Peru Beyond the Tourist Trail

Peru Beyond the Tourist Trail

Style: TravellerCultural discovery away from the crowds
Duration: 14 days
Type: GroupTravel with a small group of other travellers


Northern Peru – a little visited and pristine part of this amazing country. This is one of South America’s most popular destinations – but less than 5% of travellers make it to the northern region which is surprising given its amazing pre-Inca and colonial history, and an abundance of cultural and natural wonders.

On this unique tour we take you beyond the tourist trail to discover the rich and advanced pre-Inca cultures Caral, Moche, Chimu and Chachapoyas. You will see the most amazing colonial buildings in Peru’s intellectual capital Trujillo, famous as the place where the Spanish conquistadores arrived marking the end of the Inca Empire. You will stand face to face with Peru’s highest mountain - the impressive double coned Huascaran at 6,768m. You will drive on one of the world’s most spectacular roads through Cañon del Pato and travel deep into lush cloud forest in search of ancient mummies.

If you are a traveller looking to tick off the country’s well-known highlights then this isn’t the tour for you. But if you want to escape the crowds of Machu Picchu and the Inca Trail, then join us on this fascinating journey to explore Peru’s hidden gems.

Tour Rating 

Fitness ●●●○○ | Off the Beaten Track ●●●●○ | Culture ●●●●○ | History ●●●●○ | Wildlife ●●○○○

Tour Pace


Tour Highlights

  • Amazing colonial buildings in Peru’s intellectual capital Trujillo
  • Come face to face with Peru’s highest mountain - the double coned Huascaran at 6,768m.
  • Drive on one of the world’s most spectacular roads through Cañon del Pato
  • Go beyond the tourist trail to discover the rich pre-Inca cultures

Tour Essentials

Accommodation: Comfortable hotel accommodation
Included Meals: Daily breakfast (B), plus lunches (L) and dinners (D) as shown in the itinerary.
Group Size: Maximum 12
Start Point: Lima
End Point: Lima
Transport: Minivans, domestic flights
Countries: Peru

Tour Itinerary Notes

While our intention is to adhere to the day-by-day itinerary as printed below, a degree of flexibility is built in. Overnight stops may vary from those suggested and on occasions alternative accommodation, of a similar standard to that named below, will be used.

Tour Guide

Our guides are a key strength, chosen for their knowledge of and passion for the areas in which they work. All of our guides are carefully hand-picked, and are not just passing through these countries, but are usually locally born. Unlike some companies it should be noted we do not send a guide or tour leader from Undiscovered Destinations in the UK as we have every confidence in our locally appointed representative who is responsible for operating the tour on our behalf. Where possible you will have the same guide throughout your trip but on occasions it may be necessary to change the guide at one or more points during the tour.

Day 1 - Arrival Lima

Arrive in Lima, home to 10 million people which is more than one third of the country’s entire population. You will be met at the airport and transferred to your hotel in the pleasant district of Miraflores. Overnight Hotel Santa Cruz or similar.

Day 2 - Chiclayo

Transfer to the airport for a scheduled flight to Chiclayo, gateway to Peru’s beautiful and diverse, yet little visited north. Please note that you will fly unaccompanied and without a guide. Upon arrival in Chiclayo you will be met by your guide who will travel with you throughout the tour. Transfer to the hotel and check-in. You will then have a comprehensive tour briefing. Overnight at Hotel Los Portales or similar. (B)

Day 3 - Chiclayo

The area around Chiclayo is packed with exciting archaeological excavations from pre-Inca times. The most important is the royal tombs of Sipan which originate from the Moche culture approximately 300-1200 AD. The royal tombs were discovered almost intact as late as 1989. Besides visiting the actual tombs you will also visit the nearby museum exhibiting the excavated artefacts. The Lord of Sipan museum is truly amazing and the old Spanish conquistadores would have been drooling given all the gold and silver artefacts on display. Luckily the tombs have never been robbed so the collection is considerable. You will also visit the Lord of Sipan museum which is equally amazing. Overnight at Hotel Los Portales or similar. (BL)

Day 4 - Chachapoyas (approx. 9hrs, 450km driving)

A long but rewarding day’s drive brings us from the coastal desert over the lowest mountain pass in the Andes, Abra de Porculla (2,145m) to Chachapoyas (2,345m) on the eastern slopes and on the edge of the mighty Amazonas. Overnight at Hotel Vilaya or similar. (BD)


The small, modern town of Chachapoyas is first and foremost a springboard for a wealth of nearby pre-Columbian remains. With the opening up of the road networks in these parts, Chachapoyas has developed into a thriving little market town (with a wide range of fruits and vegetables, some craft goods, and some smaller woollen accessories such as straps and belts), supporting a mostly indigenous population of around ten thousand, themselves with a reputation for being among the most friendly and hospitable people in Peru.

Day 5 - Chachapoyas - Kuelap - Tingo

An exciting day that takes us from Chachapoyas to the magnificent ruin of Kuelap (3,100m) and further on to the small town of Leimebamba (2,050m) with only 1,100 inhabitants. Kuelap is without doubt one of many highlights of the trip. It is one of the largest, most important and best preserved archaeological sites in South America. Built as a fortress around 900-1100 AD Kuelap is situated on an isolated rock with a 360 degree view of the surroundings. It is estimated that the amount of building material outnumbers the building material used for the Giza Pyramids in Egypt. The oval fortress is 700 metres in length and between 6 and 12 metres in height with deep narrow entrances making it practically impregnable. Despite its archaeological importance its isolation makes Kuelap a rarely visited site. After our visit to Kuelap we continue amongst stunning scenery along the Rio Uctubamba to the small tranquil town of Tingo. Overnight at Hotel La estancia de Chillo Lodge or similar. (BD)


The main attraction for most travellers in the Chachapoyas region, Kuelap discovered in 1843, is one of the most overwhelming pre-Inca sites in Peru. Occupied from about 600 AD, Kuelap was the strongest, most easily defended of all Peruvian fortress cities, something that can be seen in the narrowing defensive form of the main entry passageways. This is thought to be the site which the rebel Inca Manco considered using for his last-ditch stand against the conquistadors in the late 1530’s. He never made it here, ending up instead in the equally breathtaking Vilcabamba, North-East of Cusco.

Day 6 - Leimebamba

Another exiting day awaits us as we drive to the small hamlet of Leimebamba where we will get an excellent insight to small town daily living in rural Peru. We visit the interesting museum housing Chachapoyas mummies and artefacts found at Lagunas de los Condores in 1996. Overnight at Hostel Casona de Leimebamba or similar. (BD)

Day 7 – Cajamarca (approx. 8hrs, 320km driving)

Today we travel on one of Peru’s most stunning roads to the historically important city of Cajamarca (2,650m). We reach our destination by passing through innumerable mountain passes, cloud forest and deep canyons. Finally we pass through Celendin (2,625m) before arriving in Cajamarca, famous as it was here that the Inca Empire surrendered to the Spanish conquistadores. Overnight at Hostel El Ingenio or similar. (BD)

Day 8 - Cajamarca

Today we will visit either Ventanillas de Combayo or Ventanillas de Otuzco, well preserved funeral caves carved into the rocks during the Inca period. And there will be time for you to experience the colonial ambience of Cajamarca at leisure. Overnight at Hostel El Ingenio or similar. (BD)


The most important town in the northern highlands, Cajamarca is a dainty colonial metropolis cradled in a languid valley and stonewalled by brawny mountains in every direction. Descending into the valley by road, Cajamarca’s mushroom field of red-tile-roofed houses confesses a secret desire to cling to its village roots. Fertile farmland carpets the entire valley and Cajamarca’s streets belong as much to the wide-brimmed-hat-wielding campesinos (peasants, as the young city slickers who frequent the boutique restaurants and bars. In the colonial centre, majestic churches border the capacious Plaza de Armas. From here, once-decadent baroque mansions spread out in concentric circles along the cobbled streets, many enclosing ethereal hotels and fine restaurants.

Day 9 - Trujillo (approx. 8hrs, 320km driving)

Today we leave the highlands and travel down the famous Pan American Highway towards the Pacific Ocean and Trujillo, home to some 770,000 inhabitants and the third largest city in Peru. En route visit the Temple of the Witch housing the remains of what is believed to be the first female ruler of the Moche Culture. The mummy is so well preserved that you can still see her tattoos. We expect to arrive in Trujillo in the early afternoon and there will be time to enjoy the Plaza de Armas and to take in some of the country’s most beautiful colonial architecture. Overnight at Hotel El Brujo or similar. (BD)


Stand in the right spot and the glamorously colonial streets of old Trujillo look like they’ve barely changed in hundreds of years. Well, there are more honking taxis now – but the city still manages to put on a dashing show with its flamboyant buildings and profusion of churches. Francisco Pizarro founded Trujillo in 1534, and he thought so highly of this patch of desert he named it after his birthplace in Spain’s Estremadura. Spoiled by the fruits of the fertile Moche Valley, Trujillo never had to worry about money – wealth came easily. With life’s essentials taken care of, thoughts turned to politics and life’s grander schemes; the city has a reputation for being a hotbed of revolt. The town was besieged during the Inca rebellion of 1536 and in 1820 was the first Peruvian city to declare independence from Spain. The tradition continued into the 20th century, as bohemians flocked, poets put pen to paper (including Peru’s best poet, César Vallejo), and rebels raised their fists defiantly in the air. It was here that the Alianza Popular Revolution Americana (APRA) workers’ party was formed – and many of its members were later massacred.

Day 10 - Chan Chan

As with Chiclayo the area around Trujillo is packed with exiting archaeological excavations where the adobe city Chan Chan is especially significant since it was the largest city on the American continents in pre Colombian time and the biggest adobe city in the world. Chan Chan housed some 60,000 inhabitants in the 14th century when the Chimu culture was at its highest. The city was rich with extravagant silver and gold decorations. Later we visit the fishing village of Huanchaco. Besides being a popular meeting point for surfers, Huanchaco is known as one of the last places along the Peruvian Pacific Coast where fishermen still use small reed boats called cabalittos (little horse) because of the way the fishermen ride them paddling with one leg on each side like they have been doing for 2000 years. In the evening explore Huanchaco at leisure and look out for the country’s national dish Ceviche which is raw lemon marinated seafood or Peru’s version of sushi. Overnight at Hotel El Brujo or similar. (BL)

Day 11 - Sechin - Huaraz (approx. 8hrs, 350km driving)

Drive along the Pan American Highway before we ascend into the Andes and Huaraz. En route we visit the small ruin of Sechin, situated in the foothills of Cordillera Negra. We reach Huaraz situated in the Rio Santa Valley and in front of Peru’s and the world’s highest tropical mountain, double domed Huascarán (6768m). The area is known as Cordillera Blanca (the White Mountains) referring to the numerous glaciated peaks. At an altitude of 3,000m Huaraz is often referred to as the Kathmandu of the Andes. Overnight at Hotel Andino or similar. (BD)

Day 12 - Cañon del Pato – Yungay

An amazing day awaits you in this pristine part of South America. We head north from Huaraz to the buried town of Yungay. When a devastating earthquake struck the valley in May 1970 a large part of Huascarán’s northern summit tumbled down towards Yungay and turned a lively city with 30,000 inhabitants into a graveyard within minutes. Very few people survived this horrific day. Today only the towers of the old cathedral and a couple of palm trees are visible as you walk around the area with great respect in the knowledge that 30,000 people were buried alive beneath your feet. Later we take a detour from the valley visiting the pristine twin lakes of Llanganuco surrounded by glaciated 5,000m peaks. Beside the lakes you can see the rare Arbol del Papel tree –or paper tree. The bark looks like fine paper on the tree trunk. Continuing north we eventually reach Caraz from where we will enter one of the world’s most amazing roads - Cañon del Pato, meaning Canyon of the Ducks. Rio Santa separates the two mountain ranges Cordillera Blanca and Cordillera Negra by only ten metres at some points. The road was blasted out of the cliffs on the Cordillera Negra side of the canyon and at a point it goes through 35 roughly cut tunnels over a distance of 15 kilometres until the city of Huallanca from where we head back to Huaraz via the same route, so you will pass through this amazing place twice to fully appreciate the splendour of this area. Overnight at Hotel Andino or similar. (BD)

Day 13 - Caral - Lima (approx. 9hrs, 430km driving)

Heading back to the capital we travel through coastal desert stopping along the way at the UNESCO World Heritage Site Caral-Supe, which is the oldest known city/civilization in the Americas dating back to around 5000 BC. We arrive in Lima in the afternoon. Now at the end of the trip and what will have been at times a strenuous journey in the country’s remote northern region, enjoy a leisurely evening before your departure the next day. Overnight at Hotel Santa Cruz or similar. (B)

Day 14 - Lima

Depending on your flight schedule you may have time to explore Lima by yourself or we can organise an optional guided excursion. Alternatively please contact us if you would like to extend your stay in Lima or take in other areas of the country such as Cusco and Machu Picchu or an extension to the amazing Peruvian jungle. Transfer to the airport for departure. (B)


With its colonial facades and high rises, it takes a little imagination to get beyond the grit of Lima’s first impression. After Cairo, this sprawling metropolis is the second-driest world capital, rising above a long coastline of crumbling cliffs. Lima is also sophisticated, with a civilization that dates back millennia. Stately museums display sublime pottery; galleries debut edgy art; solemn religious processions date back to the 18th century and crowded nightclubs pulse with tropical beats. No visitor can miss the capital’s culinary genius, part of a gastronomic revolution more than 400 years in the making.

Arrival and departure transfers
All accommodation
Services of English speaking guide / tour leader
Meals as listed (B – Breakfast, L – Lunch, D – Dinner)
Entrance fees for sites listed as part of the itinerary

International flights
Any airport taxes
Travel Insurance
Visa if applicable
Items of a personal nature
Tips (discretionary)