Your holiday summary

Holiday type Escorted tours
Country Peru
Travel type Make your own way
Price range From £2595
Travel partner Wild Frontiers
Duration 13 nights
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0330 333 6781

Peru: Lost treasures of the cloud warriors

In the north of Peru, far away from the country’s most famous attraction - Machu Picchu - can be found an amazing collection of pre-Columbian sites which are amongst some of the most fascinating and little-known in the entire Americas. For not only were these the lands of the Inca; they were also home to the Moche, the Chimu and the cloud warriors of Chachapoyas.

This astonishing odyssey into Peru’s ancient past takes us high up into the Northern Highlands, where the awesome mountain fortress of Kuelap lies shrouded in myth. Travelling through an incredible variety of landscapes from coastal deserts to cloud forests and high Andean mountains, there’ll be ample opportunities for mixing with the locals, most notably during the annual Raymillacta Festival which we’ll experience in all its magnificent colours in the small highland town of Chachapoyas. In addition we’ll explore the recently discovered cascades of the Gocta Falls - the third highest in the world! - adding to this unique and unforgettable adventure to the very heart of Peru’s ancient legacy.


  • Explore the stunning archaeological remains of the Moche, Chimu & Chachapoyans
  • Enjoy the Raymillacta Festival at Chachapoyas
  • Visit the immense pre-Incan fortress of Kuelap
  • Trek to the towering cascades of Gocta Falls
  • See Cajarmaca, where Pizarro executed Atahualpa and changed world history forever


  • Full services of a Wild Frontiers Tour Leader with local guides and drivers.
  • Meal plan as detailed in the itinerary (B=Breakfast, L=Lunch, D=Dinner) with mineral water as required.
  • All transport as outlined in the itinerary.
  • All accommodation
  • All entrance fees, as per itinerary
  • A carbon-offsetting contribution to Carbon Clear (if booking international flights through WF office)
Not included

  • Visas (if applicable)
  • Local airport taxes
  • Tips (always optional, but some guidance will be given in the predeparture information pack you’ll receive after booking)
  • Beverages & any costs of a personal nature.
  • International Flights
  • Airport transfers (unless booking suggested flights through WF office)
Day one: Tour starts in Lima:

One of the country’s most eclectic and vibrant cities, Peru’s historic ‘City of Kings’ is a rich amalgam of contrasts and contradictions. One of the gastronomic centres of the Americas and home to the grand architecture of the Plaza de Armas, Lima can trace its colonial beginnings to the middle years of the 16th century, when the Spanish conquistador, Francisco Pizarro, founded the city and named it in honour of the Magi of biblical legend. Over the years Lima has survived earthquakes, pirate attacks and wars of independence, to become the capital of the country and the fourth largest city in Latin America - a fitting starting point for a journey that will take us back to the Pre-Columbian beginnings of this incredible land. Hotel (no meals)

Day two: Lima - Trujillo:

Depending on flight schedules there should be time this morning to explore some of Peru’s fascinating capital, a veritable melting pot of cultures, with the influences of Europe, Africa and Asia very much in evidence before we take an onward flight to Trujillo. This northern city is a colonial gem and is also home to the cultural remains of the Chimu and Moche civilisations and the largest adobe pyramids in Peru. Hotel (B, L, D)

Day three: In and Around Trujillo:

Just to the south of Trujillo lie the huge pyramids of the Sun and the Moon, towering testaments to one of the most remarkable pre-Inca cultures in the Americas. The Moche people were master craftsmen, whose pottery is still considered amongst the finest ever created by the ancient Peruvian civilisations. The Huaca del Sol was once the largest man-made structure in the western hemisphere, reaching a height of over 45 metres. Its neighbour, the smaller Huaca de la Luna was considered to be a ‘religious pyramid’ and the recent discovery of over 6,000 square metres of murals and reliefs provide an incredible legacy to a culture that died out over 1200 years ago. After a full morning’s visit to these remarkable sites, we’ll return to Trujillo where the rest of the day will be free to enjoy this beautiful city. Hotel (B,L)

Day four: Drive to Chaparrí via Chan Chan:

This morning we visit the impressive Chimu ruins of Chan Chan, before continuing north towards the Chaparrí Mountains and the dry forests of northern Peru. The remains of Chan Chan are far and away the most extensive of Trujillo’s archaeological ruins. This once great imperial city covers an area of some 28 square kilometres and, at its hiatus, was the largest adobe city on the planet. Today the nine meter high perimeter walls encircle the crumbling remains of palaces and temples, workshops and gardens that once lay at the heart of an empire that stretched along the coast for over 1,000 kilometres. From here we continue north, heading next for the private conservation area of Chaparrí, a 34,412 hectare reserve that is a haven for Andean bears and condors. Chaparri Lodge (B,L,D)

Day five: Chaparrí - Chiclayo:

Largely dominated by sparse dry forest and semidesert, this remote setting is the first privately owned reserve in the country. Run by the local community, this natural paradise is home to a wide variety of animal and birdlife including many species that are endemic to the Tumbesian dry forests. These include the Andean or spectacled bear (think Paddington Bear!), the guanaco and the Andean condor. Indeed, Chaparrí can boast the only dedicated Andean bear Rescue and Rehabilitation Centre in Peru, which comprises a specially designed facility that is currently home to seven bears. Later we drive on to the nearby town of Chiclayo, our base for the next two nights. Hotel (B,L,D)

Day six: In and around Chiclayo:

Chiclayo began life as a rural community, founded by Spanish priests in the 1560s. Since then it has grown to be a major northern hub, lying at the centre of the country’s rice and sugar cane production. Today the town enjoys the benefits of a famous witch doctor’s market, a wonderfully ornate colonial heritage and a quite spectacular archaeological pedigree that includes the imposing remains of Sipán. Lying some 35 kilometres to the southeast of the town, the twin pyramid complex has unearthed some of the finest Moche artefacts ever discovered, considered by many to be amongst the best examples of pre-Columbian art ever found. We’ll have an opportunity today to visit the site and the museum, before returning to Chiclayo later this afternoon. Hotel (B,L)

Day seven: Chiclayo - Chachapoyas:

Today we head into the northern highlands and the lands of the Chachapoyans, the ‘Cloud People’ of legend, whose monumental cities and great fortresses testify to an archaeological legacy of incredible richness. The Chachapoyan Empire can be dated back to around 800AD, spreading across the jungle landscapes and developing major urban centres like Kuelap and Gran Pajaten, before finally being incorporated into the Incan Empire during the 15th century. To date there have been some 39 sites discovered throughout the region and it is believed to contains no fewer than five ‘lost’ cities, leading one author to describe it as “...overwhelming Machu Picchu in grandeur and mystery”. Our final destination for today is Chachapoyas, an important trading city that once lay at the crossroads between the coast and the jungle, providing an ideal base from which to explore this incredible cultural landscape. Hotel (B,L,D)

Day eight: Around Chachapoyas:

Visit the Raymillacta Festival and Karajia: In the morning we will travel to the funerary site of Karajia, precariously located on a mountain ledge some 2,600 metres above the valley. This remarkable setting contains six anthropomorphic coffins, stylised human figures that contain the entombed bodies of the dead, gazing out across the valley to the western horizons beyond. Then later, as today coincides with the Raymillacta Festival - a local celebration that sees villagers from the surrounding communities converging on the city to commemorate the ancient traditions and customs of the people that they once called the ‘Warriors of the Clouds’ – we’ll return to Chachapoyas to witness this colourful event which involves processions and dancing, food and music. The festivities are enhanced even more by the blaze of striking costumes that take to the streets and provides a great opportunity to share in this annual celebration. Hotel (B,L)

Day nine: Chachapoyas – Gocta Falls:

Today we drive out to the majestic Gocta Falls, the third highest waterfall in the world (although this is a point of some debate at present). Only recently ‘discovered’, the falls cascade down through some 771 metres, flowing into the waters of the nearby Cocahuayco River. Given its impressive height, it is remarkable that these falls have remained unknown to the outside world for so long, but it wasn’t until 2005 that a team actually came across them. The area around the falls provides us with some stunning trekking today, leading us past fields of sugar cane and corn and along trails that echo to the sounds of yellow-tailed woolly monkeys. These forests are home to giant ferns and orchids and at the base of the falls a swimming hole is believed to contain the protective spirit of a white-haired mermaid. Lodge (B,L,D)

Day 10: Gocta Falls - Kuelap - Chillo:

Rediscovered in 1843, the spectacular pre-Incan fortress of Kuelap sits on a ridge overlooking the Utcubamba Valley. Begun during the 10th century, its construction spanned a period of some 200 years and its massive stone walls contain over 400 stone buildings. Sprawled across the mountain summit and measuring over a kilometre in length, the site is considered one of the finest examples of Chachapoyan architecture left in the country, its formidable walls rising up to some 17 metres to protect the cylindrical buildings within. By the time the Incas arrived in the 1470s, Kuelap had become little more than an isolated mountain fortress, but in its day it had been one of the most formidable pre-Columbian cities in the Americas. After visiting the site we continue on to Chillo and our overnight accommodation in the heart of the Utcubamba Canyon. Hotel (B,L,D)

Day 11: Chillo – Revash - Leymebamba:

Today we pay a visit to the ruins of Revash and the pleasant town of Leymebamba, home to the Museo Leymebamba and the mummies of the Laguna de los Cóndores. The mausoleums at Revash date back to the middle years of the 13th century and lie amongst the calcareous rock formations of the Cerro Carbón, to the south of Chachapoyas. The walk up to the ruins takes us up along a trailing mountain path that climbs up to these impressive painted adobe houses and cave paintings. After our visit we then drive on to the town of Leymebamba, where we visit its stunning collection of over 200 mummies that were excavated from the late Inca burial grounds that once lay to the south. Hotel (B,L,D)

Day 12: Leymebamba - Cajamarca:

The beautiful colonial town of Cajamarca lies to the south-west of us, across a landscape of wide canyons and mountain valleys. Set on the edge of a lush valley, in the heart of Peru’s dairy country, the town once lay at the centre of the Cajamarca culture (500-1000 AD), before being turned into an important Inca religious settlement. Its charming colonial centre belies the fact that this town is steeped in the blood of the Incas, being the spot where that once great empire came to a final, bloody end at the Battle of Cajamarca. It was here, in November 1532, that Francisco Pizarro launched a surprise attack on the entourage of the Inca Emperor, Atahualpa, capturing him and slaughtering thousands of his followers in the process, an event that the Incas failed to recover from. In 1986 the town was declared a ‘Historical and Cultural Heritage of the Americas’ by the Organisation of American States. Today’s full day drive is one of the most scenic in the entire country and is not for the fainthearted! Hotel (B,L)

Day 13: In and around Cajamarca:

The town is home to a number of Catholic churches including the beautiful Complejo Belén and the baroque setting of its 18th century cathedral. We’ll have an opportunity this afternoon to spend some time exploring the town, after first paying a visit to the pre-Inca ruins at Cumbe Mayo, just to the south-west of the town. Set amongst the mountain landscapes and volcanic rock formations of Los Frailones (The Stone Monks), the aqueducts of Cumbe Mayo are said to be amongst the oldest man-made structures in South America and once collected water from the Atlantic watershed and carried it for some nine kilometres across the mountains to the Pacific watershed. On returning to Cajamarca we then have some time to enjoy the city at leisure, taking in the Plaza de Armas (where Atahualpa was executed) and perhaps visiting the old colonial maternity hospital, which is now the Archaeological and Ethnographical Museum. Hotel (B,L,D)

Day 14: Fly to Lima.

Tour ends: A further morning in Cajamarca allows time for some final explorations before our afternoon flight (times subject to change) back to the ‘City of Kings’ today, where our journey ends. (B)


Arrive early to adjust to a new time zone or just to get a feel for the country before your tour starts. Explore the country after your tour on a bespoke Wild Extension or just allow a few days to relax afterwards. Maybe choose all of the above and get cheaper flights mid-week? A sample of what you could do… Cusco and Machu Picchu: If you’ve never been to Peru before then don’t miss out on the opportunity to visit these South American gems. Depending on whether you want to walk the Inca Trail or not, allow 4 - 10 days. Southern Circuit: If you have time for a more thorough exploration of Peru, then a week should allow you to travel south from Lima via the “mini-Galapagos” at Paracas, the Nazca lines, the colonial city of Arequipa with its nearby Colca Canyon and Puno on the shores of Lake Titicaca. Amazon Rainforest: You may be surprised to learn that 60% of Peru is Amazonian rainforest and various ecolodges offer the opportunity for exploration of this unique environment. Allow 3-5 days. Neighbouring countries: If you’re coming from Europe, then South America is a long way to go and you may want to consider combining this trip with a visit to Bolivia or even Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands.
Wherever possible we aim to use accommodation that enhances the overall travel experience, not just offers a bed for the night. On this trip we will be in a combination of good quality hotels and eco-lodges as well as some more basic, but still characterful places up in the mountains.
This offer has no departures. [NEED SOME CONTENT HERE].