This 8-day tour is perfect for history buffs with a sense of adventure. Starting from the desert coast, make your way to where the Andes meets the Amazon, stopping to see some of Peru's best archaeology sites. Here you will find the impressive ruins of Kuélap (the Macchu Picchu of the north), the incredible sarcophagi of Karajia, painted mummies in Leymebamba, and a spectacular waterfall. Back to the coast, pay a visit to a museum with elaborate artifacts from the Moche civilization.

Highlights

  • Start the trip in Chiclayo with a drive to a valley that's home to 26 adobe pyramids
  • Discover 200+ mummies at a museum recovered during a 1997 excavation
  • Explore the sarcophagi of Karajia, clay tombs shaped in human forms on a cliff
  • Hike to one of the highest waterfalls in the world, surrounded by rainforest
  • Learn about the Lord of Sipán and tour a witch market on your last day

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Chiclayo - Visit the Pyramids of Túcume - Bus to Chachapoyas Chachapoyas
Day 2 Arrive in Chachapoyas - Free Time Chachapoyas
Day 3 Visit Revash - Transfer to Leymebamba - Visit the Mummy Museum Leymebamba
Day 4 Transfer to La Malca - Visit Kuélap - Transfer to Chachapoyas Chachapoyas
Day 5 Visit the Sarcophagi of Karajia Chachapoyas
Day 6 Transfer to Cocachimba - Hike to Gocta Waterfall - Bus to Chiclayo Chiclayo
Day 7 Bus to Chiclayo - Visit the Tumbas Reales Museum - Free Time Chiclayo
Day 8 Depart Chiclayo  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Chiclayo - Visit the Pyramids of Túcume - Bus to Chachapoyas

Túcume holds one of the oldest archeological sites known in the world

Welcome to Northern Peru! Upon arrival at Chiclayo Airport, you'll meet your guide and driver for an immediate excursion to the Pyramids of Túcume (26 miles/33km)—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.

This important archaeological site was the last capital of the kingdom of Lambayeque and Chimú, which flourished before the arrival of the Incas in Northern Peru. It's also one of the most critical pre-Hispanic monuments from the north coast of Peru. Here, the lords of Túcume lived with the luxury of demigods in enormous palaces decorated with drawings of mythical and ritual content, furnished and with exquisite jewels, and surrounded by priests, administrators, servants, and talented artisans.

In the afternoon, members of the Túcume community will offer a hands-on lesson of their native craft of cotton painting with natural colors.

After returning to Chiclayo, you'll transfer to a comfortable overnight bus headed to Chachapoyas, with dinner served on board.

Day 2: Arrive in Chachapoyas - Free Time

Observe the colonial architecture in town today
Observe the colonial architecture in town today

This morning, you'll arrive early in Chachapoyas by bus. Check out the scenery as you pull into this valley surrounded by a cloud forest.

From the bus station, you'll be pick-up and transferred to your hotel for your overnight. Take some time to rest after the bus journey and then spend the afternoon taking a walk around town. You can start with the pedestrian-friendly Plaza de Armas, where you'll find colonial architecture like the whitewashed Catedral San Juan Bautista. Also located here is the small museum called Instituto Nacional de Cultura Museo, which houses pre-Colombian ceramics and mummies found throughout the region.

Get plenty of rest tonight as the adventure continues with a big day tomorrow!

Day 3: Visit Revash - Transfer to Leymebamba - Visit the Mummy Museum

Get up close to these structures
Get up close to these house-like structures

This morning, you'll take a private transfer to the village of San Bartolo (51 miles/83 km) followed by a 45-minute walk on a half-paved trail to the Mausoleum of Revash. These spectacular buildings, evidence of the Chachapoya funeral constructions, are situated on a mountain cliff and resemble houses ranging between one and three levels. Look closely for decorations and symbols such as the Andean cross.

Following the visit, you'll walk back to the car and continue the drive to Leymebamba (24 miles/39 km). After lunch (included) in Leymebamba, you will make the short drive to the Mummy Museum, where you will see a collection of 219 mummies in perfect conservation state, along with many other objects from the Chachapoya culture, such as fabrics, ceramics, and even a quipus exhibition. The Incans used these knotted strings of cotton or wool for tallying populations in conquered areas.

At the end of the excursion, you'll be transferred to your hotel for the evening.

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Day 4: Transfer to La Malca - Visit Kuélap - Transfer to Chachapoyas

Most of the structures in Kuélap are circular
Most of the structures in Kuélap are circular

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."

Part of the fun is getting there with a 20-minute cable car ride 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. 

Then, 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 5: Visit the Sarcophagi of Karajia

Sarcophagi of Karajia
The sarcophagi of Karajia

After breakfast in Chachapoyas, you'll drive through the Utcubamba Valley to get to Cruz Pata (27 miles/44 km).

Once here, you'll walk for about a mile to the sarcophagi of Karajia, funeral statues of the Chachapoya culture. The sarcophagi are approximately 8-feet tall, have human forms, and are decorated with skulls, figures, and colors. Only the figures of utmost importance are buried in these tombs, so their significance cannot be overstated. Your guide will give you a bit of history and explain more about the rituals that were practiced at this burial site.

After the tour, you'll head back to Chachapoyas for a free evening. 

Day 6: Transfer to Cocachimba - Hike to Gocta Waterfall - Bus to Chiclayo

Get up close to this stunning waterfall
Hike to this spectacular waterfall

Today is an active one, so make sure to enjoy a hearty breakfast before leaving for Cocachimba (27 miles/43 km). This is your starting point for a hike to 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.

In the evening, you'll transfer to the bus station for an overnight bus ride to Chiclayo.

Day 7: Bus to Chiclayo - Visit the Tumbas Reales Museum - Free Time

Museo Tumbas Reales de Sipan
One of Peru's best museums is on today's agenda

This morning, you'll arrive back in Chiclayo, by bus, for your last day of the trip. 

After some breakfast, there will be an excursion to 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. Many of the relics found in Huaca Rajada have been brought here for public viewing. 

From here, you'll return to Chiclayo where you'll have the rest of the day to rest or explore on your own. Check out some of Chiclayo's most notable attractions, including parks, plazas, gardens, and markets. One of the more exotic market areas is a row of shops called the Mercado de Brujos (Witch Market), which offers all the ingredients for a proper brew potion, like tonics, herbs, mammal bones, and reptile skins, to name a few.

Day 8: Depart Chiclayo

The independence monument in Chiclayo commemorating the battle against the Spanish conquerors
The independence monument in Chiclayo commemorating the battle against the Spanish conquerors

It's time to say goodbye to Peru! At the designated time, you'll be picked up and transferred to Chiclayo Airport for your return trip home or next destination. ¡Buen viaje!