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Treasures of Peru: The archaeological riches of the north

15 days from £4060pp

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Treasures of Peru: The archaeological riches of the north

15 days from £4060pp

Private Journey


Day 1

Arrive in Lima. Transfer to hotel in the Pacific coast district of Miraflores.
You will be met at the airport and escorted to your hotel on the Pacific-side residential and commercial district of Miraflores by one of our local representatives. The half-hour drive to the hotel through Lima is not the most enchanting introduction to this city of extreme contrasts, but it does encapsulate the invigorating buzz of a modern-day Latin American capital.

Lima is a vast, complex metropolis, with a history dating from the era of its wealth and importance to Imperial Spain to its current status as a dynamic, growing city of trade, industry and tourism.


Day 2

Visit Pachacamac ruins, the Archaeology and Larco Museums.
Guided tour to the ruins at Pachacámac, 32km south of Lima and one of  the most important sacred ceremonial sites on the Peruvian coast, dating back to approximately 200AD.

Although much of this extensive site has yet to be fully restored, several huge pyramids have been excavated including partially restored Temple of the Sun and the Mamacuña - the House of the Chosen Women. As recently as 2012 Belgian archaeologists discovered a vast oval tomb containing some 80 burial tombs which appear to have escaped the extensive looting common in Peru, and remain virtually intact.

Return to Lima for a visit to the National Archaeological Museum which houses an extensive collection of pottery, weavings and monoliths from the pre-Columbian civilisations. Chief among the exhibits are some important stelae and obelisks from the ancient Andean ruins at Chavín.

Day 3

Discover the exciting new pre-Columbian site at Caral.
Depart Lima by road for 3 hrs to the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Caral, a city 26km inland from the coast founded circa 2,600BC. It is a monumental construction which is overturning many of the accepted theories of Peruvian archaeology. Indeed, it is believed to be the oldest city in South America. 

The arid site lies on the southern fringes of the Supe Valley, where further ruins are continually being revealed. There’s time to explore this remarkable ancient city which, in complete isolation from other cultures, managed to reach an unparalleled degree of sophistication, with religion as the binding factor of control and social cohesiveness. Return to Lima.


Day 4

Fly to Trujillo; city tour, visit the Archaeology Museum.
Fly to Trujillo, set in a coastal oasis, in the morning.  In the afternoon there’s a guided tour of this port city, which has an attractive colonial heart. Visit this historical centre including the 'Plaza de Armas' and its cathedral which was built in 1647. Surrounding it are a number of attractive mansions from the Spanish colonial era.

Afterwards, continue to the archaeological museum run by the National University of Trujillo. The collection is installed in a 17th century house featuring seven rooms of artefacts from the pre-Columbian cultures of northern Peru, in chronological order. 


Day 5

Visit Huacas del Sol and de la Luna and the Chimu city Chan Chan.
Discover two temples 5km from Trujillo which date to the Moche Culture. Firstly visit the 1,500 year-old Huacas de Sol (Temple of the Sun), built with many millions of moulded adobe bricks. Directly opposite, the Huaca de la Luna (Temple of the Moon) dazzles with its decorated walls and impressive friezes. 

Have lunch at a restaurant on the coast at Huanchaco Bay, where fishermen continue to venture out to sea in fragile straw skiffs.  In the afternoon, take a tour of Chan Chan, the extensive pre-Columbian adobe citadel of the Chimú empire, considered the largest of its kind at over 20km sq.

The partially restored city gives a true insight into ancient Peruvian civilisation. It was founded somewhere between 850 and 1300AD – no one is sure, but it is older than the Inca empire which subdued it in 1470. At the apogée of the city’s influence it housed somewhere between 30,000 and 60,000 people and stored a wealth of gold, silver and pottery.  There are three areas to visit, including the Huaca de Dragón, a ceremonial or ritual pyramid. 

Chan Chan

Day 6

Private road transfer to Cajamarca via El Brujo
Into the Andes: it’s a drive of at least 6hrs (excluding stops) to Cajamarca: a beautiful trip. The sinuous road rises from the austere rocky desert of the coast through green valleys carved between the steep mountain walls of the Andes.  Simple farmsteads and livestock dot the bucolic landscape. En route to Cajamarca, you’ll visit El Brujo  - “Temple of the Wizard”- a Moche built complex of adobe temples.

The graceful colonial town of Cajamarca is the commercial centre of Peru's northern highlands, and lies in a fertile, flowery region of cattle pasture. One of the biggest cities in the Inca empire, Cajamarca was the place where Pizarro ambushed and put to death the emperor, Atahualpa. 

northern archaeology

Day 7

Guided excursion to Cumbe Mayo.
Within easy reach of the town are the pre-Inca aqueduct and petroglyphs of Cumbe Mayo, the highlight of today’s excursion.

Visit the colonial hacienda of La Collpa, a cooperative farm owned by the Ministry of Agriculture, which breeds cattle and is set amidst attractive lakes and gardens. The tour then continues to the picturesque Andean village of Llacanora, visiting the nearby cave paintings, before arriving at the pre-Inca aqueducts of Cumbe Mayo.

These water channels run for several kilometres and are said to be the oldest man-made structures in South America. From this isolated plain at 3,600m you can also appreciate the enormous and unusual rock formations of the area. The tour finishes with a visit to the pre-Inca ceremonial site of Layzón, which dates back to 200 BC.


Day 8

Road transfer to Leymebamba.
By road to the agreeable town of Leymebamba. The spectacular route twists and turns through varied scenery - rolling hills, verdant farm terraces and arid mountain landscapes. Drive up to the lip of the Marañon Canyon before the long descent to the river below. Crossing the river at Balsas, you ascend 3,600m up the eastern side of the canyon. From the top, it is 50 minutes down to the village of Leymebamba. The drive takes about 9hrs in total, travelling via the market town of Celendín, famous for its straw hats.

Day 9

Visit Leymebamba Museum, the tombs of Revash and continue to Chillo.
In the morning visit Leymebamba museum which houses over 150 mummies found at Laguna de los Cóndores in 1997. Drive to Yerbabuena, followed by a 2hr steady walk uphill to enjoy a close-up view of the spectacular tombs of Revash. This extremely photogenic site is perched on a yellow cliff and the tombs resemble miniature houses, with rust red pictographs. The site dates back to 1,200 AD. Continue on to Chillo, an hour's drive away following the line of the Utcubamba river.
museum of mummies

Day 10

Full day guided expedition to hilltop Kuelap.
You start early for the 90min drive up to the citadel of Kuelap. The all-weather road winds round the mountain opposite - and as you climb, you begin to appreciate the feat of man-power and engineering which built the towering walls that completely encircle the whole of the elongated hilltop above.

Occasional shafts of sunlight pierce the mist that swirls through the ramparts and cloud forest. You're just a few degrees south of the equator, but here at 3,030m the climate is cold yet humid.  

The monumental limestone redoubts enclose temples and dozens of thatched roundhouses.  The renowned historian John Hemming describes Kuelap thus: "of all the ruins in Peru…the most spectacularly defended, the strongest by European standards of fortification".  Yet recently, speculation has focused on the site as being less of a defensible fortress and more of a ceremonial centre. Judge for yourself, as you explore the complex and enjoy the views over the river far below.


Day 11

Land transfer to Chachapoyas via Karajía.
Take a morning drive to the tiny hamlet of Caserío Cruz Pata, the starting point for a 45min walk to the archaeological site at Karajía, the burial place of some of the elite Chachapoya warriors. The site is known for the colossal sculptured sarcophagi: some of these statues, carved into the rock face, are up to 2.5m tall, and intricately decorated.

In the afternoon drive to Chachapoyas, a pleasant town which lies at a highland crossroads between the Amazon basin and the coast and is named after the mysterious Chachapoya civilisation, about which little is known but which has left a vast and rich archaeological heritage in the region.


Day 12

Trek to Gocta Falls. Overnight at Cocachimba.
Travel by road to the small town of Gocta to begin the hike to the Gocta waterfall. Walk for 2hrs through a valley of sugar cane fields and into rainforest home to orchids, giant ferns, yellow-tailed woolly monkey, mountain sloths and the cocks-of-the-rock.

Set over two drops measuring 771m, the fall was unknown outside the immediate surrounding villages until a German tourist spotted them from afar in 2005. He measured them and discovered they were the third highest falls in the world. Overnight in Cocachimba.

Gocta Falls

Day 13

Road transfer to Chiclayo.
Continue by road to Chiclayo. It is a 9-10hr drive through the narrow Utcubamba canyon and into the foothills of the Andes finally arriving at Chiclayo, an important port on the north Pacific coast. It is also situated in one of Peru's most important agricultural regions.

Day 14

Visit Sipán, Tumbas Reales and Sican Museums, Túcume.
Situated 35km from Chiclayo, Sipán is an extensive burial site of the Moche culture - a civilisation that flourished on the north coast of Peru between 100 and 800AD. Several royal tombs, filled with 1,700 year-old funeral offerings of the Moche culture, were uncovered containing pieces worked in precious metals, stone, pottery and textiles.

The most startling discovery of the original excavation was of an entombed Moche leader, who became known as the Lord of Sipán.

This was followed by the finding of an even older tomb - predating the former by 200 years. There is a site museum featuring details of the excavation work and replicas of some of the finds.

Later, visit the Royal Tombs of Sipán Museum where the original pieces are now exhibited. The museum, 17km from Chiclayo, is a replica of the Moche pyramid under which the tombs were found.

In the afternoon, travel to Ferreñafe, 18km north of Chiclayo, where the Sican Museum's reconstruction of the Sican tomb provides visitors with an unparalleled insight into this complex culture. The exhibition covers everything from daily domestic life to craftsmanship and manufacturing processes used to produce the distinctive gold and ceramic works of art.

The museum also provides the perfect introduction to the next part of the excursion a trip to Túcume, a vast Sican archaeological complex, known as the Valley of the Pyramids. The settlement appears to date back to around 1,000-1,100AD with the largest and most impressive structures found in the monumental sector to the north and northeast of La Raya Mountain.

Lord Sipan

Day 15

Fly to Lima and connect with international flight home.

Fly to Lima and connect with international flight home.

15 days from £4060pp

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