Everybody knows about the famous tours in the southern part of Peru heading from the coast towards Cusco, or even more popular, the treks to Machu Picchu. but what about exploring some of the lesser-known places in Northern Peru that offer so many wonderful off-the-beaten-track attractions of their own. This itinerary of North Peru is recommended for anyone who is planning to visit Peru with limited time but wanting to experience a new alternative touristic route. Don’t miss this journey through the major sights of Northern Peru!
What to See in Northern Peru
What is so special about this alternative route through the North of Peru? Have a look at the sites that you will see:
- Lima: This is the typical starting point for travelers as they arrive in Peru. Despite common thought, the Peruvian capital definitely deserves a couple of days to see. Take some time to visit the hugely popular bars and clubs, and if that’s not your scene then Lima has some of Peru’s best museums, theaters, and art galleries.
If you’re looking for fun, street art, and parties then visit the Bohemian neighborhood of Barranco, or if you just want a nice walk and a gorgeous view of the ocean then you can check out the popular Malecón (boardwalk) of Miraflores and explore the Parque del Amor, the Lighthouse and even discover a replica of the Nazca lines. Don’t miss the Plaza de Armas in the historical center, it is full of beautiful and important buildings. Once you’re ready, purchase your bus ticket towards Trujillo which should cost around s/70.
- Trujillo: The next stop will be Trujillo, which is located around 8 hours from Lima by bus. Trujillo is known as “Ciudad de la Eterna Primavera” (City of Eternal Spring). Once you have arrived it is only a short trip to Huanchaco, which is famous for being a brilliant place for you to enjoy sunny days at the beach, surfing, try the local ceviche or take a ride on the famous Caballitos de Totora (one-person boats made of reeds. Locals have used these hand-made boats to ride the waves for centuries).
If the boats have inspired you to explore the history of Peruvians, then you can also visit the massive ancient ruins of Chan Chan as well as the temple, Huacas del Sol y la Luna. These ruins are interesting because the culture that built them pre-date the Inca, and are a great site to see to understand the Peruvian history of the North. Once feel as though you’ve seen everything, buy your onward bus ticket and get ready to continue your journey onwards to Chiclayo.
- Chiclayo: Well-known for its delicious food, make sure that you don’t miss your opportunity to sample some of the traditional North Peruvian cuisines like Arroz con Pato (rice with duck), Seco de Cabrito (local dish made of rice and goat) and ceviche made with freshly caught local fish. If what you’re looking for is an amazing day by the ocean, Pimentel Beach is the perfect place for you. Spend the day relaxing on the sand and swimming in the soft waves, head on to the pier and try your hand at fishing, or just stroll along the sands. Chiclayo is also home to some of the country’s most important archaeological sites. Often compared to the tomb of Tutankhamun, in Chiclayo you will find the tomb of the Lord of Sipán. After Chiclayo, it’s time to head to the highlands in Cajamarca.
- Cajamarca: One of the most important cities in Northern Peru, Cajamarca is an excellent destination that is often overlooked by travelers. Cajamarca is a very historically important town, as it is where the last Inca was held and killed. The most popular time of the year to visit is during February for the city’s Carnaval festival. Other attractions to see in Cajamarca include the 6 Churches of Cajamarca, The Cumbemayo Stone Forest, Hot Springs in Baños del Inca, Ventanillas de Otuzco and Cuarto de Rescate (Ransom Room). Don’t forget to bring warm clothes as the weather can be very cold. The next stop will be the cloud forests of Chachapoyas.
- Chachapoyas: Named after a famous pre-Columbian civilization, Chachapoyas is a lovely historic town with wooden balconies, colonial style and safe streets. You will definitely enjoy its relaxed lifestyle, beautiful blue skies, and welcoming people. Make sure to visit Kuelap, a famous citadel of the Chachapoya people (often called the “Macchu Picchu of the North”). The Waterfall of Gocta, the Sarcophagi of Karajia and the Museum of Leymebamba are also must-see stops of Northern Peru. Finally, make sure to try the delicious artisanal bread and varieties of cheeses from this area. (check out our guide to the Amazon region for more info). From Chachapoyas, you will begin the descent into the jungle, heading to Moyobamba.
- Moyobamba: Heading into the Selva Alta, or high jungle, takes around 8 hours from Chachapoyas. You’ll arrive first in Moyobamba, known as the City of Orchids due to the wide variety of these flowers found there (see our guide to the San Martín region for more info). This jungle city deserves at least a couple of days, and it’s the perfect place to experience adventure, nature, and culture all in one place. Make sure to visit Aguas Termales de San Mateo (Hot Springs of San Mateo), natural pools with therapeutic properties. You can also go on jungle hikes to the Morro de Calzada or to visit numerous waterfalls. No list of things to do in Moyobamba would be complete without including the local food. Try the famous Avispa Juane (traditional jungle dish made of rice, ground beef, eggs, and chicken) or Inchicapy (green chicken soup with peanuts, cilantro, and yuca). Next, you can head further into the jungle to the city of Tarapoto.
- Tarapoto: Just 2 hours from Moyobamba, Tarapoto is one of the most popular destinations in Northern Peru. Well-known for its nightlife, year-round good weather and amazing attractions, you’ll fall in love with Tarapoto from the moment you step foot there. Visit Calle de las Piedras (Stones street) to have some fun and try exotic drinks or food. If you’re on the hunt for adventure sports, Ahuashiyacu Waterfalls is the perfect place for you. Laguna Sauce (or the Blue Lagoon) is your bucket list item to check off during your visit to Tarapoto. This huge blue lagoon has small boats available to rent and even tours available, so make sure to spend a full day in this hidden place. It’s recommended to spend at least two days in Tarapoto since there are many different places to visit. Next it’s time to head to the Selva Baja or lowland jungle in Iquitos.
- Iquitos: This is one of the most famous places in Peru, and the largest city in the world that is not accessible by car. Because of this, the most common way to reach the city of Iquitos is by air, which takes just one hour. Alternatively, you can reach Iquitos by boat, sailing down the Amazon River and its major tributaries. To get to Iquitos by boat, you’ll need to get to the town of Yurimaguas which is accessible from Tarapoto by ground transport. From Yurimaguas, you’ll travel on the Marañon River before finally reaching the city of Iquitos. Here you’ll be able to experience some of the most amazing jungle scenery and wildlife in Peru, including butterflies, bats, jaguars, pink river dolphins, caimans, and monkeys. There are a number of excellent protected natural areas in the vicinity, including the pristine Pacaya-Samiria National Reserve. Ethno-tourists will relish in the chance to visit the indigenous settlement of Yaguas, a short boat ride from the town. If you’re seeking spiritual guidance, don’t miss the opportunity to try Ayahuasca.
The places mentioned above represent some of the best attractions in Northern Peru, with a large variety of different things to see and do. You will experience beautiful coastal beaches, misty cloud forests, the beautiful waterfalls of the high jungle, and the steamy lowland jungle all in one amazing trip.
Time Required for Northern Peru Itinerary
If you’re planning to do the complete tour, then three weeks is just about enough time to travel, as each city deserves at least two days to see the most important sights. On the other hand, if you choose to skip a couple of destinations or travel by air rather than bus, you can manage to see a lot of things in a week as well.
This Northern Peru itinerary is becoming more and more popular, for good reason! These cities are amazing tourist destinations, the route is easy to navigate and the tourist infrastructure is good. Keep in mind that as the tour goes ahead, you’ll experience the different kinds of Peruvian climate from frigid highlands to the sweltering jungle, so make sure to bring all the necessary appropriate clothing for the different types of weather.
What Are You Waiting For?
Follow this Northern Peru Itinerary to see some of the amazing sights of Northern Peru, from the coast to the highlands and jungle. You will soon discover for yourself why this alternative touristic route in Peru is getting more and more popular. What are you waiting for? Start planning your perfect dream trip to Northern Peru today!