The North of Peru is the cradle of civilisation in the Americas with some of the most ancient archaeology in the continent, dating back to 3000bC. But there is more: majestic peaks, aristocratic homes, delicious cuisine and lush forests are among the hidden secrets in Undiscovered Peru. If you have already been to Southern Peru, this is totally new!
- Embark in a journey of discovery along 5000 years of history, experiencing the most ancient archaeology in the Americas - Caral 3000bC.
- Admire the most extensive ice covered tropical mountain range in the World, The Cordillera Blanca, crowned by Huascaran, Peru's highest peak
- Visit the Moche site of El Brujo, and the mummy of The Lady of Cao, the first known Female leader in ancient Peru.
- Be among the rare few view to visit the 4 UNESCO heritage sites in northern Peru
- Enjoy behind the scenes visit to sites with resident archaeologists and scholars.
Lima - CaralView on map
Caral, The Oldest City
Our guide and driver will meet us at our hotel at 9 am this morning to drive approximately 4 hours north to Caral, 174 kms from Lima. We start our journey north on the Pan American Highway, a main route that stretches along the stunning Peruvian coastline, past small villages and farmland where we can stop en route for refreshments, photo ops and souvenir breaks if required.
Dating as far back as 2670 B.C., the ancient site of Caral is considered to be the oldest city in the Americas and one of the first civilizations that developed independently in the world. Located in Supe valley approximately 200 kilometers north of Lima, the archaeological complex consists of six excavated and partially excavated pyramids over 65 acres on a terrace above the floodplain.
Upon arrival to Caral we will transfer to Empedrada Lodge Hotel for check-in and enjoy lunch overlooking the Caral valley before the afternoon’s excursion. We will have the pleasure of sharing lunch in the special company of Ruth Shady, founder and director of the archaeological project at Caral, who will also give us a short lecture on the history and significance of the site.
Afterwards, explore the large pyramids, a grand sunken circular plaza, and several other smaller buildings as our guide explains the importance of this early culture. Witness ongoing excavation being performed by young archaeologists from San Marcos University as you wander around the city.
Dinner will be enjoyed at the hotel as you discuss your thoughts and feelings about your experience at Caral.
Overnight at Empedrada Lodge | Located close to the archaeological site of Caral, the boutique Empedrada Lodge provides a space of comfort and service in the rich natural surrounds of the region. We consider this the best accommodation option for visiting the archaeological site of Caral.
Check-In time: 14:00 hrs / Check-Out time: 12:00hrsAccommodation options
- Day 2
Caral - Callejon de HuaylasView on map
Drive to Callejon de Huaylas with Chavin de Huantar visit en route
Today we will leave Caral and head towards Anta in the department of Ancash, where some of the highest mountains in Peru can be found. We’ll be collected by our private driver and guide and travel together from Caral, down Route 106 which follows the Rio Supe, before climbing up the mountain roads towards to the town of Chavin, (approx. 5 hours/279 kilometers). En route we will visit the impressive archaeological complex Chavin de Huantar.
The UNESCO World Heritage Site of Chavin de Huantar contains artifacts and ruins from the Chavin people – a pre-Inca civilization, and the structures here are dated to approximately 1200 B.C. The complex includes temples, plazas and a network of underground corridors, some of which visitors can explore.
A box lunch will be provided and we will have plenty of opportunity to stop and take photographs on route through the mountains.
After visiting Chavin we will continue on to our hotel in Anta where we will check-in and enjoy dinner together at the hotel.
Overnight at Cuesta Serena (8,859ft/2,700m) | Located on the slopes of Anta, a 20-minute drive from Huaraz, this boutique hotel has just seven suites which all boast views over the majestic Cordillera Blanca mountains. The lodge is beautifully decorated with Peruvian fabrics, comfortable seating and hammocks that allow you an ideal vista of the mountains.
Check-In time: 15:00 hrs / Check-Out time: 11:00hrsAccommodation options0
- Day 3
Callejon de ConchucosView on map
Chacas town and Punta Olimpica.
Chacas is one of the most beautiful locations in the Cordillera Blanca. To reach it, we will travel along the only paved road that crosses Huascaran National Park, which involves going through Punta Olimpica tunnel, at 4732m/15524 ft above sea level. This tunnel is the longest vehicular tunnel in Peru and the highest in the world going from Cordillera Blanca to Callejon de Conchucos. On crossing the tunnel we will see stunning landscapes and majestic snowcapped peaks (Ulta 5875m/19274ft and Huascaran 6768m/22205ft – Peru’s highest) and glacial lagoons (Cancara and Yanaraju), Italian missionaries have developed provided education and healthcare and established carpentry and crafts workshops where very fine works are carried out. We will be visiting some of these workshops as well as the archaeological museum. Duration of the full day excursion 6.5 hours.
Overnight at Cuesta Serena.Accommodation options
- Day 4
Callejon de HuaylasView on map
Llanganuco Lakes & Llanganuco Mountain Lodge
Today is a full day excursion to Llanganuco Lake. En route, we will visit a number of attractions. 15 minutes from Cuesta Serena, we will stop in the small town of Yungay, where in 1974 a major earthquake led to a landslide that covered the entire town and thousands perished. We will stand on the cemetery on a hill, and look at where the old town was located and learn about the geology of the area. From there we will travel overland to the trail head of the Maria Josefa path, where we will walk on flat to downhill terrain 1.5 hours all the way to Llanganuco Lake. From here we will head overland to the nearby Llanganuco Lodge, where Charlie Good, the owner of the lodge, will give us a warm welcome and show us his lodge. Tea time and biscuits and time to relax with the majestic views of Huascaran. Return to Cuesta Serena for sunset drinks.
Overnight at Cuesta Serena.Accommodation options
- Day 5
Callejon de Huaylas - TrujilloView on map
Drive to Trujillo via Cañon del Pato
Today we have the chance to experience one of the most magnificent journeys of our trip: the Cañon del Pato (Duck Canyon). The scenery around this area is simply spectacular where the landscape consists of the meeting of the Cordillera Negra (Black Mountains) and Cordillera Blanca (White Mountains) along the Callejon de Huaylas (Corridor of Huaylas), the valley that runs in between the two. Along the valley is the dramatic section of gorge known as the Cañon del Pato. The canyon comprises of a largely unpaved, single lane road with over 30 narrow tunnels and towering cliff faces coming face to face – sometimes at a distance as small as 15 meters!
The time spent on the road today will be long (from Cuesta Serena to Cañon del Pato 6.5 hours and on to Trujillo 9 hours) but the immense vistas of the sheer rock faces contrasted with the flow of the Rio Santa will make it all worthwhile.
We will enjoy dinner together at the hotel before a well-deserved rest at Costa del Sol Trujillo Centro.
Costa del Sol Trujillo Centro | The best hotel in Trujillo, Costa del Sol has prime position on the main Plaza de Armas with views of the city center’s cathedral and historic buildings from the Spanish colonial era. A restored colonial mansion, the property has been converted into a 73-room hotel with a small outdoor pool in the courtyard, as well as gym and sauna facilities. All rooms offer air-conditioning. Key sites like Chan Chan archaeological site are only a short drive away.
Check-In time: 15:00hrs / Check Out time: 12:00hrs
- Day 6
TrujilloView on map
Treasures of Trujillo
This morning we will head to Huaca de La Luna (Moche c. 100-700 A.D.), a superb archaeological site where excavations are currently underway. The site is known for its magnificent friezes and reliefs which are surprisingly well-preserved. The surrounding communities have played a vital part in the success of the archaeological complex, where they display and sell authentic handicrafts in a traditionally constructed gift shop. We will meet and be guided by archaeologist and project director Dr. Ricardo Morales.
Afterwards, visit the laid-back seaside town of Huanchaco where we will enjoy a typical coastal lunch. Here we can admire the use of small traditional reed boats used by fishermen today, exactly as they were by their forefathers hundreds of years ago.
Finally, we will drive to the ancient mud-brick city of Chan Chan, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the capital city of the Chimu Kingdom which fell to the Incas in the 15th Century. This was the largest city in Pre-Columbian America and it was carefully structured by being split into nine citadels or autonomous units.
Tonight, we will have the pleasure of enjoying cocktails with friends in their private historic home located on Trujillo's Main Square.
Overnight at Costa del Sol TrujilloAccommodation options
- Day 7
TrujilloView on map
The Moche Route
This morning we will drive from Trujillo to the village of Cao, where the archaeological site of El Brujo is located. El Brujo opened to the public in 2006. Much like Huaca de la Luna, this site features tiers of polychromatic friezes and also served as a religious and sacrificial complex. Museo Cao is just a short walking distance from the actual site and contains a variety of captivating artifacts including collections of pottery, textiles, and golden regalia, along with the bones of Moche royalty and human sacrifices. Perhaps the site’s greatest discovery was the Moche mummy of the only known female ruler, justifiably referred to as Señora de Cao, whose remains are also on display in the museum.
After our visit, we will enjoy dinner at Club Central, Trujillo's prestigious private Club.
Overnight at Costa del Sol Trujillo Centro.Accommodation options
- Day 8
ChachapoyasView on map
Trujillo - Chachapoyas
This morning we will be driven to Trujillo airport for our 50 minute private charter flight to Chachapoyas to begin our adventure in the cloud forest. We have chartered the 19 passenger Beechcraft 1900 propeller plane as there are no commercial flights covering this route.
On arrival in Chachapoyas airport, we will be met by our new guide who will be with us for our entire journey through that region. From the airport, our journey to Leymebamba takes approximately five hours but offers a scenic route through valleys and mountains.
We will stop off to enjoy lunch at a local restaurant and then continue on as the route follows the Marañon River briefly and then the Utcubamba River for most of the journey. Depending on time available there are several opportunities to stop along the way to stretch your legs, take photos of the scenery which includes rivers, waterfalls and hidden pre-Inca tombs in the cliffside. If we do decide to stop off at the Tombs of Revash, our expert guide will lead us on an interesting excursion into Peru’s past, witnessing collective tombs for the wealthy and powerful of society.
In the afternoon we will arrive at Kentitambo Lodge we will have chance to check-in and freshen up before visiting the Leymebamba museum which houses mummies, relics and artifacts from the burial tombs of the pre-Inca Chachapoya civilization, that were salvaged by the NGO Centro Mallqui.
As Aracari guests we will have the opportunity to enjoy exclusive behind-the-scenes access to areas of the museum not usually open to the public, including the special climate-controlled depository where the famous mummies are kept and laboratories where bio-archaeologists are still carrying out important conservation and cataloging of the Laguna de los Condores artefacts.
Overnight at Kentitambo Lodge (Altitude: 5,906ft/1800m) | Kentitambo Lodge (translated from Quechua as Hummingbird Inn) is a relaxing guest house with a sustainable ethos and a welcoming environment. Originally a hummingbird observation lodge, Kentitambo has preserved its natural style to ensure the birds are welcomed in the area.
Check-In time: 15:00 hrs / Check-Out time: 13:00hrsAccommodation options
- Day 9
ChachapoyasView on map
Kuelap Visit and drive to Gocta
For our day at Kuelap, we’ll be collected in the morning from our hotel in Leymebamba by our private vehicle and driver, for the hour-long drive to the Kuelap cable car ticket office. After a 10-minute shared bus ride to the station, we’ll take a cable car ride to the site entrance, enjoying a scenic journey with incredible views on the way up. Once at the top and entrance to the site, there is an approximately 30-minute walk to the archaeological site, via a paved uphill path, with horses available to ease the journey.
Now we have the chance to enjoy a full tour of the impressive pre-Columbian site of Kuelap led by our expert private guide. Built by the pre-Inca Chachapoya civilization, known as the ‘warriors of the clouds’, Kuelap is one of the biggest ancient stone complexes in the western hemisphere. With its surrounding walls up to 20 meters high, Kuelap is commonly described as a fortress, but the complex includes not only military structures, but religious, civil and domestic features too. As our guide will explain, it is estimated that up to 3,000 people lived here at its height. There are multiple levels within the complex and over 400 constructions, most of which are cylindrical, with some friezes and decorative patterns remaining.
During the visit, we will pause to eat a box lunch that was prepared by the hotel.
At the end of our visit to Kuelap, we’ll continue onwards to our next destination – Cocachimba village near Gocta Waterfall.
Two nights at Gocta Natura Cabins (Altitude: 5,906ft/1800m) | Gocta Natura Cabins have been created to make the most of the natural environment and give back to both the flora and fauna of the area and the local community. Waking up at this stunning location is a real treat and each of the rooms (bar one) have been designed to enjoy the view of the Gocta falls.
Check-In time: 15:00hrs / Check-Out time: 10:00hrsAccommodation options
- Day 10
ChachapoyasView on map
Hike to Gocta Waterfalls
The path to the waterfall begins straight from our hotel and is well generally well maintained and scenic throughout. Some sections have steep inclines, and horses can be hired for part of the journey to the falls or can be pre-arranged for the way back. The walk starts through farmland, before changing to lush cloud forest with jungle-like vegetation. Engulfed by the sounds, sights and smells of the cloud forest, we’ll enjoy the beautiful flora and fauna along the way, including the famous endemic Spatuletail hummingbird, butterflies, flowers, and occasional toucans and occasionally monkeys. The path crosses small streams and gorges spanned by short bridges.
Thanks to the power of the falls, we will hear Gocta before we see it! As we advance the volume increases as does the anticipation. With about a third of the way to go, the vegetation opens up, and finally we get a glimpse of the falls. For the rest of the walk the incredible thunderous flow of water is in sight, until we arrive at the base of the falls, stretching our necks into the sun to see the top. At a special vantage point with a view of the waterfalls we’ll stop take a break and enjoy snacks and a refreshing drink laid out by our guide. After taking in the views, and maybe cooling off in the pool at the base of the falls, we’ll return via the same path to our hotel to enjoy lunch.
Time permitting, we will also visit the mysterious Sarcophagi of Karajia (huge stone coffins of ancient wise men that are displayed above ground). Set high into the side of a cliff, each sarcophagus is around 2.5 meters high. Archaeologists believe that one of the Sarcophagi of Karajia is the mummy of the highest Chief of Kuelap.
Dinner in the gardens finishes off an epic day.
Overnight at Gocta Natura CabinsAccommodation options
- Day 11
Chachapoyas - Lima View on map
Transfer from Cocachimba to Tarapoto airport
Today we say goodbye to the falls, to our lovely lodge and we set off on our overland journey to Tarapoto. Today involves a very early start (7 am) and a full day drive on a paved road, and we will be arriving in Tarapoto airport in the early afternoon for our flight to Iquitos (for those joining the cruise) or to Lima (for those ending the trip here). The route from Cocachimba to Tarapoto is very scenic: throughout the journey we traverse cloud forests, mountains, grasslands and Amazonian jungle, stopping en route for a boxed lunch and plenty of photography spots.
Once we arrive at Tarapoto airport, we will check-in, and board our respective flights, some to Iquitos, others to Lima. On arrival to Lima you will be transferred to your hotel.
For those not coming to the cruise extension: END OF THE JOURNEY
Aracari specializes in tailormade travel. Here are just some of our further trip suggestions. Contact us for more bespoke ideas to inspire your travels.
Journey pricing as of 2022
Basic Pricing - US$8,500 per person
- Specialist hosting
- English speaking guiding throughout
- Domestic Flights (quoted separately)
- All ground transportation
- Accommodation on a full board basis
- All entrance tickets
- A customized detailed itinerary which includes historical information about the places you will visit, tips for the traveler, where to eat and where to shop, maps of the places you will visit, and a comprehensive reading list
Undiscovered PeruDiscover our Northern Peru trip
- International flights
- Alcoholic beverages
- Travel Insurance
- Personal expenses (laundry, spa services etc)
- Day 2