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Group - Discovery

Tico Tico: Culture of the Northern Andes

14 days from £2,505pp



map marker Map

Fly to Lima arriving the same day.

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Day 1

Overnight in the capital.

Those passengers arriving on an international flight will be met by the tour leader or a local representative and escorted to the group hotel. The drive to the hotel through Lima encapsulates the invigorating bustle of this city of extreme contrasts. Lima, the City of Kings, was once the capital of Spanish America, and the remnants of its glorious past can still be seen in the faded grandeur of the colonial churches and splendid, traditional wooden balconies in the city centre.

The explosive growth of the last 50 years, so typical of capital cities in the developing world, has transformed Lima into a lively and chaotic low-rise city. Away from the busy centre, there are some superb traditional restaurants as well as archaeological museums filled to the rafters with pre-Columbian treasures. In crowded streets, throngs of traffic race out towards Miraflores on the coast, a modern middle-class suburb where your hotel is located.

Day 2

Fly to Trujillo and explore the city.

There will be a walking tour of Lima’s colonial centre in the morning before taking a flight to the coastal town of Trujillo (70 minutes). The centre has some excellent examples of colonial architecture and its environs are speckled with extraordinary pre-Inca archaeological sites which reflect the eventful history of the region before the arrival of the Spanish.

Although the Incas are the best-known of Peru’s pre-Columbian civilisations, the earlier cultures which flourished on the coast have provided the most impressive archaeological discoveries. The abundant food supplied by the irrigated valleys and the seas rich in fish created wealth here and freed up labour for the construction of vast temple complexes alongside intricate textiles and jewellery. Spend the afternoon wandering around the colonial centre, including the attractive Plaza Mayor and the cathedral.

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Day 3

Visit the Chimú site of Chan Chan, fishing village of Huanchaco and the Moche pyramids at Huacas del Sol and de la Luna.

A short journey takes you to Chan Chan, extraordinary ruins consisting of nine vast adobe compounds established by the Chimú civilisation in the 14th and 15th centuries. It is located on a sweeping beach and the buildings blend seamlessly into the sand. The motifs on the walls depict fish and sea birds, illustrating their importance in the life of the Chimú. Each new ruler built a separate compound here and the site covers a colossal 20 km².

Nearby is the seaside town of Huanchaco where fisherman skilfully surf the waves on traditional reed boats which have been used for centuries. Continue to the captivating Moche sites of the Huacas de la Luna and del Sol. The Moche (AD100-800) people are famed for their realistic portrait pottery and the richness and beauty of their gold and silver jewellery. Huaca del Sol was extensively looted by the conquistadors, but excavations continue to unearth extraordinary artefacts, as well as gory evidence of human sacrifice.

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Days 4-5

Journey to colonial Cajamarca, Explore the town and its fertile landscapes.

We drive along the desert coast before heading into the verdant landscapes of the highlands on the winding road to Cajamarca (7-8 hours). This peaceful colonial town is your base for explorations into the surrounding area. It was here that Atahualpa, one of the last Inca Emperors, was held at ransom; after he had filled one large room with gold and two with silver, he lost his life to Pizarro and his band of Spanish conquerors. It is a delightful place to wander and there is time to visit said Ransom Room, a number of interesting colonial churches and to climb Santa Apollonia hill for a lovely view over the town. The reserved yet friendly inhabitants are easily distinguished by their dress: Stetson-style hats and ponchos.

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Day 6

Drive to Leymebamba.

A scenic drive takes you into the mountains and to Leymebamba passing glistening lakes, deep river gorges and thriving valleys (10 hours).

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Day 7

Visit the Chachapoyan museum and Revash. Continue to El Chillo.

There is a morning museum visit, which details the life and death of the Chachapoyan people. Tombs re-discovered in 1997 revealed 219 mummies, which are kept and studied here. You will gain an insight into some of the history of the ruins that you encounter over the next few days in the Land of the Cloud People. Later an uphill walk takes you to Revash. Follow a scenic, shady trail into the mountains to see the cliff tombs with carved windows peeking out of the mountainside, which resemble small houses and have red pictographs dating back to AD1200. Continue by road for a further hour to Chillo.


Day 8

Journey to the ruins of Kuelap. Continue to Chachapoyas.

A sinuous road leads from Chillo, before we take the recently inaugurated cable car for the last part of the journey, to the ruins at Kuelap (2.5 hours). This extraordinary site is haughty in its grandeur and scale; a walled city perched high on a mountain top. A greater quantity of stones was used for its construction than for the great pyramids of Egypt. Explore the many ceremonial structures and aqueducts, and sit for a while to absorb the majesty of the site and the beauty of its location way above the river valley. Little is known about the pre-Inca Chachapoyan culture, but each year more ruins are being uncovered and investigated. Evidence thus far suggests that the Chachapoyans were among the most advanced of all pre-Inca cultures. Drive to your hotel in Chachapoyas (3.5 hours).

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Day 9

Visit the archaeological site of Karajía.

Head west by road and on foot to the burial sites of Karajía (2.5 hours). The Chachapoyans buried their chiefs in decorated clay sarcophagi which are adorned with imperious carved heads. These were then placed in cliff crevices which faced east towards the rising sun. The surrounding countryside is one of rolling farmland, in which small, traditional villages are connected by muddy tracks. Return in the evening to Chachapoyas.

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Day 10

Excursion to the Gocta Falls.

Follow a meandering mountain road to the small community of Cocachimba, where a 3-hour walk down a steep trail leads to the base of the Gocta Falls: a burst of spring water which emerges from dense vegetation in the mountainside cascading 771m into a deep and inviting pool. The Gocta cataracts are presently ranked as the 16th-highest in the world (it was originally claimed they were the 3rd-highest), and they were only discovered in 2005 by German Stefan Ziemendorff, and his team of Peruvian explorers. Even if you don’t make it all the way it’s a lovely walk, and there is plenty of time to relax in Chachapoyas in the afternoon.

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Day 11

Drive to Chiclayo, on the north Peruvian coast.

A scenic journey takes you through the Chamaya and Huancabamba valleys to the continental divide. At 2,140m, this is the lowest part of the Andes between the Atlantic and the Pacific oceans. At lower levels the landscape turns to desert plain before we reach the city of Chiclayo (10 hours). The lively city is home to an extremely friendly population and hosts one of the largest and most colourful markets in Peru. Stalls sell magic potions, lucky charms and a variety of local herbal remedies.

Day 12

Visit the museum of Sipán and the ruins at Túcume.

The Sipán museum is one of the best in Peru and houses one of the country’s great treasures. The ‘Lord of Sipán’ was a Moche nobleman who was buried in a pyramid in around AD200. His tomb was unearthed by grave robbers in 1986 and subsequent excavations have revealed stunning burial goods of gold, silver and copper, and exquisite cloths. The aridity of the coast perfectly preserved these ancient remains which are greatly revered by natives.

Continue to Túcume to see the ruins of a city built over 1,000 years ago. Explore the site at sunset to experience the full impact of this mysterious and evocative complex. A short climb to the viewpoints on Cerro la Raya (or El Purgatorio) gives an extraordinary panorama over all the 26 major pyramids, the platform mounds, walled citadels and residential compounds that flank a ceremonial centre and the ancient cemeteries.

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Day 13

Fly to Lima. Optional excursions in the capital.

Drive to the airport for a flight back to Lima (70 minutes), for a final night in the capital. Time permitting there will be a chance to visit some of the famous museums the city has to offer.

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Day 14

Depart for international flight or extension.

UK clients arrive home the following day.

Inspired by this trip

Our exciting range of articles on Latin America explore everything from iconic destinations and lesser-known cultural gems to delicious traditional recipes. You’ll also find exclusive travel tips, first-hand client reviews and the chance to get your personal questions answered by our travel experts.


Your edit for Latin American inspiration

Our exciting range of articles on Latin America explore everything from iconic destinations and lesser-known cultural gems to delicious traditional recipes. You’ll also find exclusive travel tips, first-hand client reviews and the chance to get your personal questions answered by our travel experts.

View Extraordinary Inspiration

Real Latin America Experts

  • Chris Rendell Dunn
    Chris Rendell-Dunn - Travel Expert

    Anglo-Peruvian Chris grew up in Lima and spent much of his adult life in between London and Cusco as a tour leader, before settling permanently in our London-based Tailor-made and Group Tours sales team.

  • Lina Fuller
    Lina Fuller - Travel Expert

    Lina's passion for the continent where she was born really took off when she moved to Córdoba (Argentina) to study, spending the holidays travelling between Argentina and her native Colombia.

  • Paul Winrow Giffen
    Paul Winrow-Giffin - Travel Expert

    After graduating in Computer Science, Paul spent seven months travelling from Colombia to Argentina and came home hooked on Latin America.

  • Hannah Donaldson
    Hannah Donaldson - Travel Expert

    Having spent part of her childhood in Colombia and worked in Brazil and Costa Rica, Hannah's ties to Latin America run deep. Hannah is a much valued Travel Expert in our Tailor-made Holidays and Group Tours sales team.

  • Carrie Gallagher
    Carrie Gallagher - Travel Expert

    A former JLA tour leader, Carrie brings a wealth of on-the-ground experience to our London-based Tailor-made and Group Tours department.

  • Sophie Barber
    Sophie Barber - Travel Expert

    Sophie lived in Chile before joining us and has travelled extensively across Latin America, from Mexico to the furthest tip of Patagonia and beyond to Antarctica.

Meet the team