Discover the intriguing remains of the Chachapoya culture on this colorful tour of northern Peru. Visit archaeological sites, see hundreds of mummies in Leymebamba, then take a break and hike to Gocta Waterfall, one of the world's highest cascades. Find out how to manage your time with this 12-day trip plan.

Highlights

  • Discover the archaeological treasures of Trujillo
  • Visit Kuelap, the fortress of the Chachapoya cloud warriors
  • Hike to the Gocta waterfalls, one of the highest in the world
  • Visit of the Museum of Leymebamba with its 219 mummies

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrival in Lima Lima
Day 2 Fly to Trujillo Trujillo
Day 3 Fly to Trujillo, Explore Chan Chan & Huanchaco Trujillo
Day 4 El Brujo & Journey to Chiclayo Chiclayo
Day 5 Chiclayo - Chachapoyas Chachapoyas
Day 6 Chachapoyas to the Archaeological complex of Kuelap Chachapoyas
Day 7 Hike to Gocta Waterfall Chachapoyas
Day 8 Amazonas - Sarcophagi of Karajia – Chachapoyas - Huancas Chachapoyas
Day 9 Mausoleum of Revash and Mummy Museum Leymebamba
Day 10 Transfer Leymebamba to Cajamarca Cajamarca
Day 11 Cajamarca - Cumbemayo – Ventanillas de Otuzco Cajamarca
Day 12 Fly from Cajamarca to Lima, Depart Peru  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrival in Lima

Lima's Plaza Mayor
Lima's Plaza Mayor

Welcome to Lima, Peru's largest city and central metropolitan hub, and home to a 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 mild desert climate and breezy location on the Pacific Ocean make it a 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. 
  • 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 café or restaurant in the diverse Miraflores neighborhood.

Day 2: Fly to Trujillo

This morning, you will be picked up from your hotel in Lima and transferred to the airport to catch your flight to Trujillo. You'll have a free afternoon to relax and explore on your own while you settle into your hotel after a long day of traveling.

Day 3: Explore the City - Chan Chan, Huaca Arco Iris & Huanchaco

Relief murals in Chan Chan
Relief murals in Chan Chan

Head out 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 found on its walls. From here, continue to the world's largest mud-brick citadel: the Chan Chan fortress. This city was once home to 100,000 people of the Chimu culture, with vast buildings, royal palace rooms, and sprawling workshops to house the city's artisans. 

Continue to Huanchaco, a traditional fishing beach town famous for its totora reed boats, known locally as the "Caballitos de Totora". These boats, made out of the thick and buoyant totora reed, have been used for fishing and surfing for centuries. Enjoy lunch in the seaside town, then return to Trujillo in the afternoon. If there's time, take a detour to explore the small historical city center of Trujillo before returning to the hotel for the evening.

Day 4: El Brujo & Journey to Chiclayo

Cave paintings in Peru's north

In the morning, set off to Chiclayo in the nearby region of Lambayeque. Along the way, stop at the archaeological site of Huaca El Brujo. Believed to have been inhabited by humans for roughly 5,000 years, the site is mainly associated with the Moche culture (100-700 CE).

This 98-foot tall adobe pyramid is famous for the discovery of the tomb of the Lady of Cao, also known as the Lady of Tattoos. Her tomb was the first female Peruvian mummy to be discovered dressed as a warrior and buried in a manner similar to the male aristocratic warriors, and her discovery changed perceptions of women in pre-Hispanic societies. 

Day 5: Chiclayo - Pyramids of Tucume - Museum Tumbas Reales - night bus to Chachapoyas

Hiking in northern Peru's quiet landscapes

This morning you will visit the Archaeological Complex of the Pyramids in Tucume, a valley that is home to 26 adobe pyramids from the Lambayeque culture. You will also visit the site museum and climb on the viewpoint on top of the Cerro Purgatorio in order to enjoy the beautiful view on the valley and the pyramids, just before having lunch (not included).

Continue the journey to the Museum Tumbas Reales of the Lord of Sipan in Lambayeque where you will see the remainings of the Lord of Sipan, as well as over 2,000 pieces and jewelry in gold, silver, and copper, as well as jewelry made of feathers and fabrics. In the afternoon, back to Chiclayo and time to rest and visit the town before boarding your night bus to Chachapoyas.

Day 6: Chachapoyas to Kuelap

Ride a cable car to the archaeological complex of Kuelap

You'll arrive early into Chachapoyas, with plenty of time to check into your hotel and get some breakfast. Afterward, leave Chachapoyas for the archeological complex of Kuelap. After a one-hour drive, you'll arrive at the bus to the cable car. Travel 10 minutes to the starting platform, board the cable car and travel another 20 minutes while enjoying spectacular views from high overhead.

Take a break at La Malca, the base for an easy, scenic 1.5-mile walk.  Then visit the fortified city of Kuelap. Built from 400 CE and rediscovered in 1843, with more than 500 circular buildings and other religious buildings such as El Torreo, Kuelap has buildings decorated with friezes, diamonds and stylized beings, representing the major deities. The visit will take two to three hours. Then walk back to La Malca, come down on the cable car, and have lunch in a local restaurant before the journey back to Chachapoyas.

Day 7: Hike to Gocta Waterfall

Gocta waterfall, one of the world's highest

After a hearty breakfast, hit the trail for a 2-3 hour hike to the famous Gotca waterfall. The hike is approximately 3.7 miles and crosses sugarcane fields and small country roads before leading you through the misty cloud forest. This ecosystem is home to many unique wildlife species, most notably the bright orange cock-of-the-rock—Peru's national bird. After a beautiful hike, enjoy a well-earned rest by the waterfall. Brave visitors may even take a dip in the pool at the base of the waterfall, but be forewarned: it's quite cold.

Day 8: Amazonas - Sarcophagi of Karajia - City Tour Chachapoyas - Huancas

Sarcophagi of Karajia, funeral statues of the Chachapoya culture

Today, you'll leave early and drive along the Utcubamba Valley before taking the uphill road to Cruz Pata for about two hours. From there, walk another two kilometers and arrive at the Sarcophagi of Karajia, the funeral statues of the Chachapoya culture.

After the visit, leave for Chachapoyas, where you'll have lunch and a city tour beginning at the Plaza de Armas. Then drive to Huancas, a village well known for its pottery traditions. From Huancas, walk to the viewpoint of the Canyon de Sonche, the highest canon in the Peruvian Amazonia. Then head back to Chachapoyas, passing the viewpoint of Luya Hurco—from here, you'll enjoy an amazing view on Chachapoyas and the majestic mountains around it.

Day 9: Mausoleum of Revash and Mummy Museum

The high-altitude Mausoleum of Revash 

Transfer to the district of San Bartolo. Take a short hike, then visit the Mausoleum of Revash, another remnant of the Chachapoya funeral constructions: it's situated on a mountain cliff and decorated with symbols like the Andean cross.

Have lunch in nearby Leymebamba before continuing onto the Museum Mallqu, where you will see a collection of 219 mummies in perfect conservation state. Also on display are archaeological pieces of the Chachapoya culture, including fabrics, ceramics, and wooden statues.

Day 10: Transfer Leymebamba to Cajamarca

A postcard-like view over the Maranon Valley

Leave Leymebamba and drive up to the mountaintop of Barro Negro. From there, you'll have a stunning view over the Maranon Valley and the mountain chains of the Andes. Then drive downhill to the Balsas Valley, where you'll see the fruit trees bearing coconut, mangoes, plums, and avocados. Continue to Celendin before arriving in Cajamarca in the afternoon.

Day 11: Cajamarca - Cumbemayo – Ventanillas de Otuzco

Sightseeing at the Ventanillas de Otuzco

Leave Cajamarca for Cumbe Mayo. On the way, visit the viewpoint Bellavista as well as the pre-Inca temple of Layson. Continue onto the Stone Forest and the Canal of Cumbe Mayo, the most important pre-Inca hydraulic work of this period.

In the afternoon, travel to the Ventanillas de Otuzco, one of the most important pre-Inca cemeteries: it pertains to the Cajamarca culture.

Day 12: Fly from Cajamarca to Lima, Depart Peru

An example of ornate Peruvian architecture 

Today is your last day in Peru. You will be met at your hotel for a transfer to the Cajamarca Airport, where you will catch your flight back to Lima and then transfer to your international flight back home or to your next destination. Buen viaje!