There you go, you are determined, your next trip is to Peru! What a good idea. This country will surprise you with its archaeological sites, the diversity of nature and especially by its inhabitants! To organize your stay in the North of Peru in the best way, I have prepared a sample itinerary Northern Peru that I think is very good to explore the north of Peru in all its splendor.
In 90 % of the cases, you arrive in Lima (unless you do a tour of South America and enter through Bolivia, Titicaca Lake or South of Ecuador, Guayaquil or Cuenca/Loja). To explore the North of Peru, I propose a circuit that can be done in one way or another.
From Lima to Caral
Let’s start your itinerary in Northern Peru. The best way is to take a bus to Barranca. I recommend the bus company Movil Tours. Unfortunately, internet booking does not always work, but you can book directly in the office in Lima. Paseo de la Republica 749 La Victoria. Buses depart several times a day and the economic ticket costs only 20 soles ($ 7) for a 3-hour trip. In Barranca you can take a hotel and from here ask the services of a local agency to take you to Caral.
Caral is located in the Valley of Supe. It is is the capital of the oldest civilization in South America and well worth visiting. Since 2009 the city has been named a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. The city was inhabited between 2 600 and 2 000 BC by more than 3 000 people and comprises an area of more than 60 hectares. Caral is now one of the most studied cities and one of the largest known sites in South America.
Travel time : 3 hours to arrive in a morning or afternoon
Recommended time of stay : 1 day in the place
From Caral to Huaraz
To continue your sample itinerary in Northern Peru, in Barranca you must find a combi that will take you directly to Huaraz, without passing through Lima (which does not make much sense). You can also try your luck with one of the big bus companies that pass through Lima to go to Huaraz, but they have no official stop in Barranca.
Huaraz dates before the Inca times and is an ideal destination for travelers who want to combine culture and relax. The area is known as the Peruvian Switzerland, saying that it is beautiful, green, mountainous. You can hike in the Huascaran National Park, explore archaeological sites or visit the monoliths of the Regional Museum of Ancash.
Travel time : About 5 – 6 hours ( in other words, one day)
Recommended time of stay : 2 days (More if you do a trek)
From Huaraz to Trujillo
Continuing our itinerary. Movil Tours has a night-bus, departing at 10:20 pm from Huaraz for a journey of 7 hours. I recommend a seat on the first floor, which can be extended to 160 °, which allows you to get some sleep.
Trujillo is a beautiful city, with a bustling center, museums and casonas to visit. Take a guided full day-tour. So you can discover almost everything the surroundings have to offer: Chan Chan, the Sun and the Moon Temples. If you like archaeology, also try the archaeological site of El Brujo, 60 km outside of Trujillo. For a more relaxing stay, you can spend the night in the village of Huanchaco. You might see fishermen at sea in the early morning.
Travel time : 7 hours by bus at night
Recommended time of stay : 2 days minimum
From Trujillo to Chiclayo
Between Trujillo and Chiclayo you can find different bus companies or even combis that take you for little money. This part of the itinerary takes about 3 hours 30 min.
The city of Chiclayo is not particularly interesting, but it is the starting point for museums and sites in the region. The Royal Tombs Museum explains the discovery of the tomb of the Lord of Sipan. It is considered one of the best museums in Peru. The Pyramids of Túcume and the Museum are a must, because it is very informative. For nature and bird lovers visit the reserve of Chaparrí.
Travel time : 3 – 4 hours, to be done in the morning or in the afternoon
Recommended time of stay : 1 day, more if you go to Chaparri
From Chiclayo to Chachapoyas
The buses of Movil Tours take you to Chachapoyas, again by night. Take a first class seat, departure at 9:00 p.m. and arrival at Chachapoyas at 6 am.
The Amazonas region gives you an almost infinite number of possibilities. For Trekking lovers, you have the trek of the Gran vilaya or Laguna de los Cóndores. It is best to make reservations in advance and be in good physical shape. Especially the trek to Laguna de los Cóndores means 10 hours of hiking on arrival and departure day.
For “normal” tourists, the discovery of the fortress of Kuelap and the Gocta Falls (3rd highest in the world) will certainly a great adventure. Another archaeological wonder to visit are the Sarcophagi of Karajía. If you have more time, you can take a tour of the Revash Mausoleum, another burial site of the Chachapoya culture.
But you might be interested in the inhabitants. Book a homestay to live some days with Roberto at the Lagoon of Humanpata or at the house of Mrs. Teodula in Kuelap. You also might make an appointment with the women potters of Huancas or in Leymebamba with the women weavers or the wood artist, Miguel.
It is in Leymebamba, that you will find the Mallqui Museum of Leymebamba which exhibits the 219 mummies found in the Laguna de los Cóndores in 1997.
Travel time: 9 hours by bus at night
Recommended time of stay : 3 days, more if you are going on a trek
From Chachapoyas to Moyobamba
To continue the itinerary in Northern Peru, you will travel from Chachapoyas to Moyobamba, in the San Martín region. For this you should take the company Turismo Selva. It leaves at 6 am or 10 am and stop in Moyobamba and Tarapoto.
In Moyobamba there are several very nice hotels in the center of the city or a little to the suburbs. The weather is nice and there are lots of things to see. Just to name some: the Botanical Garden, the Orchid garden, viewpoints over the Mayo river valley and the thermal baths.
But definitely not to be missed, a canoe tour. You can choose between Tingana (with prior reservation) or Santa Elena. The difference between both is mostly the time. For Tingana you need a day and Santa Elena can be done in 3 hours.
Both are conservation areas of rivers and virgin forests. You will discover the pleasure of sliding over the water and seeing free monkeys, birds and butterflies. It’s magic.
Travel time: around 5 hours
Recommended time of stay : 2 days
From Moyobamba to Tarapoto
Between Moyobamba and Tarapoto you can take the same company, Turismo Selva to go directly to Tarapoto or a combi that will leave you in Lamas (15 km from Tarapoto).We are already near the end of our itinerary.
Lamas is a town to visit, built on three levels where you can meet the indigenous Quechua – Lamistas and buy some souvenirs, take a tour in the museum or the medieval castle and learn all about the development and production of cocoa.
Then you can continue to Tarapoto and take a tour (or more) in natural reserves like Cordillera Escalera. You will discover the Amazon jungle without having the inconveniences of the vaccination if you go further north to Iquitos.
Travel time: 2 hours
Recommended time of stay : 2 days minimum
Return Itinerary to Lima
Tarapoto has several regular flights per day to return to Lima. From Lima, you have 2 options. Either you fly straight home – and that is the end of your journey. Or you continue your trip in Peru, this time to explore the South!
This type of itinerary Northern Peru is possible in 13 days of travel, without taking into account the travel time. I suggest taking your time and talk to the locals, taste regional specialties (different everywhere). Like this you will be REALLY impregnated by the traditions and cultures of the North of Peru.
As I said at the beginning, our itinerary Northern Peru can also be done the other way round. First you take a flight from Lima to Tarapoto. Then follow the route in the opposite direction. At the end you will return to Lima by bus along the coast.