Until 2005, the Gocta Falls sat hidden in the Andes, known only to the locals. These secret waters flow to create one of the tallest falls in the world, setting a magical scene of mist, water and flourishing rainforest. Spend a full day exploring the ruined Chachapoya fortress of Kuelap, one of the most important archaeological site of the Andes. Understand the cultural importance of Chachapoya afterlife on an excursion to visit the rock-face mausoleums of Revash and the mummies of Leymebamba. Discover the breath of Peru’s diverse heritage, from the gorgeous Spanish colonial architecture of Lima to the Aymara and Quechuan Indian cultures of Puno
Uncover the many personalities of Peru on this immersive 15-day adventure combining the newfound icons of the north with the classic must-sees down south. From the captivating streets of Lima, venture to a mountain lodge near Cocachimba to soak up views of Gocta Falls, a towering natural wonder somehow kept secret from the world until 2006. Explore the nearby forts, mausoleums and mummies of the lost Chachapoyas culture, which provides a fascinating window to pre-Columbian people who believed strongly in the afterlife. Then it’s off to tackle the Inca Trail, a feat for which Machu Picchu provides a most spectacular reward. With the beauty of Cusco, the Sacred Valley, and unique Lake Titicaca also in the mix, this Peru adventure offers the ultimate experience of Peru’s awesome diversity.
Breakfast Included: 13 Lunches Included: 1 Dinner Included: 1
Welcome to Lima, capital of Peru. This adventure begins with a 2 pm meeting at your hotel – please ask the hotel reception for more information regarding this meeting or keep an eye out for a note left on the noticeboard. Your leader will be collecting your next of kin and insurance details, so please have these ready to provide upon your arrival.
Begin your adventures through Lima with an orientation walk through the Miraflores and Barranco districts, taking in splendid views of the colourful streets, lush green landscapes, quaint bridges and unhindered ocean views. Keep a camera ready for snaps of the phenomenal buildings, created with influences of authentic Peruvian republican and traditional gothic architectural styles as you wander through the flower-covered parks.
After enjoying a late morning to explore the city further, depart by plane to the high jungle city of Jaen. Touch down, then embark on a 3-hour drive to Chachapoyas. Your hotel sits comfortably in the Andes and is surrounded by lush gardens and mountain views and is only 5 minutes from the Plaza de Armas.
Spend the day hiking through the Amazonian Andes on a hunt for the Gocta Falls. In May 2005, a German economist by the name of Stefan Ziemendorff stumbled upon the falls while hunting for pre-Inca ruins. The following March, Ziemendorff announced his "discovery" of the third largest waterfall in the world – the locals had already known of the falls, but due to a combination of social isolation and a somewhat more humble view of the location, they never told anyone.
Conditions on the hike can vary; some times of year see the mountains cloaked in mist and rain, resulting in a cascading force emanating from the falls, whereas other times of the year result in sunshine breaking over the canyon peaks and a more wispy flow. Regardless, the sheer green from the forest surrounds combined with the height of the falls results in a memorable hiking experience, full of great photo opportunities. After returning to the lodge around midday, enjoy a free afternoon. Perhaps take some time to kick back by the pool with a beer.
Kuelap (Chachapoyas culture)
Kuelap is one of the most important archaeological sites of the Amazonian Andes. It forms an architectural group of stone characterized by its monumentality, boasting a great artificial platform that sits on the crest of rock in the top of the Hill Barreta. The platform extends for a massive 600 metres (1970 feet) and has as perimeter a wall that in some points reaches 19 metres (62 feet) in height.
It’s been estimated that construction on Kuelap began around the 6th-century, coinciding with the rising Chachapoyas culture before occupation of the site crumbled in the face of the Spanish Conquest in 1532. Its colossal walls and complex interior architecture are evidence of a well-organized population, which includes administrative, religious, ceremonial and permanent residences. Canals that tap into mountain springs, artistic stone carvings and towering walls all point towards a culture who had an understanding of architecture, art and military/protective interests.
Karajia Sarcophagi and Quiocta Cave
Travel today to the Karajia Sarcophagi and Quiocta Cave approximately 1 hour Northwest of Chachapoyas.
Karajia is home to a series of sarcophagi that stand up to 2.5 metres (8 feet) tall. These mysterious tombs are thought to be the final resting place of the highest officials of Kuelap. Whilst the mummies and their Worldly treasures contained within the sarcophagi have long since been taken by looters or archaeologists, they still stand in good condition, high up on ledges and cliffs with faces painted on the outside so the interred could look out over the valley below for eternity.
You will also get to visit the nearby Quiocta Cave, a series of subterranean chambers approximately 545 meters (1,788 feet) underground. These caves were also used in Chachapoya culture as burial sites. There are impressive stalactites and stalagmites within the caves along with bones of the long departed and bats. We advise bringing a headlamp for this part of the tour as there is no light in the caves.
Enjoy breakfast at the hotel, then drive back to the airport to take a lunchtime flight back to Lima. After arriving at around 3 pm, the rest of the day is yours to explore. Perhaps discover the historic handcrafts, gold and jewels of the Museo Larco, or maybe just head out for a final dinner with the group and toast a pisco sour together.
Bienvenidos! Welcome to Lima, Peru’s capital and one of South America’s most beautiful cities. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 2 pm, where you’ll meet your fellow travellers and tour leader. Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask reception where it will take place. After the meeting, stroll the streets of downtown Lima and check out some of its main attractions on a leader-led walking tour. Enjoy free time before an optional group dinner this evening. The unofficial food capital of South America, there’s no better place to sample Peru’s national dish, ceviche, than at one of Lima’s excellent restaurants. As there's little time spent in Lima, you may like to arrive a few days early to see the sights, including the chic suburb of Miraflores, Central Park, Lovers' Park and the National Museum.
Catch an early flight to Cusco. Spend a little time acclimatising to the high altitude (3450 metres/11,320 feet) and then get acquainted with this charming town on a walking tour with your leader. Check out Cusco’s vibrant main square (Plaza de Armas). Witness the flurry of activity that characterises San Pedro market. Stroll past the slew of quaint restaurants and artisans found in San Blas Square. See Qoricancha (an Inca Sun Temple) and the famous 12 Angle Stone, then end your tour at the chocolate museum, where you’ll get a chance to sample hot chocolate made from local cacao beans. This might be a good opportunity to purchase some gifts or souvenirs. There’s a small store where you’ll find various handicrafts and a variety of artisanal chocolate products.
Travel by private bus through the Sacred Valley (approximately 2 hours) on the outskirts of Cusco. This lush valley was known as Wilcamayo to the Incas and has long been the main source of food for the high Andes. Maize crops can be seen surrounding the river and covering the terraces carved high into the valley walls. You will visit a community in the valley to learn about local lifestyle and activities. If your visit coincides with market day you can browse the stalls in search of hand-painted beads or warm ponchos, and perhaps practice your newfound language, Quechua. Later in the afternoon, board a train from Ollantaytambo to Aguas Calientes, which is nestled in the cloud forest at the foot of Machu Picchu. This extra journey ensures that we can travel to Machu Picchu as early as possible tomorrow morning.
Machu Picchu / Cusco
Take a bus up the winding road to Machu Picchu (approximately 30 minutes). This is your chance to decide for yourself whether Machu Picchu was built around 1440 as a country retreat for Incan nobility or is an ancient astronomical observatory. Enjoy a guided visit of the incredible site (1.5–2 hours) with plenty of free time afterwards to wander around the many temples, palaces and living quarters. After taking advantage of the seemingly endless photo opportunities, return to Cusco.
Note: Due to Intrepid's internal safety policy, our leaders are specifically prohibited from recommending or assisting with booking climbs of Wayna Picchu.
Visiting Machu Picchu:
According to Machu Picchu visiting regulations, all visitors must follow a pre-determined route within the site. This route must be followed in one direction only and once the guided visit commences exiting and re-entering the site is not permitted. Once the guided visit concludes, visitors must exit the site and personal exploration of Machu Picchu is not permitted.
Enjoy free time to relax, shop and explore more of Cusco's sights, or simply rest your legs at a cafe on Plaza de Armas. For those who can't get enough active adventure, a mountain bike adventure into the surrounding hills is recommended.
Travel by local bus across the spectacular Altiplano to Puno, located on the shores of Lake Titicaca (approximately 6 hours). Mingle with the locals in this melting pot of Aymara and Quechuan cultures and see how traditional Andean customs are still strongly represented here. If you're lucky your visit might coincide with one of the colourful evening parades, which see the streets fill with costumed dancers and musicians.