Flick through the history books of Peru, delving deeper into its past than the Incas famed for constructing Machu Picchu. This enchanting South American country is home to a fascinating collection of astounding archaeological sites. Our Northern Peru itinerary sets off to explore lesser visited ancient attractions and learn about Pre-Inca civilisations.
In the arid Valle de Moche, visit the Sun and Moon Temples to learn about the ancient Moche civilisation which flourished around 100-800 AD. A vast range of artefacts give us a window into their lives from hunting, fishing, fighting, sacrifice and elaborate ceremonies. Other excursions include the vast adobe city of Chan Chan; built during the Chimu period this is the largest pre-Columbian era city in South America. At El Brujo archaeological complex, admire the well-preserved, cloth-swaddled body of the ‘Lady of Cao'. Though shrouded in mystery, the presence of weapons in her burial suggests she was a high-ranking individual in the Moche Culture.
Leave the coastal cities behind and head inland to explore the state of Chachapoyas and visit the imposing Kuelap fortress, perched on the edge Utcubamba's deep valley. Drive through cloud forest, steep mountain ravines and fertile agricultural to the heart of Northern Peru. For the best views, hike to the base of Gocta Falls and take the scenic cable car across the deep valley of Utcubamba to spectacular Kuelap fortress. Consisting of more than 400 circular dwellings, topped with thatched roofs and decorated with zig-zag and rhomboid friezes, this significant site was only discovered in 1843.
Conclude your Peru holiday with a stay in Mancora, Peru's most attractive coastal area. Endless stretch of beach, year-round sunshine and some of the country's best seafood restaurants make it the perfect place to relax and indulge.
Day 1 Depart from UK for your flight to Lima, the starting point for your adventure exploring northern Peru. Settle into your stylish hotel in bohemian district of Barranco, a quiet retreat yet surrounded by interesting cafes, restaurants and art galleries. Visit the charming main square with the recently renovated, Bridge of Sighs, a wooden bridge over an old stone stairway which leads to the beach. Relax on the hotel's terrace with a spectacular view towards the Pacific Ocean.
Day 2 Lima gives a great insight into the history of Peru, from the Moche period, Chimu and most recently the story of the Incas. Around the historic Plaza de Armas, the narrow streets are lined with ornate baroque churches. Visit the Government Palace, Cathedral, Archbishop's Palace and City Hall. Located in an 18th century mansion, the Larco Museum offers one of the largest collections of Pre-Columbian art in Lima. Featuring ceramic works from each of the Moche, Chimu and Inca periods and affords a wonderful introduction to these ancient civilisations.
Day 3 Take the short flight north to the city of Trujillo with it's fine colonial centre full of conquistador history. The town was founded in 1534 by Diego Almagro and retains a unique Spanish feel. The wide plazas are lined with elegant mansions featuring wrought-iron grills, wooden balconies and many buildings are painted pretty pastel colours. Overnight at the Libertador Hotel which is ideally situated on the Plaza de Armas, main square.
Day 4 Around 8km south of Trujillo, in the arid Valle de Moche, lies Huaca del Sol and Huaca de la Luna (Sun & Moon temples) which although badly weathered are still imposing pyramids. Built by the Moche civilization (100-700 AD) they form part of the Huacas de Moche, ruins of the ancient Moche capital city, Cerro Blanco. Enjoy lunch by the coast in the town of Huanchaco, where the fisherman continue to use traditional reed boats. You will also visit Chan Chan, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1986 and the largest Pre-Columbian city in the region and the largest adobe city in the world. It covers around 16 square kilometres and was the heart of the Chimu culture which rose to prominence in the 11th century before succumbing to the Incas in the late 15th century.
Day 5 En-route to Chiclayo you will visit the El Brujo archaeological complex, located 60km north of Trujillo. The site is under continuous excavation and they believe that a number of cultures lived in the Chicama Valley whilst using the complex as a ceremonial centre. Huaco Cao Viejo is one of the main places of interest with it's flat-topped Moche-era Pyramid decorated with a host of colourful warriors and priests. More recently the well preserved tattooed mummy of a young woman was discovered deep inside El Brujo pyramid. Named the 'Lady of Cao' her body is exhibited in the on-site museum.
Day 6 Towards the coast, 30 kilometres southwest of Chiclayo lies the enigmatic mud-brick burial platform of Huaca Rajada. Here, the most striking discovery was the Lord of Sipan who was placed upside down in a foetal position. From the ancient Moche culture admire the fabulous gold artifacts and precious stones. Tucume, with its imposing 26 adobe pyramids in Lambayeque, dates from around 700AD. Later the area was inhabited by the Chimu before the Inca’s took over in the 15th century.
Day 7 Drive through the heart of Northern Peru towards Chachapoyas region and the small town of Cocachimba. A scenic route, you'll notice the scenery change from cloud forest to steep mountain ravines and fertile agricultural valleys with rice paddies and coconut groves along the way. Gocta Falls is a relatively new addition to the off the beaten track route in the north, discovered in 2005 by a German explorer and a group of locals. Gocta Andes Lodge has a prime location with an unparalleled views of the dramatic landscape and the impressive falls of Gocta.
Day 8 The trail leading to Gocta Falls leaves directly outside the lodge, with the first part possible by horse. If you leave early enough, it is possible to see the national bird of Peru, the Cock-of-the-Rock, perform its impressive mating ritual at the lek. Continue along the picturesque trail admiring the ever changing landscape and different vantage points until you reach the base of the falls. Drenched by the spray, the view upwards is truly spectacular, with plenty of photo opportunities. Take the same trail back to the lodge in time for a late lunch and a relaxing afternoon by the pool.
Day 9 Built by the pre-Inca Chachapoya civilization, Kuelap is one of the largest stone complexes in the Western Hemisphere. At 3000m above sea level, overlooking the Utcubamba Valley, the imposing site is around 700 metres in length. From Gocta Andes Lodge, drive along a winding road with beautiful views to the small village of Nuevo Tingo. Embark the new cable car to the base of Kuelap complex with dramatic views as you cross the deep valley . From the cable car station, the walk to Kuelap takes around 30 minutes along a gentle uphill path. Discovered in 1843, Kuelap consists of the remnants of more than 400 circular dwellings, topped with thatched roofs and decorated with zig-zag and rhomboid friezes. In its hey-day, around 3500 people lived in Kuelap.
Day 10 leave behind the dramatic landscapes of Chachapoyas as you drive to Jaen airport for your flight via Lima to Talara on the far northern coast of Peru, close to the border with Ecuador. With spectacular white sand beaches and year round sun, the small town of Mancora is the prefect place to relax after your adventure. Along this beautiful stretch of coast are attractive fishing villages, superb fresh seafood and prime surf spots. Kick back at KiChic hotel and relax into the laid back vibe synonymous with this remote region.
Day 11 Free days to relax at the hotel or explore the long sandy stretches o...
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