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Ancient Kingdoms

Example 12 Day Tour
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The coast of Northern Peru is home to one of the most archaeologically rich regions in all of the Americas. This area was once home to the empires of Moche, Chimu and Sican - master artisans, celebrated for their metal-work, jewelry and pottery. These impressive empires created adobe metropolitans centuries before succumbing to the Incas in 1470. Visit this area's most important ruins and the museums that shelter their most prized treasures. Then we'll make our way south to colonial Cusco, visit the important Incan ruins of Sacsayhuamán, Pisac and Ollantaytambo, and we spend two days exploring the Lost City of Machu Picchu in this tour. A great off-the-beaten-path Peru holiday!

Day-by-Day Summary

Day 1 : Arrive Lima
Day 2 : Fly Chiclayo - Northern Peru
Day 3 : Tucume Pyramids, Tombs of Sipan Museum
Day 4 : Sipan, Huaca Rajada and Trujillo city
Day 5 : Dragon Temple, Chan Chan & Huanchaco
Day 6 : Temples of the Sun and Moon - Fly Lima
Day 7 : Fly Cusco
Day 8 : The Sacred Valley
Day 9 : Ollantaytambo Ruins | Train to Machu Picchu
Day 10 : Free Day at Machu Picchu | Return to Cusco
Day 11 : Explore Cusco
Day 12 : Fly Lima and Return home


  • Visit the Tomb of Sipan, the richest tomb discovered in the Americas
  • Walk through Chan Chan the ruins of the largest pre-Incan empire, the Chimu
  • Marvel at the adobe pyramids bulit by the Moche civilization
  • Finish your tour with a visit to the most iconic ruin in Peru, Machu Picchu

Places Visited


Trip Type

Activity Level


Trip Snapshots

Chinchero Ancient Wall Carvings in Northern Peru Looking down onto the sun temple Ruins of Chan Chan Visiting the locals Chan Chan Local little girl in Pisac Ruins Northern Peruvian Ancient Carvings

Day 1 Arrive Lima


Day 2 Fly Chiclayo - Northern Peru

This morning, catch a flight to Chiclayo; upon arrival, a guide will meet you at the airport and take you to your hotel. After settling into the hotel, the evening is free to spend as you wish. Northern Peru is rich in archeology, history and offers quite a geographical contrast to the southern region of Peru. From the 1st to the 15th Century AD, this region was home to some of South America's most prominent cultures - Moche, Lambayeque, Chimu and Chachapaoyas - who were exquisite craftsmen and excelled in the skills of ceramics, agriculture, architecture, metallurgy and warfare. From Chiclayo, we begin exploring the remnants, tombs and temples from the pre-Inca civilizations that once dominated the landscape.

Day 3 Tucume Pyramids, Tombs of Sipan Museum

This morning you will travel toward Lambayeque to visit the Tucume Pyramids. Tucume is believed to be an important regional center for the Sican in 1000-1350 AD, followed by the Chimu, and finally the Inca in 1450-1532 AD. An impressive site, Tucume is made up of over 540 acres and has 26 major pyramids and platforms. You will then visit the world famous Royal Tombs of Sipan Museum. The design of the museum was inspired by an actual Moche pyramid at Huaca Rajada. The museum displays all the archaeological material found in Sipan, including one of the most important finds in pre-Inca history; the Lord of Sipan tomb. There are impressive collections of gold, masks, jewelry, scepters and hundreds of ceramic pieces. The tomb, discovered in 1987, was the richest ever found in the western hemisphere. Its importance is commonly compared with Egypt's Tomb of Tutankamon.

Day 4 Sipan, Huaca Rajada and Trujillo city

After yesterday's visit of the Sipan Museum, you now have the chance to explore the ruins that unearthed the spectacular treasures now housed in the museum. The ruins of Huaca Rajada near the village of Sipan is one of the most important archaeological discoveries in the last few years. These Moche ruins have become famous for the unlooted tombs, specifically the "Lord of Sipan" tomb, which were discovered by Walter Alva in 1987. After our visit, transfer to Trujillo. The 3.5 hour drive south follows the Panamerican Highway through deserts and irrigated valleys. Your Trujillo hotel is conveniently located in the colonial core of the city. Enjoy a restful evening.

Day 5 Dragon Temple, Chan Chan & Huanchaco

The city of Trujillo boasts some of Peru's greatest examples of colonial homes, and the city has taken great efforts in preserving the historic architecture of Trujillo. Visit carefully restored colonial homes, Casa Iturregui, Casa Urquiaga or La Merced Church. Stop at the University of Trujillo's museum, Museo Arqueologico. The university is directing excavations at Huaca de la Luna (Temple of the Moon); the museum proudly displays the collections found at the site.

Today we discover the unforgettable remains of the Chimu civilization. First visit the ruins of Chan Chan, the capital of Peru's largest pre-Incan empire, Chimu. In 1986 Chan Chan was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site. This kingdom once ruled stretched over 800 miles (1300 km), reaching all the way to present-day Lima. Follow your tour of Chan Chan with a visit to the Dragon Temple - also referred to as Huaca Arco Iris or Rainbow Temple. An elaborate panel displays the namesake of this ruin; two dragon-like creatures sheltered by a serpent or rainbow.

Finish our the day with a trip to the beach town, Huanchaco. Fisherman in Huanchaco use a distinct reed raft called, caballitos de tortora. Fisherman in this region have been delicately crafting these rafts for over 2,000 years.

Day 6 Temples of the Sun and Moon - Fly Lima

The Sun and the Moon Temples (Huaca del Sol and Huaca de la Luna) were built by the Moche civilization between 100BC - 650AD. At 1,250 feet, the Sun Temple is the tallest adobe pyramid in the Americas, and one of the largest in the world. Its counterpart, the Temple of the Moon is considered to be a former religious complex. Some of Peru's best-preserved murals are found at the Moon Temple. Even with substantial looting, excavations have revealed a large collection of exquisite ceramics and metalworks produced by obvious masters.

After our visit, you will have some free time for lunch before your transfer to the airport to catch a flight to Lima. Upon arrival, meet your transfer at the airport to take you to your hotel. Overnight in Lima.

Day 7 Fly Cusco

Andean history comes alive in Cusco. Quechua speaking descendants of the Incas fill the streets and markets, colonial churches sit atop bases of smooth stonework laid centuries before the Conquistadors, and campesinos (Peru's rural farmers) in colorful dress move busily back and forth across the plazas. In the afternoon, you'll tour Cusco's largest open market and the adjacent witches' market. After tasting a few unique local foods, you will visit the Center for Traditional Textiles in Cusco, a local organization committed to preserving the region's weaving traditions. (If visiting the Sacred Valley on Sunday, you will visit their center in Chinchero instead). Watch weavers demonstrate their craft and learn about the history and processes of Peru's most well-known art form.

Day 8 The Sacred Valley

Journey into one of the most beautiful areas of Peru: the Sacred Valley. Test your bargaining skills with the locals while visiting one of the great textile markets in the area. You may hike to the inspiring ruins of Pisac, or take a short walk through the countryside to the seldom-visited town of Maras and its pre-Columbian salt mines (still in use today with salt being collected in traditional fashion) as well as the Inca agricultural terraces of Moray, thought to have been a nursery to experiment with and modify different varieties of crops. Make your way to the living Inca city of Ollantaytambo where you can relax for the night.

Day 9 Ollantaytambo Ruins | Train to Machu Picchu

In the morning, visit the under-rated ruins of Ollantaytambo before the larger groups of tourists arrive. During the Inca Empire, Ollantaytambo served as a royal estate and later a refuge after the Spanish conquered Cusco. The ruins feature expansive terraces, giant building blocks and well-preserved architecture.  Even the town itself is still laid out as it was during the Inca empire, allowing its visitors to glimpse the history which still exists within its boundaries.

Board the train late this morning and follow the Urubamba River as it tumbles its way towards the Amazon and the sacred city of Machu Picchu, Peru.  After checking into your hotel and enjoying lunch in Aguas Calientes, enter Machu Picchu and begin exploring this amazing site - the former retreat of Inca kings. Walk along ancient canals that still bring water from the high mountains to the baths used by Inca priests.  As visitors, you are welcomed to respectfully dip your hands in the cool water. After walking amongst the massive complex of ruins, receiving a guided tour of Machu Picchu, you'll return to the village of Aguas Calientes (located at the base of Machu Picchu). Enjoy one of many excellent local restaurants or end your day soaking in the hot springs after exploring one of the most magical archaeological sites in the world.

Day 10 Free Day at Machu Picchu | Return to Cusco

Today you can return to the ruins at Machu Picchu for further exploration.  Depending on your preference in permits, return early with the hope to watch the sunrise at Machu Picchu or arrive in time to hike to the top of Huaynapicchu for incredible views of the entire area. Other options within the citadel include the ability to walk the relatively easy routes to the Sun Gate or the Temple of the Moon.  Alternatively, just walk among the vast expanse of ruins and listen to the spirits of the city's past inhabitants.   (This basic re-entry permit is included in the cost of this tour.  Further permits may require additional costs.)

Once you've had your time in the ruins, return to Aguas Calientes to catch an afternoon train toward Cusco.  Settle into your hotel or head out on a famous Cusco culinary adventure.

Day 11 Explore Cusco

Today is free to relax and explore with your guide or on your own. Travelers can go on a city tour of the churches and surrounding ruins, such as the enormous Sacsayhuamán ruins that overlook Cusco (these ruins showcase building blocks the size of SUVs). You can also wander through the bustling Plaza de Armas in the heart of Cusco, shop for love potions in the local markets, or people watch from the cafes and restaurants that line these lovely streets. For those bursting with energy, horseback riding, mountain biking, or even whitewater rafting (Class III-IV) can be arranged. The evening is yours to take in some of Cusco's varied and exciting nightlife.

Day 12 Fly Lima and Return home

  • 1 Breakfast

Aguas Calientes (Machu Picchu Pueblo) - Hotels

Chiclayo - Hotels

Cusco - Hotels

Libertador Hotel Trujillo

Lima - Hotels

Sacred Valley - Hotels



Flexible Departure Policy
For new bookings made from March 30, 2020, forward pay 2020 prices for 2021 departures, with the flexibility to change travel dates free of charge through December 2021. Some restrictions may apply. Contact us for more details.
Applies to all departures up to Dec 31, 2021

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  • 9 Breakfasts, 3 Lunches
  • 11 Nights Accommodations
  • 7 Days Locally Hosted Guide Service
  • Accommodations as listed
  • Meals as listed
  • Ground transportation as listed
  • Professional, bilingual guide service as listed
  • Excursions and activities as listed
  • Entries to Machu Picchu - 2 Daily Entrance Fees
  • Park Entrance Fee
  • Round Trip Vistadome train


  • Gratuities
  • Travel Insurance
  • Personal Expenses
  • Flight costs (please request a quote)
  • Additional excursions during free time
  • Optional Excursions - $20 Hiking pass for second day at Machu Picchu- Huayna Picchu or Machu Picchu Montaña . 
  • Internal Flights - Lima-Chiclayo, Trujillo-Lima-Cusco-Lima
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