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Treasures of Peru: The archaeological riches of the north

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.
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Day 2

Visit the Larco Museum.
Pre-Columbian archaeology

 Visit the Larco Museum, one of our favourites in Latin America, where exhibits are beautifully displayed in a colonial building with flowery patios and a smart restaurant.  

The museum houses an astonishing private collection of pre-Columbian ceramic pieces. The comprehensive range of pottery items shows you just how Peruvian culture developed over the centuries. There are particularly good examples from the exotic Moche, Sicán and Chimú cultures, and in fact this is the world's largest collection of artifacts from the eras of their ascendancy.

It's not all about pots though - there are displays of gorgeous textiles, intricate gold and silver work and haunting mummies, all left behind by by highly artistic pre-Inca civilisations. and on top of it all, there's an extensive and unique collection of erotic figurines.

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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.

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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. 

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Day 5

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

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Chan Chan

Day 6

Private road transfer to Cajamarca via El Brujo.
northern archaeology
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. 

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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.

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Day 8

Road transfer to Leymebamba.
Road 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.
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Road to Leymebamba

Day 9

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

Day 10

Full day guided expedition to hilltop Kuelap.

The Chachapoyan civilisation (from 0AD onwards) was organised into a system of chiefdoms which left behind a series of sophisticated cities even more grand and mysterious than those of the Incas. 

You start early for the two-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.

For those looking for something a little bit different, the recently inaugurated Kuelap cable car adds a new dimension to a visit to the site. The telecabinas cross the valley in just 20 minutes, which means the overall journey time is about 30 minutes shorter than when travelling by road and the magnificent views across the valley ensure a scenic start to your Kuelap experience.

When you get there you’ll be overwhelmed by the vast scale of the place. It’s atmospheric too: occasional shafts of sunlight may pierce the mist which swirls through the massive stone 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 construction of which started in about 500AD. and continued up to Inca times. 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.

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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.

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Day 12

Trek to Gocta Falls. Overnight at Cocachimba.
Gocta Falls
Travel by road to the small town of Gocta to begin the hike to the Gocta waterfall. Walk 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 Peru.. Overnight in Cocachimba, the closest village to the falls.

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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.
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Day 14

Visit Sipán, Tumbas Reales and Sican Museums, Túcume.
Lord of Sipán
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.

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Lord of Sipán

Day 15

Fly to Lima and connect with international flight home.

Fly to Lima and connect with international flight home.

Speak to an expert Travel Consultant or send us your enquiry today.

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Speak to an expert Travel Consultant or send us your enquiry today. Treasures of Peru: The archaeological riches of the north

  • Peruvian Amazon 5 days from £988pp

    The Peruvian Amazon is just an hour's flight from Cusco. This bird-filled area of humid tropical rainforest embraces many ox-bow lakes, an ideal home for caimans, turtles and giant otters.

    Day 1: Transfer to Cusco airport for the flight to Puerto Maldonado. Staff from Posada Amazonas will escort you to the lodge by road and dugout canoe (3hrs). Accommodation is simple and comfortable, constructed to harmonise with the forest environment.

    Days 2, 3:  Your stay includes a variety of early morning and late afternoon excursions. There are small clay licks close by, which attract throngs of parrots and parakeets. English-speaking guides will lead your exploration of the trails around the lodge. Climb a nearby 35m high canopy tower for expansive jungle and river vistas. You can discover the lakes and river banks by canoe to search for aquatic wildlife.

    Day 4: Return to Puerto Maldonado and fly to Lima. Transfer to your hotel in the Pacific-side district of Miraflores, Casa Andina Private Collection.

    Day 5: Continue your holiday or transfer to the airport for your international flight.

    Breakfast daily, full board days 2, 3.

  • Cusco and Machu Picchu 6 days from £1,552pp

    The word Cusco derives from the Quechua word for navel, indicating its location at the centre of the Inca Empire, which reached its zenith at the same time as England was fighting the Wars of the Roses.

    You have three days to explore the city - its baroque churches and museums constructed on the vestiges of magnificent Inca masonry - the Valley of the Incas which is studded with the ruins of Inca temples and fortresses, and the citadel of Machu Picchu, where an overnight stay gives you the opportunity fully to explore the site.

    Day 1:  Fly to Lima and connect by air to Cusco.

    Day 2:  Your city tour explores the  Plaza de Armas, the 16th century cathedral and Santo Domingo church  - built on the site of Qoricancha, Cusco's principal Inca temple.  Visit also four Inca sites on the edge of the city including Sacsayhuamán, a fortress and ceremonial centre.  

    Day 3:  Descend to explore the fertile Sacred Valley of the Incas. Once the bread-basket of the Inca Empire, it was highly populated in imperial times and scores of archaeological sites remain where well-preserved edifices bear witness to the Incas’ elaborate society. Pass through several of the colonial/indigenous villages and temple fortresses which pepper the valley. Visit Pisaq, famous for its market, and, Ollantaytambo, a giant fortress sitting strategically at the gateway to the Amazon basin – spend the night in the village here.

    Day 4: Travel ( 90mins) by train to the ruins of Machu Picchu. The ruined city, reclaimed from tropical cloud forest, was discovered by American explorer Hiram Bingham in 1911, when it was buried beneath jungle vegetation. You will have a guided tour of the ruins. Overnight at Machu Picchu  village at the foot of the mountain. 

    Day 5: There’s the opportunity to return to the site of Machu Picchu in the early morning when the site is virtually empty and the early morning mists swirl around the surrounding mountain tops. Return to Cusco by rail and road (4 hours). 

    Day 6:  Fly to Lima and connect with international flight home.

    Breakfast daily, lunch day 4.

  • Galapagos on land - Finch Bay 4 days from £645pp

    How do you round off a busy holiday in Ecuador, Peru or Colombia? You might think a trip to the Galápagos Islands a trifle ambitious – not to say costly. And a cruise may well be. But if you have a few days to spare you can stay at a congenial hotel on one of the larger, more interesting and varied islands, Santa Cruz, where in addition to a wide array of the famous trusting Galápagos wildlife, you can experience the verdant volcanic highlands, the white sand beaches and the shops and restaurants of the laid-back capital Puerto Ayora.

    The property has a beautiful setting at Punta Estrada, across the bay from the town.

    Day 1: Fly from the Ecuadorian mainland to Baltra in the Galapagos Islands. Transfer to your hotel Finch bay, on the outskirts of Puerto Ayora.

    Days 2,3: You have two full days where your wishes are catered for individually. The hotel organises an impressive choice of activities and excursions including snorkelling, diving, sea kayaking, mountain biking, hiking and day trips by boat to surrounding islands. We recommend a visit to the Charles Darwin Research Station which is home to 11 species of tortoise.

    Day 4: Depart for the Ecuadorian mainland and connect with your international flight.

    Breakfast only.
    NB: the cost of flights from Ecuador, Peru or Colombia to the Galápagos Islands are not included in the price.


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Treasures of Peru: The archaeological riches of the north

15 days from £4,013pp

Price excludes international flights at the beginning and end of the trip


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