Expert-Led Group Tour

Peru Group Tour - Pre-Inca Civilisations

Discover Northern and Central Peru with Hugh Thomson

14 days

from £pp
  • Explore Peru's best pre-Inca historical sites with Peru expert Hugh Thomson
  • Visit the huge stone citadel of Kuelap, the largest in South America
  • Discover the UNESCO site of Chavin de Haunter dating back to 1200BC
  • Take in the spectacular mountain scenery of the Cordillera Blanca during day hikes

Explore the fascinating yet little visited pre-Inca archaeological sites of northern Peru combined with the snow-capped mountains of the Cordillera Blanca, all accompanied by Peru expert Hugh Thomson.

Read about Hugh Thomson's recent talk, covering his travels in Peru and his in-depth knowledge of the pre-Inca civilisations, as part of the Steppes Travel 'an evening with our experts' event.


This small group tour starts in Chiclayo, a town on the north coast of Peru. Visit the Royal Tombs museum with the collection of Moche artefacts found at the Sipan archaeological site, as well as the ruins of the pre-Hispanic city of adobe pyramids - Tucume.


Travel to Chachapoyas, the base to explore Peru's most spectacular pre-Colombian ruins. Explore the citadel of Kuelap, the largest ancient stone structure in South America, built in the 6th century AD. It is a fascinating site with over 400 buildings encircled by huge stone walls. It is a keen contender to rival Machu Picchu in stature but not in visitor numbers, it is quite likely no-one else will be there. Also visit the colourful adobe tombs at Revash that look like mini houses built into the side of the cliff along with the museum at Leymebamba home to over 200 mummies.


The northern part of the trip ends in Cajamarca, a charming Andean town with colonial churches and architecture. Visit the Santa Apolonia Hill and the stone ‘seat of the Inca’, an interesting place with amazing views over the red-tiled roofs of the city.


The second half of this trip is based in central Peru in the Cordillera Blanca mountain range. Take a day trek up in the mountains around the pristine Llanganuco lakes at the foot of the Huascaran mountain, the highest mountain in Peru. End the trip with a visit to the UNESCO archaeological site at Chavin which dates back to 1200BC. It is a special site with a large central ceremonial square and a system of underground caves and tunnels. 


"I am really looking forward to returning to northern Peru, a beautiful area with an enthralling culture. I wrote my book Cochineal Red because I was so fascinated by the extraordinary early civilisations of northern Peru. They are far less well known than the Inca, but deserve to be equally celebrated. I’m also excited to be returning to Chavín in central Peru, a great favourite and a special place that should be far better-known than it is."


The accommodation is generally small and simple, often family run.


Our group tours are perfect for solo travellers, as travelling as part of an organised group in faraway places does provide security and peace of mind. We handle all of the arrangements for you and there will be a local tour guide on hand throughout to provide advice and help if needed, as well as the expertise of a Tour Lecturer.

If you are willing to share, we will always do our best to match you up with another solo traveller of the same sex so that you do not have to pay for a single room.

If you would prefer the privacy of your own room and would like this guaranteed, then the single room price supplement will apply.


Generally the days will be warm and sunny, average temperatures are likely to be between 15oC and 22oC. Evenings will be cooler, especially when in the mountains so a fleece or jacket will be needed.


In northern Peru, Chachapoyas and Leymebamba, the altitude is around 2,300metres, this will rise to just over 3,000metres on the road to Cajamarca. In central Peru Huaraz is at 3,100 metres, whilst during the treks reach altitudes of between 3,800 and 4,600 metres.


A reasonable level of fitness will be required, there will be walks around ruins and sites, a couple of uphill walks of about two hours to reach the waterfall and cliff tombs. Around Huaraz in central Peru there will be some trekking at altitude.

For a taste of this trip please read our travel blog on northern Peru.

Departing on:
  • 29th June 2018

For a detailed itinerary or to book your place on this tour, please contact us.

DEPART UKARRIVE UKPrice Excluding Flights (£)Flight cost fromSingle SupplementTour LecturerStatus 
29th Jun 2018 12th Jul 2018 call call call Hugh Thomson Available

Itinerary at a glance

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Day 1

Fly London to Lima

Fly Lima to Chiclayo

You will be staying at Casa Andina Select Chiclayo

Day 2

Full Day Tucume & Ventarron
Travel to the ancient religious site of Ventarron this morning, one of the oldest ruins in the Americas. It is believed the first temple was built in 2000 BC and a mural depicting a deer caught in a net is believed to be the oldest mural discovered in the Americas.

Later on travel to Lambayeque and the Royal Tombs Museum to see the collection of Moche (100-750 AD) artefacts found at Sipan. After lunch, carry on to Tucume and explore this eerie, ancient city of adobe pyramids, built by the Lambayeque/Sican then added to by the Chimú and Inca.

Chiclayo, founded in 1560 as a small settlement of indian villages, is sandwiched between the Andes and Pacific Ocean. The area is a major supplier of agricultural goods for Peru, including rice and sugar cane. It is the route to the jungle where a large number of crops and fruits are grown, therefore it is not surprising that the cuisine is distinctive and very rich. A short distance from Chiclayo lie two of the most famous sites for precolumbian art, Sipan of the Moche culture (circa 100-750 AD) and Tucume with its pyramids, walled citadels and ancient cemeteries.

Road journey Chiclayo to Salas

After leaving Tucume, continue along the road for another hour and arrive at the hotel in Salas.

You will be staying at Los Faiques Ranch

Day 3

Road journey from Salas to Chachapoyas, approximately 9 hours

Begin your nine hour journey to Chachapoyas. Leaving Salas, drive along the old Pan-American Highway to Olmos and head east in to the Andes. After crossing the Continental Divide, drive down a twisting road through a dry valley and cross the Marañon River, a major tributary of the Amazon, before arriving into Chachapoyas.

The Pre-Columbian Chachapoyas civilisation, which was conquered by the Spanish in the XV century, has left a landscape scattered with villages and burial sites. Until recently this has been largely overlooked by archaeologists.

Situated in the cloud forest around the town of Chachapoyas in northern Peru's Amazonas Department, these sites are dominated by the mighty fortress in Kuelap, perched majestically on mountaintop cliffs overlooking the verdant Andean landscape.

You will be staying at La Xalca

Day 4

Full Day Yumbilla Waterfall
After an hour's drive to the village of Cuispes, take a two to two and a half hour walk through lush forest and arrive at the base of Yumbilla Waterfall, the fifth largest in the world. Along the way look out for the local flora and wildlife, including orchids, bromeliads, Andean parrots, hummingbirds and Peru's national bird the cock-of-the-rock, with its bright red plumage.

You will be staying at La Xalca

Day 5

Full Day Kuelap
This morning drive two hours to the largest ancient stone structure in South America - Kuelap. This citadel is perched high on a ridge, 3,000m above sea level, in the tropical cloud forests of northern Peru. The guide will explain the mysteries and history of the site of what is a remarkable testament to pre-Inca architecture.

You will be staying at El Chillo

Day 6

Full Day Revash & Leymebamba Visit
Drive one hour to Yerbabuena and walk for a steady two hours uphill, where there is the reward of a close up view of a spectacular colourful cliff tomb. This photogenic site is perched on a yellow cliff, with tombs resembling mini houses with red pictographs.

After continue on to Leymebamba and visit a museum housing 219 mummies, found at a nearby lake in 1997.

You will be staying at La Casona de Leimebamba

Day 7

Road journey Leymebamba to Cajamarca

Today drive along one of the most spectacular roads in Peru, a journey of six hours. Begin by driving over a pass of 3,600m overlooking the Marañon Canyon, then down to the river crossing the bridge at the valley bottom before driving up to the western side of the canyon. A little beyond is the market town of Celendin famous for its straw hats. After another two and a half hours crossing high rolling hills and agricultural land arrive at Baños del Inca, a place where Inca Atahualpa was celebrating a festival here when the Spanish first arrived in Cajamarca in 1532.

Cajamarca is a charming Andean city in northern Peru. Well known for its hot springs and colonial architecture, in particular the colonial churches including the Cathedral, San Francisco church, and the Belen Monument Complex. In the year 1532 the city witnessed the fall of the Inca Empire by the Spanish conquerors.

You will be staying at Hotel Laguna Seca

Day 8

Cajamarca City Tour
Today visit the Santa Apolonia Hill which was a ritualistic site from pre-Inca times and has a superb view of Cajamarca. Then walk down the hill and visit the Belen Complex - a church with a beautiful painted dome. Close by is the fabled Rescue Room where Atahualpa was held by the Spanish while the gold and silver from around the Inca empire was collected to pay his ransom. Transfer to airport.

Fly Cajamarca to Lima

You will be staying at Costa del Sol Wyndham

Day 9

Fly Lima to Huaraz

Half Day Huaraz Hike
After getting used to the change in climate, take the drive up into the Cordillera Negra and start the walk back to Huaraz. The walk offers fantastic views of the Cordillera Blanca mountain range during the descent to Huaraz via a series of old trails. Maximum altitude 3,850m.

(Treks are subject to change due to climate conditions)

Huaraz is the capital of Ancash, overlooking the spectacular Cordilleras Blanca and Negra, and the gateway for those seeking adventure. Located in the middle of the country, it sits on the edge of the Huascaran National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The park is home to the highest mountain in Peru, Huascaran at 6,768 metres, over 600 glaciers, almost 300 lakes and three rivers. A paradise for trekkers and climbers, the snow-capped peaks of Cordillera Blanca offer some of the most spectacular scenery in Peru and arguably the world.

You will be staying at Hotel Colomba

Day 10

Day at Leisure
Spend the day relaxing at the hotel, wander around the busy town of Huaraz and take in the amazing mountain scenery.

You will be staying at Hotel Colomba

Day 11

Full Day Llanganuco Lakes
Make an early start to the turquoise waters of Llanganuco Lakes, located at the foot of Huascaran mountain. Visit the memorial gardens of Campo Santo en route, which mark the ruins of old Yungay which was destroyed in the 1970 earthquake.

Continue on to Cebolla Pampa, to trek to the ethereal glacial lake of Laguna 69, with its fabulous views and crystal clear azure waters. Maximum altitude of 4,600m. (Treks are subject to change due to climate conditions)

You will be staying at Lazy Dog Inn

Day 12

Full Day Visit to Chavin de Huantar
Today drive two and a half to three hours to the village of Chavin making a few stops on the way, where the ruins of Chavin de Huantar are located. The fortress/temple was built between 1200 and 300 BC and is the only large structure remaining from the Chavin culture. The Chavin are considered to be one of the most influential people to have lived in the Andes prior to the Incas.

This mysterious place is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The site contains a large central ceremonial square, slightly sunken below ground level, with an intricate system of tunnels and caves. The walls of the main temple are inclined like a pyramid's and were decorated by fearsome "Cabezas Clavas" (tenon heads). In the heart of the underground complex is the "Lanzon de Chavin", an enigmatic carved knife-shaped granite sculpture measuring more than four metres in height, that depicts the main deity of Chavin culture.

If time allows on the return journey, stop at some hot springs.

You will be staying at Lazy Dog Inn

Day 13

Drive from Huaraz to Lima (Road Journey)

After a leisurely breakfast travel by private by car to Pakkoku (2-3 hours) and visit a local slipper factory, the market and see where the famous Pakkoku blankets are made. A private boat is ready for you at the jetty in Pakkoku for a private lunch. Visit Kyauk Gu Ohnmin cave temple that rarely sees foreign visitors and continue cruising to Bagan, arriving around 5 pm.

Lima, the 'City of Kings', is a vibrant and bustling metropolis worthy of exploration. Nestled on the shores of the Pacific Ocean, Lima is known a the 'Gateway to Peru' and combines colonial splendour, prestigious museums and beautiful parks with lively nightlife and ample opportunity for sampling its world-famous cuisine.

Fly Lima to London


Below you can see some of the wonderful places we recommend you stay on your journey.

Los Faiques Ranch

Los Faiques Ranch

Los Faiques is a property based 90 minutes inland from the city of Chiclayo....

View Accommodation

La Xalca

La Xalca

La Xalca is a lovingly restored colonial building just a couple of blocks from the main square of Chachapoyas....

View Accommodation

For a detailed itinerary or to book your place on this tour, please contact us.

Destination Experts

Our experts have unrivalled firsthand knowledge of Peru

James Armitage, Travel Expert

"The help and great knowledge James offered really made the holiday special"

"James listened and managed our expectations and therefore made sure we were prepared for all eventualities when going on our holiday to Brazil"

"James was brilliant and all the advice was spot on."

Read More

Paul Bird, Travel Expert

Read More

For a more detailed itinerary with great ideas on what to do and where to stay, please get in touch with our experts.

Tour expert

Hugh Thomson

Hugh Thomson
"I am really looking forward to returning to northern Peru, a beautiful area with an enthralling culture. I wrote my book Cochineal Red because I was so fascinated by the extraordinary early civilisations of northern Peru. They are far less well known than the Inca, but deserve to be equally celebrated. I’m also excited to be returning to Chavín in central Peru, a great favourite and a special place that should be far better-known than it is."

Hugh Thomson is a writer and film-maker whose first book, ‘The White Rock: An Exploration of the Inca Heartland’, was created after twenty years of exploring Peru. He has previously co-led expeditions to Peru, discovering the Inca site of Cota Coca and extensive finds at Llactapata near Machu Picchu. His research and film making, has taken him all over the world in his quest to shine a light on previously unknown treasures and people. Hugh then went on to publish Cochineal Red, which focuses primarily on the pre-Inca civilisations of the north. He unwraps those earlier layers of Peruvian civilisation to show how they flourished so spectacularly in the toughest and most arid of terrains.
Enquire about this Expert Led tour:

Group Size:

Min 6 / Max 15

Tour Expert:

Hugh Thomson

Departure Date (S):

  • 29th June 2018

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