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Treasures of Peru: The archaeological riches of the north

15 days from £3995pp

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Treasures of Peru: The archaeological riches of the north:
Trip Dossier

For the lover of history and bygone cultures, little-visited northern Peru has as least as much to offer as the more celebrated south. This journey is devised for the amateur archaeology enthusiast and incorporates a comprehensive selection of excursions to museums and historical sites, often with spectacular locations in remote landscapes. 

You hit the ground running with visits to Lima’s renowned museums and a full day excursion to Caral. Travel up the coast to colonial Trujillo and explore the vast Chimú desert adobe city of Chan Chan. Head inland to Andean Cajamarca in fertile dairy country. Continue on inland to the northern highlands, embellished with the ruins of elusive civilisations such as the Chachapoya, who constructed the massive hilltop fort at Kuelap. Continue by road to the port of Chiclayo and the tomb of the Lord of Sipán.

Short itinerary

Holiday itinerary

Day 1

Arrive in Lima. Transfer to hotel in the Pacific coast district of Miraflores.

Day 2

Visit Pachacamac ruins, the Archaeology and Larco Museums.

Day 3

Discover the exciting new pre-Columbian site at Caral.

Day 4

Fly to Trujillo; city tour, visit the Archaeology Museum.

Day 5

Visit Huacas del Sol and de la Luna and the Chimu city Chan Chan.

Day 6

Private road transfer to Cajamarca via El Brujo.

Day 7

Guided excursion to Cumbe Mayo.

Day 8

Road transfer to Leymebamba.

Day 9

Visit Leymebamba Museum, the tombs of Revash and continue to Chillo.

Day 10

Full day guided expedition to hilltop Kuelap.

Day 11

Land transfer to Chachapoyas via Karajia.

Day 12

Trek to Gocta Falls. Overnight at Cocachimba.

Day 13

Road transfer to Chiclayo.

Day 14

Visit Sipán, Tumbas Reales and Sican Museums, Túcume.

Day 15

Fly to Lima and connect with international flight home.

Detailed itinerary

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.

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 the 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.

Pre-Columbian archaeology

Day 3

Discover the exciting new pre-Columbian site at Caral.
Depart Lima by road for 3 hours 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 Huaca del 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 20km2.

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.

Chan Chan

Day 6

Private road transfer to Cajamarca via El Brujo.
Into the Andes: it’s a drive of at least 6 hours (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, where the Señora de Cao, a mummified, tattooed female Moche leader was discovered, and is on display.

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 9 hours in total, travelling via the market town of Celendín, famous for its straw hats.
Road to Leymebamba

Day 9

Visit Leymebamba Museum, the tombs of Revash and continue to Chillo.
In the morning visit Leymebamba Museum which houses over 200 mummies found at Laguna de los Cóndores in 1997. Drive to Yerbabuena, followed by a 2-hour 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 2-hour 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 manpower 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 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 Karajia.
Take a morning drive to the tiny hamlet of Caserío Cruz Pata, the starting point for a 45-minute 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 2 hours through a cloudforest, which is 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 explorer spotted them from afar in 2005. He measured them and discovered they were the third-highest falls in the world. Overnight in Cocachimba, the closest village to the falls.

Gocta Falls

Day 13

Road transfer to Chiclayo.
Continue by road to Chiclayo. It is a 9-10-hour 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 Lambayeque 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 Lambayeque 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 of Sipán

Day 15

Fly to Lima and connect with international flight home.

Fly to Lima and connect with international flight home.

Essential information


4 short internal flights; 4 long road journeys; 2 rail journeys.


Here we use a mix of family-friendly hotels, choosing accommodation we think is very comfortable but also extremely well located and with some local character. Whether colonial in style or modern they have-equipped rooms, private bathrooms and heating. 


Breakfast daily, lunch days 3, 5, 12; full board days 8, 9, 10, 11.


We carefully select our local partners, some of whom we have worked with for over 25 years. Their English-speaking guides understand the expectations of our clients very well, and are consistently singled out for praise by the latter on their return.

Included excursions

• Lima: Pachacámac ruins and Archaeological Museum.
• Lima: Larco Museum.
• Lima: Visit to Caral archaeological site.
• Trujillo: City tour and University Archaeological Museum.
• Trujillo: Full day visit to archaeological sites including Chan Chan.
• Cajamarca: Excursion to Cumbe Mayo.
• Leymebamba: visit to the museum and the tombs of Revash.
• Chillo: Tour of Kuelap ruined walled city.
• Chachapoyas: Trek to Gocta Falls.
• Chiclayo: Sipán and Tumbas Reales Museum.
• Chiclayo: Sican Museum, Túcume.

Summary of nights

15 days, 14 nights: Lima 3; Trujillo 2; Cajamarca 2; Leymebamba 1; Chillo 2; Chachapoyas 1, Cocachimba 1, Chiclayo 2.

Included in the journey price

• Services of Journey Latin America tour leader.
• All land and domestic air transport.
• Accommodation as specified.
• Meals as specified.
• Excursions as specified.

Not included in the journey price

• Insurance
• Tips and gratuities
• Meals other than specified
• Optional excursions


The unit of currency in Peru is the sol.

Daily spend

It is very difficult to give a guideline for essential expenses but a budget of around US$35 per day should cover the cost of meals not included in the holiday itinerary, drinks and the odd souvenir. Eat at the best restaurants and you will pay considerably more.

How to take it

Cash machines are available in all major cities and towns, and so taking a debit or credit card with a PIN number is the most convenient way of withdrawing money while on your trip, and in most shops and restaurants you can also pay by card. However, since cards can get lost, damaged, withheld or blocked, you should not rely exclusively on a card to access funds.  You are staying in some remote places where there may be no ATMs so always have some cash available.

We recommend that you take a reasonable quantity of US dollars cash (no more than is covered by your insurance), which you can exchange into local currency, and possibly some travellers’ cheques, though these are gradually falling out of use (American Express are the most widely accepted). Dollar bills should be in good condition, soiled or torn bills may be refused. You can take sterling, but the exchange rate is not always competitive or even available, restricting the number of places where you can change money.


Tips are welcomed and local guides often rely on their tip as a significant proportion of their income. 

Most service industry workers will expect a tip of some kind and so it is useful to have spare change for hotel porters, taxi drivers and the like. It is common to leave 10 - 12% in restaurants.

Tipping guidelines can be found in our Briefing Dossier.


Travel insurance is essential. 

Details of our recommended policy can be found on our Travel Insurance page. 

Airport taxes

If you have purchased your flights through Journey Latin America, the international departure tax is usually included in the ticket.

Journey grade

You are travelling to some remote areas which are slowly being opened up to visitors. Road journeys are long and some still unpaved, but always offer views over a landscape dominated by nature.

This holiday is suitable for all able-bodied, reasonably fit visitors. If one of your party has a disability or other special requirements, please call us.

The streets in Cusco are cobbled and steep.


The rainy season in the Andes runs between November and March when there are showers most afternoons.

The dry season is in June, July and August when the sun is strong during the day, but at night the temperature drops dramatically (from freezing point to 10°C). April, May, September and October are less predictable, with both rainy and sunny spells.

Lima is covered in a dull grey mist for much of the year, although the sun does break through between November and March. It almost never rains in Lima, and temperatures are moderate.


In the context of the Peruvian Andes Chachapoyas (at 2,235m) and Cajamarca (at 2,750m) are not at particularly high altitudes. The highest point of your journey will be your visit to Kuelap (3,050m). A small minority of visitors may suffer temporarily from altitude sickness. Symptoms vary; most common are mild headaches, slight nausea and breathlessness. If you don’t recover in a day or two speak to our representatives; in very rare instances it is necessary to descend to lower altitudes. Most people are unaffected and if you drink plenty of water and allow your body to acclimatise (don’t exert yourself or drink alcohol) in the first couple of days after arrival, you will minimise your chances of suffering any symptoms.

Please refer to our Briefing Dossier for further information.

Clothing and special equipment

For day-to-day wear you should go prepared to encounter all seasons. Both warm clothing and a sun hat are essential at altitude; a light fleece jacket and a Gore-Tex (or similar) outer shell makes a good combination. Trousers, skirt or shorts made from light, quick-drying synthetic materials work well. If you plan to eat in smart restaurants, although clothing is not formal (no need for jacket and tie), something quite smart would be appropriate. Strong, comfortable footwear is essential and you should bring insect repellent, sun block and sun glasses. You should take swimwear for pools though most hotels don’t have them.

Please get in touch with the office before departure if you have any doubts. Good equipment is very important and hard to come by in South America.


Preventative vaccinations are recommended against the following: typhoid; polio; tetanus; hepatitis A. You should consult your GP for specific requirements.

You can also find helpful information on the Masta Travel Health website. 


Holders of a full British passport do not require a visa, although passports must be valid for at least 6 months after the trip begins.  Anyone with a different nationality should enquire with us or check with the relevant consulate.

APIS and ESTA - important flight information:

ESTA - if flying to the US, or via the US you will need to fill in your application to ESTA online.
This costs $14 per person. This must be done by you personally.
Passports must also be machine-readable (MRP). Avoid locking suitcases if transiting the USA, as their customs authorities retain the right to break into them.

APIS - Many countries now oblige airlines to provide additional information about passengers prior to the flight departure. This Advance Passenger Information (APIS) must be supplied to us promptly in order to issue tickets and avoid fare increases. We will provide the airlines with the relevant details if we are booking your international flights. If the information is not provided you may be denied boarding.

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