Southern Peru is famous for the ancient Inca citadel of Machu Picchu and the trail that gets your there. Most tourists flock to this region to see this new wonder of the world and then visit other nearby cities such as Cusco, Lima, and Arequipa. This means that the entire northern half of Peru is forgotten about and is still largely untouched by tourists.
Northern Peru has a great deal to discover and even older ruins than the ones that most people have heard about. A trip to the north of Peru is perfect for anyone who wants to get a deeper, better sense of Peruvian culture and history. With everything from relaxing beaches to a fortress that is dubbed the “new Machu Picchu,” we will highlight a few sites that are well worth the trip up north.
Machu Picchu and the corresponding Inca Trail are a great way to get an introduction into Peruvian history and ancient ruins. But for those who want the thrill of a less discovered archaeological site that is still only 30% uncovered, then a trip to Kuelap Fortress is a must. The New York Times recently dubbed Kuelap as the “new Machu Picchu” and shares a lot of similarities to its more famous cousin. We named it as one of our favorite under-the-radar places to check out and it is only going to get more popular in the coming years.
Chiclayo and The Lord of Sipán
Everyone has heard of King Tut in Egypt but did you know that Peru also has their very own royal mummy tomb? Located near Chiclayo, the tomb of the Lord of Sipán was uncovered in 1987 and was left completely untouched by tomb raiders. The Moche mummies that were discovered were adorned with jewelry, headdresses, and a number of ornaments indicating that these were members of high rank in Peruvian society at the time. The site is incredible to visit, especially for history and mummy buffs, but just be warned that you cannot take photos as National Geographic owns the rights to the site.
Trujillo, Chan Chan, and Huanchaco Beach
On the coastal desert city of Trujillo lies the ancient ruin of Chan Chan, the great adobe city of the Chimú civilization. This pre-Columbian city was the head of the Chimú civilization before it fell to the Incan empire in 1470 AD. Constructed in 850 AD this capital city was home to about 40,000-60,000 people at its height. Now it is a UNESCO heritage site that covers 20 square kilometers and is the second largest adobe city in the world and the largest in South America. Located only 5km from Trujillo, it is a great day trip from the city. While you’re in Chan Chan, you can relax in one of Peru’s most favored beaches, Huanchaco, just next door. Thousands of Peruvians flood here every year to enjoy the sun, surf, and ceviche in this laid back beach town.
Mancora and its nearby beaches are everything a tropical paradise should be. There are plenty of luxurious options for couples on their honeymoon in Peru or couples simply seeking a retreat at the beach, as well as activities that make the ultimate family beach trip. While in Mancora, visitors can relax and enjoy a range of activities from horse riding to surfing, and a truly spectacular experience of whale-watching.
In the highlands of Peru is the small mountain town of Cajamarca. This town is virtually untouched by foreign tourists and mainly hosts local tourists from neighboring towns. It is most famous cheese, chocolate and Baroque colonial architecture. This city is also famous because it is where the Inca Empire fell to the Spaniards in 1532. There is plenty of history to be learned here and relaxing to be done at the Inca baths while also enjoying the great dairy products this region has to offer.
Lagunas de las Huaringas
Hidden in the mountains of northern Peru, near a town called Huancabamba, lie a network of fourteen lagoons that sit 13,000 feet (4000 meters) above sea level. These lagoons are sacred to Peruvian people who come here to be healed by shamans in the icy cold waters. This adventure is not for the faint hearted. From the first point in Salalá you must hike two to three hours to Laguna Negra and the first two lagoons, these are where the healing rituals take place. Another two hour hike will take you go Laguna Shimbe, the most famous lagoon with its impressive landscapes. Head to the city of Piura to get started on this pilgrimage.
For those who have the time and opportunity to explore the northern regions of Peru it would be a great addition to add to your itinerary. For more info on trips in northern Peru, contact our trip specialists!