Peru Itinerary: Ancient Sites and Cities Beyond Machu Picchu
Day 1: Lima
Upon arrival at Lima International Airport you’ll meet your representative and private driver who’ll take you to your hotel and provide you with a detailed itinerary and any additional information you need for your trip. The rest of the day can be spent exploring Peru at leisure. Overnight in Lima.
Day 2: Lima / Caral
Take a trip to the very heart of Peru at Caral, the first centre of civilisation in the Americas, built more than 5000 years ago during the Late Archaic Period of the Central Andes. The site covers around 150 acres and features two large circular plazas sunk into the ground, plus the remains of six pyramids (along with evidence of residential structures), the largest of which is 154m tall. Archeologists have uncovered numerous musical instruments, including flutes made from animal bones, that hint at the importance of musical to this early society. You’ll explore the site in detail with your English-speaking guide (box lunch provided). Overnight in Caral.
Day 3: Caral / Trujillo
On your way to Trujillo you’ll stop at Sechin Alto, the capital of a pre-Incan culture located on the northwest coast of Peru, occupied between approximately 1800-900BC. The site is remarkable for its enormous mound, the largest of its time period, measuring some 990 feet long, by 825 feet wide by 145 feet tall. You’ll then head to the town of Trujillo with its colourful painted buildings. Overnight in Trujillo.
Day 4: Trujillo
Explore some of Trujillo’s top archeological sites including the Huaca del Sol and Huaca de la Luna and the city of Chan Chan with your private English-speaking guide. Lunch will be provided.
Most famous are the staggeringly huge sun and moon pyramids (Huaca del Sol and Huaca de la Luna), the former of which is the largest adobe structure in the Americas. These temples are believed to be the centre of the Moche (or Mochica) culture between 400 and 600 AD. You’ll spend the morning exploring, then visit a traditional family that descends from the Mochica people.
Huaca de la Luna is thought to have served a ceremonial purpose, and is distinguished by its well-preserved friezes (some still with their original colour intact) and stylised depictions of a face thought to be the god Ai-Apaec, master of life and death. Worship of Ai-Apaec has frequently been linked with human sacrifice, and archeologists have found the dismembered remains of over 70 sacrificial victims here.
Later you’ll visit the Arco Iris Temple, a remnant of the Chimu culture. You’ll then drive to the seaside town of Huanchaco and see the local fishermen at work on their traditional Caballitos de Totora, or reed boats.
After lunch in Huanchaco and you’ll head to the fascinating and ancient adobe city of Chan Chan, home to 100,000 inhabitants who stubbornly resisted the expansion of the Inca Empire. Overnight in Trujillo.
Day 5: Trujillo / Chiclayo
On day 5, you’ll make your way to Chiclayo via the fascinating EL Brujo Complex and Senora De Cao Museum with your private English speaking guide.
The complex is made up of Mochica-built adobe temples and gained famed after the on-site discovery of a tattooed mummy in 2006, known as the Señora de Cao. Clearly an important shamanic leader, the 1,500-year-old señora has intricate depictions of spiders, fish and snakes inked into her hands and arms. The complex is named after her – “El Brujo” means “The Wizard”.
You can see her for yourself at the on-site museum, which also houses the multiple pieces of gold and silver jewellery inlaid with precious stones that were found alongside her body. Overnight in Chiclayo.
Day 6: Chiclayo / Chachapoyas
On day six you’ll visit Huaca Rajada, Tucume and enjoy a private tour of the Tumbas Reales Museum with an English-speaking guide.
In the morning there will be an excursion to the magnificent mud-brick burial platform of Huaca Rajada where the world famous Tomb of the Lord of Sipan was discovered. The gold and silver found here made for one of the richest tombs ever discovered in the Americas. The most important grave site discovered was that of El Señor de Sipán (the Lord of Sipan), buried with many precious decorative objects inlaid with precious stones and shells, including his main emblem, a decorative staff. The tomb itself is recreated inside the museum, and is sure to give you an Indiana Jones-like thrill. Overnight bus to Chapoyas.
Day 7: Chachapoyas
On arrival in Chachapoyas you will enjoy breakfast at your hotel, then it’s time to saddle up for a horse ride to the ancient burial site of the Karajia sarcophagi and the Quiocta Caverns. There are over 250 sites featuring these human-shaped clay coffins in the region, hidden along narrow cliff ledges to discourage grave robbers. Of these, Karajía is the only one accessible to visitors. You’ll find 6 coffins here, housing the remains of important chieftains and shamans with their prized possessions. The heads of the sarcophagi resemble the monumental moai found on Easter Island. These eerie coffins are among the most unusual ancient sites in Peru. Overnight in Chapoyas.
Day 8: Chachapoyas
For your eighth day you’ll start by visiting the spectacular 10th-14th century Kuelap fortress, nicknamed the “new Machu Picchu”. You’ll head up on a cable car before riding to the site on horseback, or walking to the fortress, perched 3,000 metres about sea level surrounded by cloud forest. A seemingly impregnable citadel balanced on top of a limestone mountain, archeologists estimate that as many as 700,000 tonnes of stone were hauled up here to build the fortress. Measuring 700m long and with 20m-high walls, it must have been a formidable sight when it was first constructed. Overnight in Chapoyas.
Day 9: Chachapoyas / Gocta
Day nine will see you saddling up again for the ride to the impressive Gocta waterfalls (at over 770 metres, one of the tallest in the world), enjoying panoramic views and lots of smaller waterfalls along the way. Keep an eye out for toucans, monkeys and even mountain lions as you ride. Overnight in Coachimba.
Day 10: Return home
On the morning of day 10 you’ll head to Jaen airport in Cajamarca for your flight back home.
Prices start from $2,437 per person for two travellers sharing a double room. This includes accommodation (hotel or overnight bus), in-country transportation, some meals, entrance fees to all of the sites, and English-speaking guides. Flights, travel insurance, personal expenses, and any local taxes are not covered.
Book through Rough Guides’ trusted travel partners
Planning your trip to Peru
Everything you need to plan where to go and what to do.
Book Your Trip To Peru
Get your dream travel planned & booked by local travel experts
At Rough Guides, we understand that experienced travellers want to get truly off-the-beaten-track. That’s why we’ve partnered with local experts to help you plan and book tailor-made trips that are packed with personality and stimulating adventure - at all levels of comfort. If you love planning, but find arranging the logistics exhausting, you’re in the right place.Learn Morechevron_right
The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.
Pyramids and human sacrifice: the top ancient sites in Peru
The traces of human civilisation in Peru date back some 20,000 years, to nomadic peoples who crossed into the Americas via the Bering Straight during the last …
A first-timer’s guide to Peru
Paddington, the world’s favourite intrepid bear, turned 60 in 2018. The first Paddington novel by author Michael Bond was published in October 1958. The stor…
Missed out on the Inca Trail? Try these treks instead
If the Inca Trail is booked up, or you don't fancy camping, or you want to hike away from the crowds, there are more treks in Peru's Sacred Valley than you migh…