This off-the-beaten-path itinerary takes you the archaeological sites of the Chachapoya culture in northern Peru. You'll visit pre-Inca ruins, see hundreds of mummies in perfect condition, hike to one of the world’s highest waterfall, and see funeral constructions built into cliffsides—and have some fun in Lima at the start and end of the trip, too.

Highlights

  • View ancient stone art at Chan Chan
  • Trek around the Pyramids of Tucume
  • Hike to one of the world's highest waterfalls
  • Visit of Kuelap, the fortress of the Chachapoya cloud warriors

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrival in Lima Lima
Day 2 Flight to Trujillo & Visit to Huaca de La Luna Trujillo
Day 3 Huaca Arcoiris, Chan Chan & Huanchaco Beach Trujillo
Day 4 El Brujo & Journey to Chiclayo Chiclayo
Day 5 Chiclayo - Pyramids of Tucume - Museum Tumbas Reales - night bus to Chachapoyas Chachapoyas
Day 6 Chachapoyas to the Archaeological complex of Kuelap Chachapoyas
Day 7 Hike to Gocta Waterfall Chachapoyas
Day 8 Amazonas - Tours Mausoleum of Revash – Museum of Leymebamba Leymebamba
Day 9 Transfer Leymebamba to Cajamarca Cajamarca
Day 10 Cajamarca - Cumbemayo – Ventanillas de Otuzco Cajamarca
Day 11 Fly from Cajamarca to Lima, Depart Peru  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrival in Lima

Lima's Plaza Mayor
Lima's Plaza Mayor

¡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. 
  • 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: Flight to Trujillo & Visit to Huaca de La Luna

Huaca de La Luna
Huaca de La Luna

This morning, head to Lima airport to board your flight to Trujillo in northern Peru. Transfer to the hotel and have lunch
before a three-hour excursion to the famous Huaca de la Luna, an adobe mud pyramid made by the Moche civilization (100-750 CE) and decorated with mural paintings representing their main deities. You can also visit the fascinating site museum, which shows pieces found in the excavations from the last few decades.

Day 3: Huaca Arcoiris, Chan Chan & Huanchaco Beach

Chan Chan
Stone art in northern Peru

Enjoy a four-hour excursion to some of the most interesting sites around Trujillo. First, visit the Huaca Arco Iris, an adobe pyramid decorated with colorful high-relief on its walls. Next, see the world's largest mud-brick citadel, Chan Chan. This place was once home of 100,000 inhabitants of the Chimu civilization, who stubbornly resisted the expansion of the Inca Empire.

Drive to Huanchaco, a traditional fisherman's village famous for its totora reed boats. These boats have been used for fishing and surfing in the Pacific since pre-Hispanic times. Have a traditional Peruvian meal lunch in Huanchaco before heading back to the hotel to rest.

Day 4: El Brujo & Journey to Chiclayo

Paintings on the stone walls at Huaca El Brujo

In the morning, set off for 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.

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

Wide-open landscapes at Tucume

Visit the Archaeological Complex of the Pyramids of Tucume, a valley that is home to 26 adobe pyramids from the Lambayeque culture. Check out the site museum and climb on the viewpoint on top of the Cerro Purgatorio to enjoy beautiful views over the valley and the pyramids before lunchtime.

Continue the journey at the Museum Tumbas Reales of the Lord of Sipan in Lambayeque, where you'll see the remains of the Lord of Sipan as well as over 2 000 pieces and jewelry in gold, silver, and copper. In the afternoon, return to Chiclayo and take time to rest and visit the town before boarding a night bus to Chachapoyas.

Day 6: Chachapoyas to the Archaeological complex of Kuelap

Visiting the archaeological complex of Kuelap

Arrive early into Chachapoyas. Check into your hotel and get some breakfast before traveling to the archaeological complex of Kuelap. After a one-hour drive and a short transfer by bus, you'll board a cable car for a 20-minute ride over the region. Stop at La Malca, the starting point for a scenic 1.5-mile walk.  

The fortified city of Kuelap dates from 400 CE and features more than 500 circular buildings and other religious buildings, like the temple known as El Torreon. The buildings are decorated with friezes, diamonds and stylized figures that represent the major deities.  

The visit to the site lasts two to three hours. Then walk back to La Malca and make the return journey on the cable car. You'll have lunch in a local restaurant before driving back to Chachapoyas.

Day 7: Hike to Gocta Waterfall

Awe-inspiring Gocta Waterfall

After a hearty breakfast, hit the trail for a two-hour hike to the famous Gocta Waterfall. The trail leads you past sugarcane fields and along small country roads before taking 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 the 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 warned: it's cold!

Day 8: Amazonas - Tours Mausoleum of Revash – Museum of Leymebamba

Mausoleums Revash
Mausoleums 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 a museum where you'll 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 9: Transfer Leymebamba to Cajamarca

A sweeping view over the Maranon Valley

Today, leave Leymebamba and drive up to a mountaintop called 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 fruit trees bearing coconut, mangoes, plums, and avocados. Continue to Celendin before arriving in Cajamarca in the afternoon.

Day 10: 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 11: Fly from Cajamarca to Lima, Depart Peru

An ornate building facade in Lima

Today is your last day in Peru. You'll be met at the 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!