Sacred Earth Travel - Sustainable Nature and Adventure Travel


Cajamarca and Chiclayo Tour - Northern Peru Archaeology


CumbemayoExplore the amazing North, visiting both archaeological sites and areas of great natural beauty where the ancient Moche and the more recent Incas lived. With two nights in Cajamarca and one in Chiclayo, this itinerary includes visits in and around Cajamarca: the historic colonial mansions, churches and museums of the old city; the Ransom room, where the Inca emperor Atahualpa is said to have been kept captive by Francisco Pizarro; the ancient tomb site known as the Ventanillas de Otuzco; the Andean highland countryside -- and Chiclayo: the adobe pyramids of Túcume; the Sipán archaeological site, where the fabulous Royal Tombs were discovered; and the Museum of the Royal Tombs in Lambayeque, where the contents of those tombs are displayed. In Cajamarca we include free access and a massage at La Laguna Seca Spa, which is both the best hotel in the region and an abundant natural hot spring, where Atahualpa took his last bath before his fall into Spanish captivity.

Note: this itinerary offers an optional extra day in Cajamarca, to visit either (a) Cumbemayo, where spectacular rock formations and an extraordinary pre-Inca canal cut deep into bedrock provide a stimulating day´s outing, or (b) Granja Porcón, a highland co-operative farm project where sheep herds mingle with llamas and alpacas, which attracts international visitors interested in livestock and co-operative farming models.

Day 1: Lima/Cajamarca

We arrive in Cajamarca early, and transfer to La Laguna Seca Hotel and Spa, where we eat a light breakfast and then take an easy tour of the grounds of this hotel as we acclimatize to the altitude of 2,700m/8,900ft. The rest of the morning is for relaxation. After lunch we drive into the city center, and up to the hilltop now known as Colina Santa Apolonia. This was a sacred mountain to the Cajamarca people who held sway in this valley for nearly two thousand years, until the Incas conquered them, and ancient rock carvings can still be seen on its summit. Today we look out over the modern city of some 250,000 inhabitants, spread out over a valley at 2,700m/8,850ft, surrounded by low mountains. After viewing the lay of the land we descend the steps into the old city center, which lies directly below us.

Spanish colonial houses line the streets here, and the churches, such as San Francisco and Belén, wear facades of intricate, fantastical baroque-mestizo stonework, although all trace of the Inca halls from which Francisco Pizarro and his conquistadors launched history's most fateful and treacherous ambush have disappeared. Nevertheless, we visit one Inca stone building that still stands, its smoothly rounded stone walls and perfectly fitted stones testifying to its noble Inca origins. Local folklore holds that this was the room which the Inca Atahualpa offered to fill once with gold and twice with silver, in exchange for his freedom. This forlorn monument is a suitable spot to hear the story of Atahualpa's fabulous ransom and its tragic denouement.

We visit the Museum in the old colonial hospital of the Church of Belen, to get in touch with and see some fine artifacts from an older culture -- known to us as the Cajamarca -- who occupied this valley for some 2,000 years before finally succumbing to the Inca expansion.

Comments: Cajamarca was a major center of the Inca Empire. It is most famous for being the place of first contact between Pizarro and the Inca army, which he defeated in a one-sided battle shortly thereafter, and captured Atahualpa, the last of the independent Inca monarchs. Although the Inca city was razed to the ground, Cajamarca boasts many beautiful colonial buildings, as well as the Inca-era "Ransom Room," where Atahualpa was kept as a prisoner of the Spanish before being garroted.

Day 2: Cajamarca: Around Cajamarca: Farms, Tombs, and the Andean highland countryside

After breakfast at the hotel we drive to a bucolic pastoral setting in the nearby mountains, where we take a short and easy hike, encountering local people with their flocks of sheep, and learning about the customs of the region. Next we move on to an archaeological experience, with a visit to the nearby rock formation at Otuzco, where over thousands of years the pre-Inca Cajamarca peoples left hundreds of elaborate niches, or 'windows', hewn into bedrock, in which they buried their dead. Our last stop on this active morning outing will be a local farm, the Fundo de los Alpes, where we meet local farmhands and witness the making of a variety of cheeses, manjar blanco (a sweet, milk-based delicacy), and other delights from Cajamarca, one of the main dairy farming regions of Peru.

After lunch at the hotel (whose cost is not included) we spend the afternoon at the Laguna Seca hotel. These historic thermal baths where Atahualpa bathed and relaxed right before his fateful encounter with the Spaniards, are located in a spacious garden environment in a quiet suburb of Cajamarca, and are very extensive. They provide abundant hot water -- enough for a private hot tub in every room. Our stay here includes a massage at the Spa, whose facilities also offer a range of other services: reflexology, mud therapy, chiropractic therapy, facials and other treatments.

Comments: The Hotel Laguna Seca Spa brings together the natural elements from Cajamarca's landscape and specially created and designed elements to promote the practice of relaxing therapies, where the waters that flow from the thermal springs are used to give the body the minerals and components, which contribute to relaxation and health.

In combination with the pure air and the freshness of the environment, a health therapy in the exclusive Laguna Seca Spa offers the perfect way of rejuvenating the body and preventing illnesses, giving comfort, security and professionalism with every stay Treatments available: Anti-stress massage, Slimming massage, reflexology, localized massage, mud therapy, chiropractic massage, face treatment and complete treatment.

Day 3: Cajamarca to Chiclayo: from high mountain to desert shore

We set off early. The condition of the first part of this road may vary, so we adjust our departure time accordingly. The route across the rolling mountain scenery of the Cajamarca valley and dramatic descent through rugged ravines to the coast offers another sample of Peru's startling varieties of terrain and geography. We will aim to stop for an open air box lunch at a scenic spot overlooking the great lake behind the Gallito Ciego dam. By early afternoon we meet the Pan-American highway 90 Km. south of Chiclayo, and finish our journey on a major paved road.

After lunch we visit the nearby fishing port and beach resort of Pimentel. 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. We continue on to Monsefú to visit a local family who devote themselves to producing fine local handicrafts, such as the famous local Panama-style hats, table place-mats and centerpieces, and embroidered fabrics, returning to Chiclayo in the early evening.


Day 4: Chiclayo, then Lima: the 'Cracked Pyramid', Tácume, and the Royal Tombs of Sipán.

In the morning we 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 we 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 we 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 goldworking of the Americas -- while also staging macabre costumed rituals of combat, sacrifice and propitiation as they sought to mediate a never ending struggle between the forces of Order and Chaos.

We continue on to Lambayeque, where we 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 we 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 us 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.

After these sensational experiences we return to Chiclayo for a delicious lunch of Peru's northern-style cuisine at a top local restaurant. We then drive onward to an oasis of calm at Tucumé, today's final destination. Here we see the chronological sequence that followed the fall of the Moche, at a site where their descendants, the Sicán culture, continued to amass millions of adobe bricks for the building of mighty pyramids -- including the longest of its kind, at more than 700m -- 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. We can climb to a viewing platform with superb views of the surrounding pyramids and the dry woodland habitat of the Leche valley. We 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.

We say farewell to the warm, dry valleys of Northern Peru and set off for the airport in the late afternoon for our evening flight to Lima.

Notes: You have the option to add one additional day in Cajamarca to visit Cumbemayo and/or Granja Porcon.


2 passengers 3 passengers 4+ passengers Single Supplement
US Dollar US$ 1180.00 US$885.00 US$ 737.00 US$ 200.00

Fixed Departures: Departs Tuesdays all year round.


Rates may fluctuate in accordance with current exchange rates.

For further information and booking inquiries please contact Sacred Earth.