Steeped in history, this fascinating tour covers the most important archaeological sites of Northern Peru. Start the adventure with a few days to explore the capital of Lima. From here, fly north to Chiclayo and begin an epic road trip—by private transfer—visiting exceptional pre-Incan museums, complexes, and ruins. Over 13 days, you'll see a range of landscapes, like coastal deserts, Andean mountains, and a portion of the Amazon jungle, culminating with a hike to one of the world's highest waterfalls.

Highlights

  • Spend your first two nights in Lima's upscale neighborhood on the Pacific Ocean
  • See the mummy of an ancient Peruvian woman dressed in aristocratic robes
  • Explore the Sarcophagi of Karajia, clay tombs shaped in human forms on a cliff
  • Day-trip to Kuelap's walled settlement with hundreds of (mostly-round) structures
  • Lace-up your hiking shoes for spectacular views of the Gocta Waterfall

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Lima Lima
Day 2 Lima City Tour Lima
Day 3 Fly to Chiclayo - City Tour Chiclayo
Day 4 Visit Huaca Rajada, Tucume & Tumbas Reales Chiclayo
Day 5 Visit El Brujo - Transfer to Trujillo - City Tour Trujillo
Day 6 Visit the Sun and Moon Temples & Chan Chan City Ruins Trujillo
Day 7 Visit Kundur Wasi - Transfer to Cajamarca - City Tour Cajamarca
Day 8 Visit Cumbemayo & Ventanillas de Otuzco Cajamarca
Day 9 Transfer to Leymebamba - Mummy Museum Tour Leymebamba
Day 10 Visit the Sarcophagi of Karajia - Transfer to Chachapoyas - Huancas Tour Chachapoyas
Day 11 Visit Kuélap's Walled Settlement Chachapoyas
Day 12 Hike to the Gocta Waterfall Chachapoyas
Day 13 Fly to Lima - Depart Peru  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Lima

Aerial view of Lima
An aerial view of Lima

Welcome to Peru! This exciting adventure begins as soon as you land in the capital city of Lima, where a representative will pick you up and transfer you to your hotel.

After a little rest, enjoy some free time to explore Lima on your own. Since your hotel is located in Lima's chicest neighborhood, called Miraflores, it won't be hard to enjoy beautiful coastline views along the Pacific Ocean. A good place to start is "Love Park" 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 beautiful sunset. 

Day 2: Lima City Tour

Lima's Plaza Mayor
Start the tour in Lima's Plaza Mayor

After breakfast, you'll explore Lima with a private guide. The tour begins in the historic center, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, founded in 1535 by Francisco Pizarro. From Plaza Mayor, you'll find surrounding Spanish colonial architecture, including a grandiose 16th-century church—the Cathedral Basilica of Lima—that took 80 years to complete. 

You'll also have time to get inside the San Francisco Convent with its ornate altars and impressive dome. Many visitors come specifically for the underground catacombs, part of Lima's original cemeteries.

In the afternoon, you'll visit the Larco Herrera Museum—one of Lima's best museums with an extensive collection of pottery and fabrics made by the Moche civilization, as well as the Paracas and Nazca civilizations.

The evening is free to enjoy the city at your own pace. Perhaps you'd like to sip cocktails with coastal views in Miraflores and then treat your tastebuds to some exquisite Peruvian fare. Lima is a growing world-class culinary destination and offers a slew of inventive restaurants, so take advantage while you're here!

Day 3: Fly to Chiclayo - City Tour

Spend an afternoon touring the city of Chiclayo
Spend the afternoon touring Chiclayo's plazas and markets

After breakfast in Lima, you'll be picked up and transferred to the airport for your flight to Chiclayo in northwest Peru—the capital of the Lambayeque region and gateway to Northern Peru's archaeological sites. Upon arrival, you'll be picked up and transferred to your hotel, where you can check-in and get some rest. 

In the afternoon, join a half-day guided tour of Chiclayo's most notable attractions, including parks, plazas, gardens, and markets. One of the more unique market areas is a row of shops called the Mercado de Brujos (Witch Market), which offers all the ingredients for a proper brew potion, including tonics, herbs, mammal bones, and reptile skins, to name a few.

Day 4: Visit Huaca Rajada, Tucume & Tumbas Reales

Drive to the Pyramids of Tucume near Chiclayo
Drive to the Pyramids of Tucume near Chiclayo

After breakfast, it's time for a full-day tour of archaeological sites near Chiclayo!

You and your guide will begin with a visit to the famous Huaca Rajada, (also known as Sipán), where royal tombs made from adobe were discovered and excavated. Even though some graves and artifacts have moved to another museum, which you'll also get to see later in the day, the site is still incredibly fascinating.

The tour continues with the Archaeological Complex of the Pyramids of Tucume—a valley that's home to 26 adobe pyramids from Lambayeque culture. You'll also visit the on-site museum and climb to the top of Cerro Purgatorio, where you can enjoy a beautiful view of the valley and pyramids.

Next is the Tumbas Reales Museum, where you'll find remains of the Lord of Sipán, as well as 2,000+ artifacts made from gold, silver, copper, feathers, and different fabrics. As mentioned before, many of the relics found in Huaca Rajada have been brought here for public viewing. 

Following the tour, you'll return to Chiclayo for the evening.

Day 5: Visit El Brujo - Transfer to Trujillo - City Tour

Trujillo's Cathedral Basilica of St. Mary
Trujillo's Cathedral Basilica of St. Mary

This morning, it's time to depart Chiclayo and drive in the direction of Trujillo (132 miles/213 km).

En route, you will visit the El Brujo Archaeological Complex—one of the most valuable archaeological sites on the northern coast of Peru. It was first occupied in the Andean pre-ceramic period around 3000 BCE, and inhabited by the Mochica people from 0-700 CE. 

There are two main discoveries in this complex. The first is a large adobe pyramid that stands at 98 feet (30 m) and has representations of the Mochica culture in high relief. The pyramid includes captivating images like "the Decapitator." The second is the Lady of Cao, also known as the "Lady of the Tattoos." Her tomb, discovered as recently as 2006, contained pottery and ornaments of gold, silver, and copper. It was the first mummy of an ancient Peruvian woman buried in the robes of the warrior aristocracy.

After exploring this fascinating complex, you will continue the journey to Trujillo. Upon arrival, take a short tour of the city, passing through the Plaza de Armas, Trujillo Cathedral, Iturregui Palace, and other significant landmarks.

Day 6: Visit the Sun and Moon Temples & Chan Chan City Ruins

Detail of Chan-Chan city ruins
An example of the Chan-Chan city ruins

Today's excursion begins with a visit to the Sun and Moon Temples in Trujillo. The complex is a Moche sanctuary and was once the capital of this civilization.

The Temple of the Sun is a tiered pyramid once used for administrative purposes. The Temple of the Moon has large murals depicting religious motifs and iconography related to important deities. Evidence of human sacrifices has been found here, further cementing the site's importance as a spiritual center.

After a thorough guided tour of the complex, you will have lunch in a local restaurant in Huanchaco. While you dine, enjoy a beach view overlooking the traditional reed boat crafts, called Caballito de totora, used by Peruvian fishermen for about 3,000 years. 

In the afternoon, you'll visit the archaeological complex of Chan Chan, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and former capital of the Chimu Empire, which flourished in the region after the fall of the Moches. The ruins are surprisingly well-preserved with exquisite details on the adobe walls of the ancient city.

Following the tour, return to Trujillo for the evening.

Day 7: Visit Kundur Wasi - Transfer to Cajamarca - City Tour

A viewpoint in Cajamarca

After breakfast in Trujillo, it's time to begin the drive to Cajamarca (186 miles/299 km), a cultural city in Peru's northern Andes with impressive Baroque colonial architecture.

You'll make a few stops during the drive starting with the town of Huambocancha, which is well known for its granite and marble sculptors. Further along, you'll visit the archaeological site of Kuntur Wasi, one of the complete ceremonial centers of the pre-Incan period. Get up close to pieces of wrought gold, such as crowns, nose jewelry, and necklaces in the museum—indeed, these are some of the oldest items in South America. 

From here, continue driving to Cajamarca where you'll take a small city tour, followed by some free time in the evening.

Day 8: Visit Cumbemayo & Ventanillas de Otuzco

Ventanillas de Combaya—a pre-Incan cemetery
Ventanillas de Combaya—a pre-Incan cemetery

After breakfast in Cajamarca, you'll get on the road headed for Cumbemayo. On the way to this archaeological site, you'll stop at the Bellavista Viewpoint and the pre-Inca temple of Layson, where you will see a sanctuary and a sacrificial stone. 

Then continue to the Stone Forest, a collection of sharp rocks protruding out of the mountainside like trees. After seeing this magnificent natural site, you'll head to the Canal of Cumbemayo—known as the most important pre-Inca hydraulic work in the region. 

In the afternoon, you'll travel to the Ventanillas de Otuzco, an archaeological treasure and one of the most well-known pre-Inca cemeteries in Peru. Notice the small windows (ventanillas) carved into the mountainsides, which are graves belonging to the Cajamarca culture.

Following the tour, return to Cajamarca for the evening.

Day 9: Transfer to Leymebamba - Mummy Museum Tour

Countryside landscapes around Leymebamba
Countryside landscapes around Leymebamba

Today, you'll begin the journey to the valley town of Leymebamba in Peru's Amazon region (153 miles/246 km).

This route offers plenty of scenery: Along the way, you'll encounter a range of altitudes, valleys, mountain ranges, villages and even the city of Celendin, stopping at some point for lunch in a local restaurant.

Upon arrival in Leymebamba, you'll visit the Mummy Museum with over 200 mummies and an exceptional quipus collection. These knotted strings of cotton or wool were used by the Incans for tallying populations in conquered areas.

Following the tour, you'll have some free time to enjoy the evening.

Day 10: Visit the Sarcophagi of Karajia - Transfer to Chachapoyas - Huancas Tour

Sarcophagi of Karajia
Sarcophagi of Karajia

Today starts with an early departure to the Utcubamba Valley, where you'll take an uphill road to reach Cruz Pata. Then, walk a mile or so to arrive at the Sarcophagi of Karajia, the funeral statues of the Chachapoya culture. Enjoy some time to explore and photograph these clay tombs shaped in human forms set along the edges of a cliff.

Next, you'll depart in the direction of Chachapoyas (57 miles/92 km) arriving in the early afternoon. Here, you'll have lunch (included) and a city tour, beginning with the pedestrian-friendly Plaza de Armas, and the plains of Higus Hurco. You will then take another drive to Huancas, a village known for its handcrafted pottery.

From Huancas, you can take a 15-minute walk to the viewpoint of Canyon de Sonche, the highest canon in the Peruvian Amazon. That won't be all: On the return trip to Chachapoyas, you'll pass by a different viewpoint, called Luya Hurco, for a fantastic view of Chachapoyas and the majestic mountains.

The evening is free time to have dinner at your hotel.

Day 11: Visit Kuélap's Walled Settlement

Ruins of round houses of Kuelap near Chachapoyas
Round ruins of Kuelap near Chachapoyas

After an early breakfast, you'll depart for the archaeological ruins of Kuélap, the fortress of the Chachapoyas, known as the "Warriors of the Clouds."

First drive for an hour south to reach Kuélap and then board a cable car for a 20-minute journey to La Malca, the starting point for your visit. Upon entering La Malca, there's an easy one-mile walk, which takes about 30 minutes. 

From here, a local guide will teach you about this fortified city, which stands 9,800 feet (3,000 m) above sea level. Humans have lived in the area of Kuélap since the 5th century CE, but most of the structures were built between the 10th and 12th centuries CE (the fortress walls were discovered in 1843).

In total, Kuélap is made up of around 550 structures, all of which are circular, except for five. Make sure to check out notable sites such as Major Temple and El Torreón. Many of the buildings still contain friezes that represent the deities of the Chachapoyas civilization.

The tour will last about two to three hours, followed by lunch in a local restaurant. From here, you'll return to La Malca, by foot, and then transfer back to Chachapoyas, by car, for the evening.

Day 12: Hike to the Gocta Waterfall

Verdant landscapes surround the Gocta Waterfall
Verdant Amazonian landscapes surround the Gocta Waterfall

Today is an active one, so make sure to enjoy a hearty breakfast before leaving for Cocachimba, where you will begin your hike to the Gocta Waterfall.

Gocta is one of the highest waterfalls in the world, standing at an imposing 2,500 feet (771 m). Although this waterfall was known to the local community for centuries, it wasn’t until 2002 that the world caught wind of it after a German expedition publicized its location. The surrounding communities had kept the waterfall a secret based on a local legend that a mermaid protecting its waters would curse those who revealed its whereabouts.

The hike will take you through a beautiful setting, where you can experience the lush, abundant vegetation that creates this “cloud forest.” Along the way, you’ll be able to spot local flora and fauna, such as spatuletail hummingbirds and gallito de las rocas (the national bird of Peru), as well as orchids and bromeliads.

Be aware that the higher altitude of this waterfall makes it a more challenging hike, which takes about six hours total. If you’d like an alternate way of visiting Gocta, you can choose to travel by horseback. Keep in mind that the last mile of the journey will have to be done on foot since there is no path suitable for horses. This portion takes 45 minutes each way.

After immersing yourself in the natural beauty of Gocta, return to Chachapoyas for the evening.

Day 13: Fly to Lima - Depart Peru

Goodbye, Lima!
Goodbye, Lima!

It's time to say goodbye to Peru! At the designated time, you'll be transferred to the Jaen Airport, where you will catch your flight back to Lima. From here, catch your international flight back home or to your next destination. ¡Buen viaje!