Ancient fortresses, a museum with hundreds of mummies, towering pyramids, one of the highest waterfalls in the world: this 13-day trip showcases the best of northern Peru, featuring stops in Trujillo, Kuelap, Chiclayo, and Cajamarca.

Highlights

  • Discover Trujillo, Chan Chan, and Huaca de la Luna y del Sol
  • Explore the Pyramids of Tucume
  • Visit Kuelap, the fortress of the Chachapoya cloud warriors
  • Hike to the Gocta waterfalls, one of the highest in the world
  • Go to the Museum of Leymebamba with its 219 mummies 

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrival in Lima Lima
Day 2 Lima City Tour, Barranco & Miraflores Lima
Day 3 Fly to Trujillo Trujillo
Day 4 Fly to Trujillo, Exploring the City-Chan Chan, Huaca Arco Iris & Huanchaco Trujillo
Day 5 El Brujo & Journey to Chiclayo Chiclayo
Day 6 Chiclayo - Pyramids of Tucume - Museum Tumbas Reales - night bus to Chachapoyas Chachapoyas
Day 7 Chachapoyas to the Archaeological complex of Kuelap Chachapoyas
Day 8 Hike to Gocta Waterfall Chachapoyas
Day 9 Amazonas - Sarcophagi of Karajia – City Tour Chachapoyas - Huancas Chachapoyas
Day 10 Mausoleum of Revash and Mummy Museum Leymebamba
Day 11 Transfer Leymebamba to Cajamarca Cajamarca
Day 12 Cajamarca - Cumbemayo – Ventanillas de Otuzco Cajamarca
Day 13 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: Lima City Tour, Barranco & Miraflores

Colorful houses in the Barranco neighborhood
Colorful houses in the Barranco neighborhood

Spend this day discovering the cultural and historic center of Lima. 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 Saint Francis Monastery and see the catacombs. 

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.

Stop for lunch in the bohemian neighborhood of Barranco, popular with artists and creatives. The colorful neighborhood is famous for its array of unique street art and boutique art galleries. Catch up on some souvenir shopping at Dedalo, a stylish store that specializes in high-quality Peruvian handicrafts. 

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 cliffs over the ocean, and it's a perfect place to enjoy a spectacular sunset over the Pacific. Enjoy a nightcap at one of the many open-air cafes or restaurants.

Day 3: 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 4: Exploring Chan Chan, Huaca Arco Iris & Huanchaco

Stone art at Chan Chan
Stone art at 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 5: El Brujo & Journey to Chiclayo

Ancient wall paintings at Chiclayo

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

Photo ops in sunny Tucume

This morning you will visit the Archaeological Complex of the Pyramids of Tucume, a valley that is home to 26 adobe pyramids from the Lambayeque culture. Stop into 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.

After lunch, continue the journey to the Museum Tumbas Reales of the Lord of Sipan in Lambayeque, where you'll see over 2,000 pieces of jewelry made with gold, silver, copper, feathers, and fabrics.

In the afternoon, return to Chiclayo and take some time to rest and visit the town before boarding the night bus to Chachapoyas.

Day 7: 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 8: Hike to Gocta Waterfall

Gocta Waterfall, one of the highest cascades in the world

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 9: Amazonas - Sarcophagi of Karajia - City Tour Chachapoyas - Huancas

Sarcophagi of Karajia, Chachapoya funeral statues

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 10: Mausoleum of Revash and Mummy Museum

The picturesque 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 a museum 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 11: 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 12: 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 13: 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!