This journey concentrates in the archaeological legacy left by the pre-Inca cultures Mochica, Lambayeque, Cajamarca and Chachapoyas in the north of Peru - a pristine region. Recent excavations and ongoing research in Trujillo and Chiclayo bring out more facts about the Moche civilization. Though, little is known about the Chachapoyas. Known as the ‘cloud people’ the Chachapoyas built their cities on ridges in the cloud forest as the spectacular citadel, called Kuelap. This journey not only retraces the steps of pre-Inca cultures in Peru but also offers breathtaking landscapes as you are driven across the Andes to tropical cloud forest.
DAY 1 LIMA - TRUJILLO (L)
Morning flight to Trujillo. Visit to the ‘huacas’ of the Moon and Sun. These temples played a major role for the Moche civilization (100-900 AD). The finely decorated Temple of the Moon represents the spiritual center for the Moches. Among the wealth of ceremonial artifacts about 40 skeletons of sacrificial victims were found here. Many of the walls depict a deity known as the ‘God of the Mountains’ (Ai Apaec) or the ‘Decapitator’. As you stroll through the Temple of Moon you can get a panoramic view over the Temple of the Sun considered one of the largest adobe structures in the Americas. The adjacent museum (opened in June’10) displays artifacts uncovered in the temples - specifically in the tombs of the blind priest, the lord of prisoners, the Moche weaver and the Moche shaman.
Lunch in the fishing village of Huanchaco, where you can see traditional reed boats still used by the local fishermen. In the afternoon our guide will introduce you to the capital of the former kingdom of the Chimu culture (1200 and 1470 AD). This enormous archaeological complex, covering an area of 18 km², was the largest Pre-Columbian mud city in South America and remained the capital of the Chimu civilization until they were conquered by the Inca in the 15th century. Its walls are finely decorated with geometric figures in relief laden with aquatic and mythological beings.
DAY 2 TRUJILLO – CHICLAYO (B) (207 km - approx. 3 ½ hours)
Our first visit today is the El Brujo Complex (located 35 km north of Trujillo). The denomination ‘El Brujo’ or ‘Witch Doctor’ is owed to the fact that for hundreds of years healing masters congregated in this place to perform shamanic rituals. This archaeological complex comprises three pyramids: Huaca El Brujo, Huaca Prieta and Huaca Cao.
We will see Huaca Cao’s multi-colored friezes and reliefs featuring the Moche deity Ai Apaec, warriors, prisoners and sacrifice scenes. From the top of Huaca Cao you can enjoy a panorama of the surrounding pyramids. The local museum displays the mummy, that is supposed to be the first known female ruler in Peru, yet baptized as ‘The Lady of Cao‘. It also showcases objects of the different cultures that settled this area documenting 5,000 years of history.
Afternoon visit to ‘Mercado Modelo’. Chiclayo's market is renowned for its ‘section for witches' offering everything necessary for shamans in the practice of their profession. All kinds of herbs, dried plants, bones, animal parts among others can be found in the market’s stalls. The visit is an interesting cultural experience that complements your archaeological explorations in the region.
DAY 3 CHICLAYO (B)
We start our archaeological exploration heading to Ventarron. Discovered in 2007 the site’s 4000-year-old murals boast the oldest documented wall painting in the Americas. Be ready then to inspect of the largest and most interesting collections in the country displayed in the Museum of the Royal Tombs of the Lord of Sipan. Shaped like a Moche pyramid it contains the gold masks, scepters, jewelry and other objects of the royal Moche tomb. Many archaeologists compare it to the tomb of Pharaoh Tutankhamun in Egypt. The exhibition succeeds in evoking the magnificence and high degree of development of the Moche civilization (100–900 AD) difficult to imagine when we visit the archaeological site of Huaca Rajada the place the Lord of Sipan was discovered in 1987.
DAY 4 CHICLAYO – GOCTA (B)
Drive by private vehicle to Chachapoyas. En route visit to the site of Tucume. This area was a major population center, perhaps the capital of each of the successive cultures of the area, the Lambayeque/Sican (1,000/1,100-1,350 AD) and it was later occupied by the Incas. From the lookout on Cerro Purgatorio you can have a panoramic view over the entire complex embracing 26 eroded adobe pyramids. Arrival in the evening and overnight stay in Gocta.
DAY 5 GOCTA (B)
Today's daytrip takes us to one of the natural wonders of northern Peru, the waterfall of Gocta. With a drop height of 783m (2569 ft), it is the third-highest waterfall in the world. We leave Cocachimba in the morning to head towards Chachapoyas, where we begin our hike of approx. 2 hours to the waterfall. We will pass through pristine scenery with good opportunities to spot local fauna including various monkey and bird species. After a lunch break at the waterfall we return to Cocachimba for a drive back to the hotel.
DAY 6 GOCTA – KUELAP – LEIMEBAMBA (B)
Morning drive to Kuelap an impressive pre-Inca fortress. Kuelap was one of the most important administrative, cultural and military centers of the Chachapoyas culture known as the ‘Cloud People’ (800 AD and 1530 AD). Although Kuelap was discovered 60 years before Machu Picchu it is barely known worldwide. A singular feature of the buildings is their decoration. Several buildings of the complex have walls decorated with friezes that evoke eyes and birds. But it is definitely Kuelap’s location what makes it one of the wonders of Peru. The site is perched majestically on a hilltop overlooking verdant Andean landscapes and Utcubamba River. Afterwards we will be driven to Leimebamba, where we spend the night.
DAY 7 LEIMEBAMBA – BALZAS – CELENDIN – CAJAMARCA (B,BoxL) (180 km – approx. 10 hours)
Today’s 10-hour drive is demanding but unique and secluded changing landscapes will compensate the effort. The tour begins in Leimebamba; where we visit the local museum ‘Centro Mallqui’ displaying more than 200 mummies of the Chachapoyas culture discovered in a group of burial chambers set in a cliff above the Laguna de los Condores. Afterwards we will drive to Celendin and then to Cajamarca, crossing two cordilleras and several different habitats, such as cloud forest, agricultural land, desert-like areas and the Marañon Canyon. The journey from Leimebamba to Celendin, passing by the Maranon Canyon, is one of Peru’s most spectacular drives. The Marañon River forms one of the world’s deepest canyons, and you will descend through different ecosystems from over 3,000 m (9840 ft) to the town of Balzas at 1,200 m (3900 ft). After crossing the river you then ascend back through the various habitats to nearly 3,200 m (10500 ft)
DAY 8 CAJAMARCA (B)
In the morning we will be driven on unpaved roads through remote villages to Cumbemayo. After one hour a stunning natural spot of huge natural rock formations the so called ‘Stone Forest’ unfolds. A little further on we will see the canal built 1000 BC by the Cajamarca - a marvel of hydraulic engineering. Carved out of volcanic stone with perfect right angles and precise geometric lines the aqueduct stretches 9 km and served to collect and redirect water from various sources. Surrounding caves are filled with finely decorated enigmatic petroglyphs.
You will explore Cajamarca in a sightseeing tour this afternoon. Magnificent architecture from the colonial period, breathtaking landscapes and a rich history define in few words what this city set in a fertile valley of the northern Andes has to offer. Some important events that shaped the history of the Americas took place here. The last Inca Atahualpa was captured here by the Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro and was later executed. Atahualpa’s death marked the downfall of the Inca Empire and the beginning of the Spanish colonial rule. Their influence can still be seeing in the city’s layout and many buildings as the Cathedral, the San Francisco, and Belen churches, but also old manor houses. Our visit includes also a stop at the ‘Ransom Chamber’ that Inca Atahualpa promised to fill with gold and silver in return for his freedom.
DAY 9 CAJAMARCA – LIMA (B)
At proper time transfer to the airport in Cajamarca to take your return flight to Lima.
Price per person in USD sharing TWIN Prices valid through December 23rd 2013
Domestic flights (net price per person in USD)
Lima – Trujillo & Cajamarca - Lima
* Air fares subject to change according availability