Andean Peaks and Ancient Empires

Peru is a living legacy of powerful empires and mythical beliefs, stretched across a jaw-dropping array of landscapes, from the chiselled peaks of the Andes to the Amazon – the world’s biggest rainforest.

Starting in the cosmopolitan capital of Lima, comfortably nestled at sea level and colonial at its heart, we travel from here to the city of Huaraz. Situated at over 3000 metres above sea level, Huaraz is dominated by the snowy Cordillera Blanca and Peru’s highest mountain, Huascarán. From Huaraz, we journey up to Chiclayo, where we visit the largest dry forest in the Americas and the Sicán pyramids of Batán Grande. The lush highlands of Chachapoyas beckon us further north, as we visit one of the tallest waterfalls in the world and explore the enchanting Chachapoya fortress city of Kuélap.

The optional extension to Pacaya Samiria National Reserve will take us into a pristine and protected area of the Amazon Rainforest, where the incredible biodiversity includes pink river dolphins and 450 species of birds. We will learn about the history and protection of the area, as well as meeting and supporting indigenous communities, and falling under their spell as myths and legends of the Amazon are told.

Dive into Peru’s treasure trove of ancient ruins and rich cultural history with us, as we delve deeper than the Inca civilisation and explore the country’s wildest landscapes on this cutting-edge tour of the north …



Peru itinerary - snop capped mountains in the AndesAndes


  • The mountains and lakes of Huaraz
  • The pyramids of the Sican civilisation
  • Visit the Chachapoya fortress of Kuélap
  • See the incredible Gocta Falls
  • Venture deep into the Amazon in search of jaguar, manatees and sloths

Day 1 - Lima

Arrive into Lima and transfer to your hotel. Overnight Hotel Allpa or similar. (B)


The capital of Peru, ever-bubbling with energy and excitement, has something for everybody, from museums and markets to archaeological sites and natural reserves, from the nightlife and exquisite cuisine, to the beaches and surf breaks. Sitting on a flat and wide alluvial plain, Lima fringes the coast and has a warm and dry climate, high humidity and a lack of rain year-round. The historic centre and colonial heart of Lima, Lima Centro, is the seat of government and religion and of both architectural and cultural interest. South of the Lima Centro and just inland from the ocean is the modern centre of Miraflores, that buzzes with shoppers in the day and party-goers at night. A few kilometres east and once a separate suburb, lies the artists’ quarter of Barranco, often described as bohemian and the city’s most romantic district. Other areas include San Isidro – Lima’s busy commercial centre, the port, and the shanty towns that line the highways. Even with the arrival of modernity in Lima, the historic centre has remained and is recognised as a World Heritage Site. If the ancient intrigues you, you may also want to head north of Lima to Caral, the oldest civilisation of South America.

Day 2 - Huaraz

Transfer from Lima to Huaraz, in the Cordillera Blanca range in Peru’s western region. Overnight Hotel Arawi Pastoruri or similar. (BL)

Day 3 - Huaraz

We travel through the Callejón of Huaylas, visiting typical Andean villages along the Santa River. Continuing on, we head to the Chinancocha lagoon, striking blue in colour and situated at 3850m above sea level. We walk along the María Josefa Trail, admiring the Andean flora and fauna of Huascarán National Park, before returning to Huaraz in the afternoon. Overnight Hotel Arawi Pastouri or similar. (BL)

Day 4 - Huaraz

Travelling south of the Callejón de Huaylas, we reach Pachacoto, stopping at Patococha lake and the Pumashimi Spring, also visiting the cave paintings in the area. We then drive to an altitude of 4900m, where we start our short walk to the Pastoruri Glacier and ice caves. Overnight Hotel Arawi Pastouri or similar. (BL)


Situated in the Callejón de Huaylas valley, dominated by the world’s highest tropical mountain range – the Cordillera Blanca, and towered upon by Huascarán – Peru’s highest peak, is the city of Huaraz. Huaraz is the capital of the Ancash region of Peru and is the ideal starting point for travellers wanting to explore the surrounding mountains and deep-blue glacial lakes, namely Lagunas de Llanganuco. The city itself has a lively atmosphere, a thriving traditional market and is the perfect place to mingle among the locals and purchase fresh foodstuffs and crafts – such as gourd bowls – from colourfully dressed women in wide-brimmed hats.

Day 5 - Chiclayo

Leave the mountains behind and transfer to Chiclayo on the coast. Overnight Intiotel or similar. (BL)

Day 6 - Chiclayo

Visit Batán Grande, dotted with dozens of ancient pyramids belonging to the Sicán culture. We continue on to the Sicán Museum with its large collection of exhibits. Most of these are models depicting the daily life and burials of the Sicán people. We’ll also be able to see the tombs of the Sicán nobility and treasures such as ceremonial headdresses and masks. Later, we return to Chiclayo. Overnight Initiotel or similar. (B)

Chiclayo – Batán Grande, Bosque de Pomac and Ferreñafe

57km northeast of Chiclayo is the forest sanctuary of Batán Grande. Formerly a sugar cane hacienda, the site encompasses over 20 pre-Inca temple pyramids and extends to Bosque de Pómac, the largest dry forest in the Americas. The forest oasis sits in the middle of a desert landscape and is dominated by algarrobo trees. The pyramids belong to the Sicán culture, descendants of the Moche.

Ferreñafe is 18km northeast of Chiclayo and was founded in 1550 by Captain Alfonso de Osorio. The town was once known as the ‘land of two faiths’ because of the local tradition of believing first in the power of spirits and second in the Catholic Church. Ferreñafe is best known for its Museo Nacional de Sicán, which has a large collection of exhibits, most of which are models depicting the daily life and burials of the Sicán people. In addition, the Sicán Museum has an interesting display of the tombs of the Sicán nobility, as well as treasures such as ceremonial headdresses and masks. The museum really helps you to visualise what Sicán culture was like and is a great place to visit before or after visiting the pyramids.

Day 7 - Otuzco – Cajamarca

We start the day with a visit to a pre-Incan necropolis known as the ‘Otuzco Windows.’ Later we continue to the city of Cajamarca where we will visit the ‘Ransom Room’. This is the famous site of the encounter between Francisco Pizarro and the Inca Emperor, Atahualpa. It is said that Pizarro promised to free Atahualpa if he filled the room with gold and silver, which he did, only for Pizarro to break his promise and kill Atahualpa in the main square. Overnight Hotel Costa del Sol Wyndham or similar. (BL)

Day 8 - Leymebamba

Travel to Leymebamba ready to explore the mausoleums of Revash tomorrow. Hostel La Casona de Leymebamba or similar. (BL)

Day 9 - Leymebamba

Drive to El Ingenio and walk to the mausoleums of Revash. The mausoleums are decorated with Chachapoya iconography which depict figures of humans, animals and geometric shapes. Returning to Leymebamba, we visit the Museum of Mallqui where we’ll find a collection of more than 2000 objects. This includes 119 mummies, all recovered from nearby mausoleums. Hostel La Casona de Leymebamba or similar. (BL)

Day 10 - Kuélap Fortress – Cocachimba

Today we visit the Chachapoya fortress ruins at Kuélap – one of Peru’s most impressive – but relatively little known – archaeological sites. Our guide will explain Kuélap’s history as we visit ceremonial sites, the main temple, circular houses and the different tiers. Transfer to Cocachimba for the night. Overnight Hotel Gocta Andes Lodge or similar. (BL)

Day 11 - Karajía – Quiocta – Cocachimba

Travel to the province of Luya, passing various villages en route. We take a short walk to view the sarcophagi of Karajía. The sarcophagi are located high in the cliff face and pertain to the pre-Inca Chachapoya culture, said to be the final resting places of Chachapoya nobility. Continuing on, we visit the cave of Quiocta which has a depth of 550m and impressive stalagmites and stalactites. We may also see human bones, as the cave was used as a cemetery by the pre-Hispanic populace. Overnight Hotel Gocta Andes Lodge or similar. (BL)

Day 12 - Gocta Waterfalls

This morning we start our walk to the base of the Gocta Falls. At 771 metres, the falls are the fifth tallest in the world. The scenery is spectacular and we will look out for various species of birds, butterflies and orchids. Later, we make the return walk back to the village of Cocachimba. Overnight Hotel Gocta Andes Lodge or similar. (BL)

Chachapoyas, Kuélap and Gocta

Situated at 2234 metres above sea level, Chachapoyas is a thriving Andean market town and a springboard for visiting the wealth of ancient remains in the area. 40km south of Chachapoyas, is the most famous of all the pre-Inca sites in Peru, the citadel complex of Kuélap.

Originally inhabited by the Chachapoya people, this seemingly impenetrable stone citadel sits atop a limestone mountain above the tiny village of Tingo, in the lush and remote Utcubamba Valley. Kuélap, the strongest and most well-defended of all Peruvian fortress cities, was built sometime between 500AD and 1493. It was discovered in 1843 by Judge Juan Crisóstomo Nieto. Some 700,000 tonnes of stone were used to build this Chachapoya fortress and it is not known where the Chachapoya people obtained this from. At its height, an estimated 4,000 people would have lived here in little stone houses, mainly working as artisans, farmers and builders. There are around four hundred round stone houses at Kuélap of which typically include a stone grinder, a cellar-like hole used for things like food storage and funerary purposes, and a narrow tunnel used as a guinea pig hutch. Some are houses of nobility and these are decorated with diamond and zig-zag patterns.

The upper part of the citadel was restricted to the most privileged ranks among Chachapoya society and features a seven-metre high watchtower. Other features include a temple – believed to have had a ceremonial function and possibly a place of sacrifice, the dwellings of priests, and small stone circles that served a funerary function. You may also see deer-eye symbols, condor designs, intricate serpent figures and carved animal heads, which are similar to those of the Kogi villages of northern Colombia. There are thought to be linguistic connections between the Kogi and Chachapoya peoples and possibly even links to Caribbean and Maya influence.

The Cataratas de Gocta claim to be fifth tallest in the world, at a height of 771m. The waterfalls have two tiers – the lower 540m and the higher 231m above – and are surrounded by cloud forest and sugarcane farms. Many species of birds inhabit the area, including Peru’s emblematic bird, the Andean ‘Gallito de la roca’ or ‘Cock-of-the-rock’.

Day 13 - Jaén – Lima

Transfer to Jaén airport and fly to Lima. Overnight Hotel Allpa or similar. (B)

Day 14 - Lima

Transfer to the airport for your flight home. (B)

Optional Amazon extension: Pacaya Samiria National Reserve

Day 1 - Iquitos – Pacaya Samiria National Reserve

We fly from Lima to Iquitos and transfer to Nauta, the gateway to the Pacaya Samiria National Reserve. We visit Sapi Sapi lagoon, home to endangered Taricaya turtles and Paiche, the largest fish in the Amazon, before continuing along the Marañón river.  Maintained by local residents, the tropical forest of Fundo Casual is our next stop, where we look out for different species of flora and fauna including medicinal herbs, sloths and monkeys. Overnight Pacaya Samiria Amazon Lodge or similar. (BLD)

Day 2 - Pacaya Samiria National Reserve

Following ‘the route of the primates’, we trek through primary forest and navigate the area of Nauta Caño for likely sightings of pink and grey dolphins, primates and various species of birds. Overnight Pacaya Samiria Amazon Lodge or similar. (BLD)

Day 3 - Pacaya Samiria National Reserve

We visit the community of San Jorge, stopping at the school and the ‘Centre for Kukama Women’s Crafts’. The project was set up by the Pacaya Samiria Amazon Lodge to boost the income of the locals and is run by women from the local community. All of the profits go to fifteen families within this local community. We then carry out the sustainable tasks assigned to us on day one, including planting trees and counting species of flora or fauna, before journeying down the Marañón river with a possible stop at Cocha Shiriyacu lake. We will also have the opportunity to try our hand at fishing with locals, using sustainable fishing practices.  Overnight Pacaya Samiria Amazon Lodge or similar. (BLD)

Day 4 - Pacaya Samiria National Reserve – Iquitos - Lima

In the morning, we review the fishing traps left the previous day and have the opportunity to taste our catch as part of an Amazonian breakfast. We spend some time birdwatching on the river banks and in the flooded forest, before our trip back to Iquitos and onwards to Lima. (BL)

Reserva Nacional Pacaya Samiria

One of the most remote and rewarding reserves in the Peruvian Amazon is Reserva Nacional Pacaya Samiria. This reserve is dotted with numerous oxbow lakes and criss-crossed by half a dozen rivers and innumerable creeks. It comprises around two million hectares of virgin rainforest which equates to around 1.5 percent of the total landmass in Peru. The reserve leads up to the confluence between the Marañón and Huallaga rivers, two of the largest Amazon headwaters, of which between them, possess the largest protected area of seasonally flooded jungle in the Peruvian Amazon. Pacaya Samiria is famous for its abundance of wildlife including pink and grey river dolphins, manatees, caimans, river turtles, numerous species of monkey and an astounding 450 plus species of birds. There is also a good chance of spotting jaguars in areas away from human settlement. Around 50,000 people, most of which are indigenous communities, still live in the reserve’s forest.

Andean Peaks and Ancient Empires
Andean Peaks and Ancient Empires

What's included?

  • Airport transfers

    We include arrival and departure transfers regardless of whether you book flights yourself, or we book them for you. If you’re booking them yourself, then please let us know the details so that we can arrange the transfers. Please note though that if you arrive earlier than Day 1 of the tour, and leave after the final day, we may need to make an additional charge for an airport transfer.

  • Accommodation

    Accommodation as listed in the dossier. The nature of the destinations that we operate may sometimes mean that we need to change hotels, but we’ll always endeavour to keep the same standards. Please be aware that as we operate in many countries where tourism is in its infancy, hotel standards may not be the same as you’re used to elsewhere.

  • Guides

    You will be accompanied by local English-speaking guides.

  • Meals

    As listed within the itinerary / dossier (B-Breakfast, L-Lunch, D-Dinner). These will vary from trip to trip – in some areas it makes sense to include all meals while in others there is a good choice of restaurants and we feel people might like to ‘do their own thing’ now and again. Please note that when meals are included, sometimes these will be in hotels, as often these are the most appropriate option, and will sometimes be set menus. Local restaurants are often lacking in variety, as well as the capacity to cater for groups. Drinks are not included and are at your own expense.

  • Entrance fees

    Entrance fees are listed for those sites that we mention within the itinerary. If there are any other sites that you’d like to see, these would be at your own expense.

What's not included?

  • Visas

    We don’t arrange visas for our travellers, but if an invitation letter is necessary then we will arrange this for you. If you need any advice with visas then just give us a call, or alternatively, a visa agency such as Travcour can assist.

  • International flights

    Many of our travellers arrive from different destinations and so we don’t include international flights in the cost of our tours. If, however, you would like us to book flights for you, then just give us a call and we’ll be happy to discuss your options.

  • Travel Insurance

    If you need any assistance with this, then let us know – although we can’t arrange it ourselves, we can point you in the direction of a reputable provider that can assist.


UK nationals don’t need a visa to visit Peru and can stay for up to 90 days. Citizens of most American and Western European countries don’t need a visa either. Your passport should be valid for a minimum period of six months from the date of entry into Peru and you should have two blank pages in your passport.

Other nationalities should check with their nearest embassy.

Health and vaccinations

We are not medically qualified and so we recommend that you speak to your doctor or nearest health professional for advice concerning recommended vaccinations. For more advice on vaccinations, you can also visit


It is a condition of joining our tours that you have suitable travel insurance in place, and we cannot accept travellers without insurance. All policies differ in terms of what they will cover, but as a minimum you need medical and health cover, which will cover you for the whole time that you are away. Most policies will also include cancellation cover, which will cover you if an unforeseen circumstance obliges you to cancel your trip. We recommend that you obtain your insurance as soon as you book your trip.

Please note that government travel warnings often affect the validity of your travel insurance, and you should check this with your insurance company.


The official currency in Peru is the Peruvian Sol or ‘PEN’. Not all shops, hotels, restaurants and bars accept credit cards, or may not accept all credit card types. Check if they take cards before asking for anything and keep all debit and credit card receipts. When using an ATM, it is best to do so in business hours inside a bank, supermarket or large commercial building. Intis is a former Peruvian currency out of circulation, being provided by street money changers, so avoid these altogether.

Local conditions

When travelling to some of the destinations we offer you need to bear in mind that things won’t always work here as we’re used to them working at home. Travelling in underdeveloped and untouristed destinations requires both patience and a sense of humour. There may be problems with infrastructure, attitudes may be different, and maintenance may not be as high a standard as we would always like, but this is very much part and parcel of travelling in such a place. We aim to resolve any issues as quickly as possible, and thank you for your patience.

Travel advice

We keep a very close eye on the travel advice issued by the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office so that we can keep you up to date with any warnings. At the time of writing the FCO does not advise against travel to Peru.

This relates to advice from the British government – other nationalities need to check the stance of their own governments.

Please note that the information contained above is highly susceptible to change, and while we endeavour to keep up to date we recommend that you use this as a guide only. Should you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

Updated July 2023

Andean Peaks and Ancient Empires
Andean Peaks and Ancient Empires
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29 June 2024
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28 June 2025
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