-750 CE. During a tour, keep an eye on the temple walls, which are adorned with colorful murals and the religious symbol Ai-Apaec, or "God of the Mountains."

Despite the prevalence of archaeological ruins in this region, the Mochica culture is not at all extinct. After visiting the temple and its on-site museum, continue to a pottery and handicrafts shop to view and learn about the traditional crafting methods preserved by the Mochica people over the centuries.

Day 3: Day Trip to Chan Chan & Huanchaco

Relief murals in Chan Chan
Impressive relief murals on the walls of buildings in Chan Chan

Head out in the morning for a full day of sightseeing near Trujillo. Your first stop is the Huanco Arco Iris, or Rainbow Temple, named for the mysterious and colorful high reliefs on its walls. From here, continue to the world's largest mud-brick citadel: the Chan Chan. Covering an area of 7.7 square miles (20 sq km), this well-preserved adobe city was once home to 100,000 people of the pre-Inca Chimú culture. Highlight buildings include vast residences, royal palace rooms, and sprawling workshops where the city's artisans once plied their trade.

After touring Chan Chan, you'll travel to adjacent Huanchaco, a scenic fishing village famous for its long beach and traditional reed boats, known locally as the "Caballitos de Totora." These boats, made from the thick and buoyant totora reed, have been used for fishing for centuries. Enjoy lunch in this charming seaside town before returning to Trujillo in the afternoon. 

Day 4: Transfer to Cajamarca, City Tour

Cajamarca is a historically significant city located in the northern Andes

After an early breakfast, you'll meet your driver for the trip north from Trujillo to Cajamarca. This city is nestled high in the Andes and is known for its stunning mountain scenery, Baroque colonial landmarks, and Inca historical sites. The drive into the highlands takes about six hours, but there will be stops for food and to stretch your legs.

Upon arrival in Cajamarca, you'll check into your hotel, then head out for a tour of the city and its nearby historical sites. The first locale your guide will lead you to is Baños del Inca, a complex of hot springs believed to have been a favored retreat for the Inca rulers. More significantly, this site is home to the Ransom Room. It was in this small room in 1532 that Inca emperor Atahualpa was held captive by the Spanish conquistadors led by Francisco Pizarro. Atahualpa offered a room full of gold and silver as a ransom, and though the Spanish accepted, they executed the Inca ruler anyway.

Afterward, you'll tour the Plaza de Armas, the city's main square. It's filled with several impressive Baroque colonial churches and monasteries dating from the 17-18th centuries. At the end of the day, you'll return to your hotel.

Day 5: Day Trip to Cumbemayo & Ventanillas de Otuzco

Ventanillas de Otuzco is comprised of funerary niches dating back around 2,000 years

Get ready to tour some more incredible archaeological sites. In the morning, you'll meet your guide/driver and leave Cajamarca on a one-hour ride west to the pre-Hispanic site of Cumbe Mayo. On the way, you'll stop at the famous Bellavista viewpoint to enjoy panoramic vistas of Cajamarca and the surrounding Andes. You'll also stop at pre-Inca ruins of temples and sacrificial stones. 

Eventually, you'll arrive in Cumbe Mayo. Estimated to be around 3,000 years old, this ancient stone aqueduct was built by the pre-Inca Cajamarca civilization. Besides the history, it offers a glimpse into the engineering skills of these ancient peoples.

You'll return to Cajamarca in time for lunch. Later in the afternoon, you'll travel to another vital Cajamarca archaeological site: Ventanillas de Otuzco. Dating back about 2,000 years, this site is known for its unique funerary niches carved into a rock face, resembling small windows or ventanillas in Spanish. These niches were used by the Cajamarca culture and later by the Incas for burial purposes. At the end of the afternoon, you'll return to your hotel.

Day 6: Transfer to Leymebamba, Mummy Museum

In Leymebamba, see artifacts and remains from the Chachapoya civilization

Today you're off to the northern Amazonas region of Peru. Your driver will pick you up from the hotel after breakfast, and you'll begin the six-hour transfer to Leymebamba. This small town is the gateway to northern Peru's famous Chachapoyas region, known for its lush cloud forests, deep river valleys, and soaring mountains. 

This is a long trip but a scenic one. On the way, you'll pass colorful highland cities like Celendin and ascend to high mountain passes like Abra de Gelic (10,170 ft/ 3,100 m). There, you'll enjoy sweeping views of the mountains and the Río Marañon valley. You'll also stop at a roadside restaurant for lunch.

Eventually, you'll descend into the Río Atuen valley and reach Leymebamba (7,217 ft/ 2,200 m). Once in town, you'll check into your accommodation and visit its most famous attraction: the Mummy Museum. It houses a remarkable collection of artifacts and mummies (200 of them) from the Chachapoya civilization, which were discovered in the nearby Laguna de los Cóndores. 

Day 7: Visit Kuélap, Transfer to Chachapoyas

Kuélap is a pre-Inca site known as "Machu Picchu of the North"

Head out in the morning on a 15-minute drive to the El Tingo district. This area is home to the archaeological site of Kuélap, which was built by the Chachapoya people and is often referred to as the "Machu Picchu of the North." At the entrance to Kuélap, you'll board a cable car for the 20-minute ride up to the mountain ridge where the site is located.

Dating to the sixth century CE, Kuleap spans an area of 150 acres (60 ha) and sits at an elevation of around 10,000 feet (3,000 m). It comprises hundreds of stone structures, including circular buildings, defensive walls, and ceremonial platforms. Like Machu Picchu, this site affords 360-degree views of the surrounding Andes peaks. During a 2-3-hour tour, you'll visit the most iconic structures, including the Main Citadel and Atalaya Watchtower.

After the tour, you'll enjoy lunch nearby, then continue driving a few more hours north to the town of Chachapoyas. Upon arrival, you'll check into your accommodation and have the evening free.

Day 8: Day Hike to Gocta Waterfall

The Gocta Waterfall is one of the highest waterfalls in the world

Lace up your hiking boots because today, you'll enjoy one of the most famous treks in Peru: the hike to Gocta Waterfall. After transferring to the trailhead, you'll head out on the path, which will take you past agricultural farms and deep into the cloud-forest ecosystem. During this section, you'll spot a number of native bird species, including hummingbirds and gallito de las rocas (Andean cock-of-the-rock), the national bird of Peru. You'll also see exotic flora like orchids and bromeliads.

Eventually, you'll arrive at the spectacle of Mother Nature, which is Gocta Falls. Plunging 2,530 feet (771 m) over a cliff, this is one of the tallest waterfalls in the world (and the highest one in Peru). The lush greenery and dramatic cliffs surrounding the falls add to the beauty. After spending time enjoying the scenery, you'll hit the trail back the way you came. Know that this is a challenging hike, taking around six hours to complete. For this reason, it's also possible to complete most of the journey on horseback.

Plan your trip to Peru
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.

Day 9: Karajia Sarcophagi & Quiocta Caverns

The anthropomorphic figures at Karajia date back over 750 years

In the morning, meet your driver for the 1.5-hour drive from Chachapoyas to Karajia. This peculiar funerary site consists of a set of unique sarcophagi. Known as the purunmachus, these anthropomorphic figures are perched high on a cliffside overlooking the Utcubamba Valley. Upon arrival at a nearby town, you'll hike on foot for about 30 minutes to the sarcophagi viewpoint. Once there, you'll have a great vantage point to admire these striking icons, which have been overlooking the valley for over 750 years.

Later, you'll have lunch, then head over to the Quiocta Caverns. This remarkable limestone cave system stretches 4,900 feet (1,500 m) and is known for its impressive stalactites and stalagmites, which you'll see on a brief spelunking tour. Afterward, you'll return to your hotel in Chachapoyas.

Day 10: Fly to Lima, Depart 

Sun setting over the whitewashed buildings in Cajamarca

Savor one last breakfast in Peru because it will be your last until fate brings you this way again. At the appropriate time, a driver will pick you up for the 3-4-hour drive to the town of Jaen. At the airport, you'll board a 1.5-hour flight back to Lima and catch your connecting flight home. Safe travels! 

More Great Peru Itineraries

Looking for more inspiration for your trip to Peru? Check out these other Peru itineraries, explore different ways to spend 10 days in Peru, or learn about the best time to visit Peru.


Map of Discover Northern Peru: Lima, Trujillo, Chiclayo & Chachapoyas - 10 Days
Map of Discover Northern Peru: Lima, Trujillo, Chiclayo & Chachapoyas - 10 Days