An itinerary exploring the unique cultures of North Coast of Peru, with a visit to Trujillo, Chiclayo, and Chimbote for some of the finest cultural spots in the North of Peru. A great 9-day trip for seeing the ancient cultures of this unique and vast region.

Highlights

  • Visit Caral, the oldest civilization in the Americas
  • Discover the Sechin archaeological site
  • Encounter ceremonial sites, temples, and tombs in Trujillo
  • Explore the adobe pyramids of Chiclayo
  • Follow Peru's beautiful coastline back to Lima
  • Enter the largest fishing port in the world, stay by the coast and dine on seafood

Overview

Spend a week exploring the important archaeological sites of northern Peru. Steeped in ancient civilization and strong culture, this is a tour for all ages. Stopping over at many of the great towns in the North, you'll come away with a deeper understanding of how Peruvian civilizations functioned many eras and millennia ago.

Brief itinerary

Day Destination  Overnight
Day 1 Arrival in Lima Lima
Day 2 Lima to the Sacred City of Caral  Casma
Day 3 Sechin to Trujillo Trujillo
Day 4 Huaca de la Luna, Dragon's Temple, Chan Chan, Huanchaco Trujillo
Day 5 Trujillo (Walking Tour) to Chiclayo Chiclayo
Day 6 Chiclayo Chiclayo
Day 7 Chiclayo to Chimbote Chimbote
Day 8 Chimbote to Lima Lima
Day 9 Depart Peru  

Route map

Route map
Route map for "Discover the North Coast Cultures of Peru"

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrival in Lima

Lima's seaside "Love Park"

¡Bienvenidos! Welcome to Lima, Peru's largest city and central metropolitan hub, and home to one-third of the country's population. Located at the site of a pre-Columbian indigenous Ychsma settlement, which was conquered by the Inca empire in the 15th century and later by the Spanish conquistadores, Lima has a fascinating history and a diverse mix of cultures. Amerindian, European, Afro-Peruvian, and Asian—especially Chinese and Japanese—influences make Lima a dynamic and exciting city to explore. 

Lima's breezy location on the Pacific Ocean and mild desert climate make it the perfect city for exploring on foot. Head downtown to mingle with locals, stretch your legs, and grab a bite to eat in one of the many award-winning restaurants. 

Suggested activities include: 

  • Explore the historic center of Lima, a UNESCO World Heritage Site packed with fascinating Spanish architecture. Start with a scenic tour of the colonial downtown, which emanates from the main square. Stroll over to the 16th-century Cathedral, which took 80 years to construct and was built in the grandiose style of the Spanish Empire. 

  • Visit the Casa Aliaga, a colonial mansion granted by chief conquistador Francisco Pizarro to Jerónimo de Aliaga, one of his captains, in 1535. This is the only house from that era that still belongs to the same family. 

  • Stroll around the Pueblo Libre district to the privately owned Larco Museum of pre-Columbian art, housed in a beautifully restored viceregal mansion built over a 7th-century pre-Columbian pyramid. The museum boasts a vast pre-Colonial collection of gold and silver artifacts, as well as pieces of erotic art.

  • In the evening, head to the eclectic "Love Park" in the upscale coastal district of Miraflores, where you can admire a huge kissing statue and beautiful mosaic walls.  The park is built on the cliffs of Chorrillos and is a perfect place to enjoy a spectacular sunset over the Pacific. 

  • Enjoy a nightcap at an open-air cafe or restaurant in the diverse Miraflores neighborhood.

Day 2: Lima to the Sacred City of Caral

Caral Site

After breakfast, you'll be picked up from your hotel around 8 am for a drive north (190 km away) from Lima. Arriving in Caral, you'll embark on a 1.5-hour guided tour. Caral, 5,000 years old, is considered the oldest civilization in the Americas. These ancient ruins are located in Supe Valley, with more than 150 acres. With terraced pyramids once part of the main center of the town, we'll learn how these ancient people lived in Caral area.

In this region, many pieces of textile, necklaces, flutes made from animal bones, and ceremonial burial relics have been discovered. You'll be able to appreciate the evidence of agricultural practices and religious ceremonials and how they measure the movement of the stars. Visiting Caral is an exciting experience from the beginning to the end.

Afterward, we will continue driving to Casma (2 hours approx.) where we will spend the night.

Day 3: Sechin to Trujillo

Sechin Archaeological Site

Today, we continue north on our coastal journey. We drive around 5 km. to get into the Sechin archaeological site. Dating to 1600 BC, discovered by Julio C. Tello, it was the capital of an entire culture, now known as the Casma/Sechin culture. Notable features include megalithic architecture with carved figures in bas-relief, which graphically dramatize human sacrifices.

Cerro Sechín is situated within the Sechin Alto Complex, as are Sechin Bajo and Taukachi-Konkan. The slabs at Cerro Sechin may represent the Central Andes' oldest known monumental sculpture.

After our excursion, we will start to drive in direction of Trujillo (4 hrs approx.). Along the way, we will drive through the Chimbote región (we will spend a night there when we begin the return route to Lima). You'll arrive in Trujillo in the late afternoon and you can go for a stroll around the main plaza and encounter the locals.

Trujillo is the third most populous city and center of the second most populous metropolitan area of Peru. It is located on the banks of the Moche River delta where it meets the Pacific Ocean. This was a site of the great prehistoric Moche and Chimu cultures before the Inca conquest and subsequent expansion.

The independence of Trujillo from Spain was proclaimed in the Historic Centre of Trujillo on December 29, 1820. It is the birthplace of Peru's judiciary, and it was twice designated as the capital of the country. It was the scene of the Revolution of Trujillo in 1932. Also known as the "City of Everlasting Spring", it is considered the "Capital of the Marinera", a traditional dance in Peru, "Cradle of the Peruvian Paso horse".

The city center contains many examples of colonial and religious architecture, often incorporating distinctive wrought ironwork. It includes residential areas, a central business district, and industrial supply distribution to the various districts.

Day 4: Trujillo to Huaca de la Luna, Dragon's Temple, Chan Chan, Huanchaco

Temple of the Sun

Trujillo is close to two major archaeological sites of pre-Columbian monuments: Chan Chan, the largest adobe city in the ancient world, designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1986; and the Temples of the Sun and Moon (the largest adobe pyramid in Peru).

Around midday we will start our excursion, starting by the Temples of the Moon and the Sun part of Moche culture. These ceremonial centers are located in the countryside (15-min. ride).

The Huaca or "Temple of the Sun" is a scaled pyramid with a height of 43 mt. approx. According to studies, it was possible that it was built in a time of 3 days with the help of 250 men at least and using 70 million adobes. Built with ceremonial purposes and probably with administrative functions.

It is possible to see beautiful murals with the representation of Ai-Paec, the main God of this civilization, also known as the “Decapitator.” Also, there was a tomb discovered here with over 40 sacrificed Warriors inside.

We will visit the site museum where we will find the most important ornaments and pieces of pottery discovered during the process of excavations in these two temples.

Then, we will continue to the Dragon’s Temple, Huaca el Dragon (also referred to as “Huaca Arco Iris” or “Rainbow Temple”). This is a well-preserved Chimu temple in the Trujillo suburb of La Esperanza. Constructed of adobe and in somewhat of a pyramid shape, the temple is festooned in well-restored friezes of rainbows, people, and dragons.

Due to the presence of the rainbow carvings in the temple, researchers believe the temple was a tribute to fertility, as the rains represented by the arched bows are a life-giving resource here in the coastal desert. There is also evidence that the walls were once painted such as those found at Huaca de la Luna, although erosion from rains and centuries of looting have left the walls with only a hint of yellow glow.

More of a prelude to the larger temple complexes, the Huaca el Dragon is still a worthwhile stop on a temple tour of Trujillo.

Next, we will continue exploring Chan Chan Temple, this UNESCO World Heritage site is the largest pre-Columbian city in South America and was the center of Chimú culture and politics from approximately 900 to 1470 when the Incan Empire arrived and conquered the city.

We will explore the 7-square-mile (18-sq-km) archaeological site, touring its array of shrines, cemeteries, reservoirs and ceremonial plazas. Learn about its structure ( made from adobe brick and mud ) and marvel at its expansive, walled design. You’ll visit one of the main features, Nik-An Palace, a complex that features ceremonial courtyards and walls adorned with friezes.

Finally, we will depart to the fishing village of Huanchaco (15-min. ride), famous for the “Caballitos de Totora”, small boats made out of reed that has been used by Peruvian fisherman for 3,000 years.

We will head back to Trujillo town. Free time to stroll around Trujillo streets.

Day 5: Trujillo (Walking Tour) to Chiclayo

Trujillo Plaza

The historical center of Trujillo and visit to a colonial mansion-museum. Walking to the old Central Market, you will appreciate the activity of vendors as well as local products available in their most traditional way. Walking around the main square there will be time for pictures, before having lunch at a traditional restaurant. (If it is the weekend, you'll be able to enjoy a Marnera folk show at the restaurant.)

In the afternoon, we'll drive to Chiclayo (3.5 hours away), and check in at the hotel before going for a walk around the town.

Day 6: Chiclayo

Moche culture, Northern Peru
Moche culture, Northern Peru

This morning we will drive east to Huaca Rajada, which consists of an adobe pyramid built by the Moche people, the civilization that inhabited this region from the 1st to 8th centuries. We will explore and learn about the important excavation that unearthed the Lord of Sipán, who was buried with jewels and other treasures.

Then, we'll drive an hour north of Chiclayo to Túcume, also known as the Valley of the Pyramids (Valle de las Pirámides), an archaeological site made up of 26 pyramids. Here you will learn about the site’s history at the regional center for the Sicán culture, who are believed to have built Túcume around 700 AD and hear the legend of their god Naylamp.

We will stop for lunch at a local restaurant with regional food and then head back toward Chiclayo to end your day at the Lord of Sipán Royal Tombs Museum (Museo Tumbas Reales de Sipán). Some of the rarest artifacts from the Moche civilization, including those found buried with the Lord of Sipán, are housed in this museum, which opened in 2002.

Before going in, we take a moment to admire the museum’s unusual exterior, a replica of a Moche tomb. Inside, we'll see gold and silver artifacts, precious stones, jewelry, headdresses and other rare treasures found in the Moche tombs. We'll also learn about the Moche culture and what position the Lord of Sipán held in the ancient community.

Finally, we'll drive back to Chiclayo Town.

Day 7: Chiclayo to Chimbote

Chimbote Fishing Port

Around 10 am we will start our trip back to Lima but will drive only for 6 hours until Chimbote where will spend the night. Chimbote, once the fishing port with the highest production in the world, is still the largest fishing port in Peru, with more than 30 fish factories. Its population includes workers who have experience in fishing, naval, canning, and the iron-and-steel industry.

Day 8: Chimbote to Lima

The road back to Lima

Around 10 am we will continue our journey back to Lima (7 hours). We will do as many stops are necessary for toilets, photos or to stretch our legs. Arrival in Lima city!

Day 9: Depart Peru

A lighthouse in Lima's Miraflores district

Today is your last day in Peru! You will be met at your hotel for a transfer to the airport, where you will connect to your departure flight. ¡Buen viaje!