Exciting pre- Inca cultures
Northern Peru sees very few visitors compared to Machu Picchu. Yet here lie various fascinating sites, through which you can explore the unique cultures that once inhabited these parts. The recently discovered Lord of Sipan is known by many as the Tutankamun of the Americas, such is the importance of this discovery.
On arrival in Trujillo airport please proceed to the baggage hall. At the exit to the building your driver will be waiting for you with a sign at the barrier outside the arrivals gate. He will then transfer you to your hotel for the night.
Included: transfer to hotel, hotel Trujillo
This morning you tour the historic centre of Trujillo, a city whose heart still pulses with colonial splendour. Sights include the immense main square and the spacious mansions built by Spanish and Creole gentry during the 17th and 18th centuries.
Next you head towards the coast, arriving at the great Chimú center of Chan Chan, the largest adobe city ever built. It was in fact an elite settlement, a series of nine enormous palaces belonging to successive rulers of the Chimú realm. At its height the population here may have reached 50,000 people. Many of them were artists and craftspeople, who made the sumptuous gold-work, textiles and pottery for which the Chimú were famous.
At the Tschudi palace enclosure you can enter a labyrinthine series of courtyards lined with clay friezes of fish and ocean birds, and walled in places with an open meshwork adobe building style believed to represent fishing nets. You visit inner patios, residences, administrative buildings, temples, platforms and storehouses, and a huge reservoir where “sunken gardens” may have produced specialized crops for the Chimu nobility.
Next stop is the nearby beach resort of Huanchaco, where you can try the superb seafood of at a restaurant overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Here fishermen still paddle out to sea, kneeling on caballitos de totora — little one-man reed rafts which have been used for millennia to collect the abundant bounty of the Pacific Ocean.
In the afternoon drive a short way to visit the Huaca de la Luna, and the Huaca del Sol, two huge flat-topped pyramids built by the Moche culture between 0 and 800 A.D. The Huaca de la Luna is an extraordinary demonstration of what patient long-term archaeology can achieve.
Here, at a site that has been well known and frequently looted for centuries, excavations have revealed layer upon layer of ancient construction, uncovering wall after wall of colourful friezes that were intentionally buried by the Moche, and had not seen the light of day for one-and-a-half thousand years. Bloodthirsty fanged deities and exotic gods in the form of spiders, snakes felines, octopi and other marine creatures rub shoulders with lines of dancers, warriors and naked prisoners, and scenes of ritual combat.
Included: English-speaking guide, entrance fees, transport, breakfast, hotel Trujillo
In the morning, you travel with your guide by private car or bus to Chiclayo. This half-day journey on the Pan-American highway offers a shifting panorama of scenes from coastal Peru, alternating irrigated river valleys such as the Jequetepeque and Chicama, with stretches of arid dune and rocky desert.
You will visit the site featured in National Geographic magazine after the sensational discovery here of the mummy of a tattooed priestess, buried with a variety of ceremonial and military accoutrements. An extraordinary array of multicolored murals dating from seven or more phases of construction depicts both scenes from the daily lives of the Moche, and gory rituals of sacrifice.
You arrive in Chiclayo in the early afternoon.
Included: English-speaking guide, entrance fees, transport, breakfast, hotel Chiclayo
You set off for the mud-brick pyramid that made world headlines in 1987 with one of the most sensational finds of recent archaeology. Known as the Huaca Rajada — the “Cracked Pyramid”, because of the deep gulleys weathered into its flanks — this eroded adobe platform yielded fabulous ancient treasures from a series of deeply buried tombs of the pre-Inca Moche culture, who lived in the valleys of Peru’s north coast 1,500 years ago.
To get there you drive east up the broad, flat Reque valley past fields of sugarcane studded with varicolored pastel foothills of the great Andean chain, then arriving at the modern village of Sipán. Here you see the tombs themselves, with superb reconstructions of the burials of priests and chieftains, together with their sacrificed guards and companions. A highly informative site museum tells the story of this extraordinary civilization, who created some of the finest pottery, jewelry and gold-working of the Americas — and of their often macabre rituals of combat and sacrifice.
You return to Chiclayo for a delicious lunch where you can taste the delicous northern-style cuisine, and then continue on to Lambayeque, where you visit the Royal Tombs of Sipán Museum. This modern building, representing the style of a Moche pyramid, was built to house the stunning and priceless objects unearthed at Sipán. (A single looted object from the tombs was intercepted at an auction in the U.S. — carrying a reserve price of $1.6 million!). Here you see the incredible array of precious symbols and images, stones and shell necklaces, ear-plugs and headdresses that were worn and displayed at Moche ceremonies, and also learn what is known of their meaning. This astonishing visit ends at an animated waxworks exhibit of the lords and retinue of the Moche court, allowing you to glimpse and imagine the world of an unfamiliar but dazzling civilization that thrived here at a time when Europe was sliding into the Dark Ages after the fall of the Roman Empire.
Afterwards you drive to an oasis of calm at Tucumé, today’s final destination. Here you see the chronological sequence that followed the fall of the Moche, at a site where their descendants, the Lambayeque culture, continued to amass millions of adobe bricks for the building of mighty pyramids — including the longest of its kind in the world, at more than 700m/2,300ft — but were now influenced by highland tribes, and began to abandon their old ways. The history of this scenic site — extensively investigated by the famed Norwegian explorer Thor Heyerdahl — leads us all the way to the Incas, who conquered the region not long before they, in turn, were conquered by the Spanish. You can climb to a viewing platform with superb views of the surrounding pyramids and the dry woodland habitat of the Leche valley. You can also visit the small, intimate and low-tech site museum, to enjoy the excellent collection of excavated objects, dioramas of daily life, and models of the pyramids. In the afternoon you will be dropped of at the airport in time for your flight to Lima.
Included: English-speaking guide, entrance fees, transport, breakfast
In order to fully enjoy your trip it is very important that you choose the right trip for you and fully understand what it involves.
There are risks inherent in travelling in Peru, as indeed there are in most of the activities that we provide. Many of the activities we offer also involve a significant level of effort on your part. After all, it is called Adventure Travel for a reason.
It is really important that you read both the trip notes above and the Risk and Safety Section on our website, to enable you to choose the best trip for you. Once you have read them both, please make sure you ask if there is anything you do not understand. We classify this trip as:
Cultural… This trip does not involve any particularly physical level of activity, but just being in Peru can have its own challenges. Your trip may involve being at altitude which can take some people a bit of time to get used to. Much of it will take place outdoors where you can be exposed to weather conditions. Many of the places you visit have uneven ground and sets of steps. Most of Peru is very well set up for tourists, over one million people successfully visit Machu Picchu each year, but it is important to understand that it is not quite like being at home.
We create safe, responsibly run adventures in Cusco and the Sacred Valley for lovers of the great outdoors. We are a Certified B Corps and hold all Adventure Licenses for the activities we offer.
Avenida Collasuyo 910, Miravalle, Cusco
9am – 4pm local time (GMT-5)