Explore 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.
Day 1 - Lima to Cajamarca: A beautiful hot springs hotel, and a charming highland city.
We arrive in Cajamarca early morning and transfer to La Laguna Seca Hotel and Spa to check-in. We 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.
Return to the Cajamarca La Laguna Seca Hotel and Spa for overnight.
Day 2 - 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.
Return to the hotel for lunch (cost is not included).
An afternoon of relaxation. We spend the afternoon at the Laguna Seca hotel enjoying the Spa facilities. Located in a spacious garden environment are very extensivethe historic thermal baths where Atahualpa bathed and relaxed right before his fateful encounter with the Spaniards. They are very extensive and 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.
La Laguna Seca Hotel and Spa for overnight.
Day 3 - Cajamarca to Chiclayo: from high mountain to desert shore.
We set off early. The route travels across the rolling mountain scenery of the Cajamarca valley, with a dramatic descent through rugged ravines to the coast offering yet another sample of Peru's startling variety of terrain and geography. We 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 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", Túcume, 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 gulley s weathered into its flanks - this eroded adobe platform yielded fabulous ancient treasure s 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. A new site museum to display material unearthed here is under construction, and when opened it will be part of this visit.
We say farewell to the warm, dry valleys of Northern Peru and set off for the airport in the late afternoon for your evening flight to Lima.
|Incas and Moches||2019|
|4 days/3 nights|
|Private Departures: Daily all year-round.|
|Prices per person||1||2||3||4/up||Sing Supp|
Note: This itinerary can be enhanced with the addition of extra day in Cajamarca, to visit either...
(A) Cumbemayo, where spectacular rock formations and an ex traordinary pre-Inca canal cut deep into bedrock provide a stimulating daý's outing.
(B) Granja Porcón, a highland co-operative farm project where sheep herds mingle with lamas and alpacas, which attracts international visitors interested in livestock and co-operative farming models.