This remote Chachapoyas trek in north Peru follows a section of the great Inca highway – the fabled Qapaq Ñan.

The Qapaq Ñan (Inca Trail) connected Quito in Ecuador to Cuzco in southern Peru.

We trek through the heart of the Chachapoyas realm, exploring untouched mountain fortresses set amid superb Andean scenery. These are sites rarely visited by the area’s locals, never mind foreign tourists.

There are cliff top tombs, mountain top citadels, many ruins overgrown by thickets that you may need a machete to uncover for yourselves, and ancient agricultural terraces.

More on Chachapoyas trek

The exciting, varied archaeology of the Chachapoya people and breathtaking verdant Andean countryside await those prepared for long journeys and basic conditions.

Chachapoyas is a remote area of sub-tropical valleys, half way down the eastern slopes of the Andes with vegetation typical of ceja de selva (eyebrow of the jungle).

Archaeologists have found tombs on inaccessible cliff tops, and ancient agricultural terraces.

They built their cities on ridge tops in the cloud forest, and put their dead in cliff face mausoleums together with ceramics, textiles and other objects from their culture. Read more about Chachapoya culture in our blog.


Trip Highlights

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  • Discover remote ruins, way off-the-beaten-track in north Peru.

  • Cliff-top tombs and mummies.

  • Pre-Inca ruins of Kuelap.

  • Hike in remote Andean valleys and mountains unchanged for centuries.

We had Kuelap to ourselves and stayed in remote valleys where we saw the occasional farmers.

Some locals fished us some river trout for our dinner - we got a real glimpse into rural life in the Andes.

T. Shearman, Chachapoyas

Full Itinerary

Day 1: Fly Lima-Chiclayo, bus to Chachapoyas, hotel

We take a short flight from Lima to Chiclayo airport and then travel for 9 to 10 hours through some of Peru’s most varied and scenic landscapes.

There is plenty of opportunity to photograph the desert, mountains and rivers we pass.

Chachapoyas hotel.

Day 2: Travel to Kuelap, tour, on to Leymebamba, hotel (B,L)

We leave Chachapoyas early and drive for three hours to the magnificent fortress of Kuelap – South America’s largest ancient stone construction.

We explore the many ceremonial constructions, aqueducts and brilliant layout as a group and on your own.

We then continue our journey to Leymebamba (four hours). Hotel.

Day 3: Museum, trek to Tajopampa, basic lodge (B,L,D)

After breakfast we visit Peru’s brand new Centro Mallqui Museum. The Austrians donated the museum to house the mummies found in a unique discovery in 1997, in the nearby Laguna de los Cóndores.

We trek to Tajopampa, up a beautiful forested gorge carved out by the Atuen River, a secret of the area.

There is a cluster of ruins within 3 km, which we will visit today and tomorrow.

Day 4: La Petaca and Diablo Huasi visit, basic lodge (B,L,D)

Close to Tajopampa are the mind-boggling cliff tombs of La Petaca and Diablo Huasi.

The myriad constructions are situated high up on inaccessible cliffs. Sit and marvel at this tapestry of buildings and pictographs – it’s not unusual to identify a new construction every trip.

We can only speculate how the ancient people placed their dead in such a place.

Return to Tajopampa for the night.

Day 5: Trek to Atuen, camp (B,L,D)

We leave Tajopampa in the morning, rejoin the Inca road and trek towards the village of Atuen.

Atuen lies at the source of a river, rendering it instantly sacred by the Chachapoyas and Inca who resided here.

The ancients even created a snake-shaped lake here by paving the bottom with rocks in the desired formation.

At 3,550m/11,600ft this is another cold night and those brave enough can wash in the two Inca baths close by. Camp.

Day 6: Trek to Laguna Huayabamba, camp (B,L,D)

After an early breakfast we leave Atuen and follow Qapaq Ñan. We go up and over a high 4,000m/13,300ft pass before dropping into a broad flat valley, ringed by jagged peaks.

Leaving the flat valley we climb up to another pass before dropping down to the Laguna Huayabamba.

This is a round-as-an-orange lake watched over by the ruined peak city of Vira Vira. Camp.

Day 7: Vira Vira ruins visit, camp (B,L,D)

Today we will explore the ruins of Vira Vira and with luck may spot Andean condors in the magic of this forgotten settlement.

The area was lifted from obscurity and introduced to explorers by Keith Muscutt, author of Chachapoyas: Warriors of the Clouds.

We spend a second night overlooking Laguna Huayabamba. Camp.

Day 8: Las Quinuas-Bolivar trek, transfer to hotel (B,L)

We climb over the pass by which we arrived and descend into the broad flat valley of Las Quinuas to rejoin the Inca road.

We take a diversion from the road and traverse around a hillside and onto the village of Uchucmarca (6 hours).

Here our private transport will meet us to take us to Bolivar (1.5 hours). Hotel

Day 9: Rest day, hotel (B)

Today is a rest day with a short walk to the ruins above the village of Bolivar.

This spectacular archaeological site is situated on a narrow ridge between to hollows that would once have been lakes.

Return to the hotel in Bolivar.

Days 10 to 11: Visit Shomenat, camp at Laguna Shopol, return to Bolivar and hotel (B,L,D)

We will make a two-day journey into the mountains surrounding Bolivar. Few outsiders have explored these parts, yet many sites exist, forgotten among the majestic mountains.

First day we visit the tombs of Shomenat and then carry on to Laguna Shopol for a night in tents.

The next day we head on to Pakarischa a huge tower overlooking the flat high valet below.

Night 10, camp. Return to Bolivar for our last night.

Day 12: Drive to Cajamarca, hotel (B)

Today we travel by private transport to Cajamarca (10-12 hours). This beautiful colonial city witnessed a major turning point in world history when the Spanish captured the Inca Atahualpa and held him to ransom.

Dip in the natural Inca thermal baths and immerse yourself in some of the finest colonial architecture on the continent.

We spend the night at a beautiful colonial hotel.

Day 13: Tour ends with transfer out (B)

Transfer out, end of tour.

Prices From $3,300 / £2,798 per person

Enquire about booking

What's Included?

Trekking with all meals, all entrance fees and taxes, transfers to airport or bus station, meals as specified, all transportation specified in the program, camping equipment, horse and arrieros, cook, bilingual guide and assistant, hotel in Cajamarca + Chachapoyas, hostel in Leymebamba + Bolivar, horse support, camping in two-man tents.

What's Not Included?

International flights (we can look for these for you), tips, alcoholic drinks, internal flights (we can quote for these, price depends on route availability and prices at the time), sleeping bag.


Hotels, based on 2-3* clean, central and with private bathroom, upgrades possible at extra cost (where available).

While camping we use two man mountain tents and dining tent. Ablutions in either either a toilet tent or pit latrine.

Sometimes we use basic lodges with shared rooms with basic bunks and shared bathrooms with no electricity. Toilets will be basic.

Tour Staff

All our guides are qualified, local and English-speaking and will help you get the most out of your trip.

You meet different guides for different tours, each with specialist knowledge of the areas you are visiting.

Transfer staff, mule drivers, porters etc. are all from the local communities.


We can cater for almost all dietary requirements – please ask for more information.

While trekking, you usually wake early, around 07.00. Your meals are prepared and served to you and will be a mix of hot drinks, cereals, fruits and toast with jams.

Lunch, while out walking, will be either sandwiches or meat and cheese, with snacks etc.

After an hour or so for lunch – depending on weather conditions – you will continue your walk, usually 3-4 hours more, although some days are shorter or longer than others, and then relax before dinner at camp. You may be asked to help out with the construction of tents, depending on group size.

Evening meals are usually pasta or rice dishes served in the dining tent or basic lodge.

In towns when you have free time, there will be local restaurants to choose from.

Activity Level

We have classified this as a moderate trek, and you need to be in good physical shape for it.

You hike 4-6 hours a day on consecutive days, over rugged and isolated mountain trails at elevation.

There is a high altitude pass to cross at 4,100m/13,451ft before dropping into lower elevations.

Pre-trip preparation should include challenging cardiovascular exercise (including regular hikes on varied terrain) and a healthy, balanced diet.

Well-worn hiking boots are essential.

All guests are encouraged to hike at their own pace, taking breaks whenever needed, to ensure a successful and enjoyable trek.

Enquire about booking

Practical Information

Introduction to Peru

Peru is the perfect holiday destination for adventure travellers that want an amazing variety of activity, geography and cultural travel experiences.

The breadth of travel experiences in Peru is breathtaking – from trekking in the Andes to Machu Picchu to the tropical jungle of the Amazon, and plenty in between.

The people of Peru make it a special destination too, with its colourful and traditional street life and friendly locals.

Kit list

Good kit is vital for every trip.

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When planning for the varied climatic conditions encountered, layering is the most practical and versatile clothing system.  It’s worth remembering that our clothing keeps us warm by retaining and isolating the heat we ourselves create.

To best maintain body heat, several layers of lightweight, warm and quick-drying clothing are far more efficient than one or two thick layers. Layers should have the following qualities:


  1. Breathability (able to wick away the humidity produced by sweat):
  2. Isolation (able to keep in the warm air our body produces); and
  3. Impermeability (able to impede the passing of wind and water).


First (base) layer: This layer wicks the sweat away from our skin, thus helping keep the body dry and warm. To this end, synthetic fabrics such as polypropylene should be used.

Mid layers: These isolating layers should also be synthetic (e.g. the known polar linings such as polartec or windblock, which are light and insulate twice as well as wool). Very important layers for retaining body heat.

Outer layer / shell: Finally, the vital layer which protects us from climatic adversities. A breathable, wind-proof and waterproof anorak, such as Goretex.

Give plenty of thought to kit selection, and try to keep weight down.

We also carry an extensive first aid kit & oxygen on all trips, but these are generally for emergencies only.

Below is a more detailed kit list.


Detailed kit list

  • 2 pairs synthetic inner socks (e.g. polypropylene, thermastat, coolmax) and 2 pairs thick loop-stitch/wool socks for cold.
  • Trekking boots – should be well broken-in, waterproof and provide good ankle support.
  • Trainers/sandals for city-wear, evenings at lower camps & river crossings.
  • Base layer leggings (1 pair).
  • Thick fleece leggings (or salopettes) (1 pair).
  • Goretex-type over-trousers (or salopettes) (1 pair).
  • Trekking trousers (2 pairs).
  • Shorts – wear sparingly in early stages at altitude, as sun burns.
  • Thermal base layer shirts (2).
  • Microfleece mid-layer shirt (1).
  • Shirt/t-shirt 1 or 2 for lower altitudes. Long-sleeved, collared shirt protects against sun
  • Fleece jacket or similar (1).
  • Warm jacket (down or synthetic). For camp and upper slopes.
  • Waterproof Goretex-type jacket.
  • Broad-brimmed sunhat, essential.
  • Warm hat, fleece or wool. (N.B. Up to 30% of body heat can be lost through the head).
  • Sunglasses with UV filter.
  • Scarf for cold.
  • Bandanna – to protect neck from strong sun.
  • Light inner gloves
  • Warm gloves, e.g. fleece, and outer waterproof gloves or mittens (1 pair)
  • Mittens allow you to keep the fingers together, and better conserve heat (though they also make it difficult to perform certain tasks).
  • Daypack (at least 30 litres). Comfortable and with waterproof lining or cover.
  • Large rucksack or suitcase.
  • Pair of telescopic trekking poles (can be rented).
  • Duffel bag or large rucksack for extra clothing, carried by horse/mule/porter while you are trekking.
  • Sleeping bag (3-4 season, can be rented).
  • Water bottle (2 litres approx.) & purification tablets.
  • Personal first-aid kit to include: painkillers, plasters (band-aids), moleskin, anti-biotic cream, general antibiotics (ask your GP), after-bite (tiger balm), anti-diarrhoea tablets, throat lozenges, re-hydration salts & personal medication.
  • Insect repellent.
  • Towel & wash-kit.
  • Wet Wipes/antiseptic hand-wash cream.
  • Toilet paper (1)
  • Sunscreen (factor 30+) and lip salve.
  • Head-lamp (plus spare bulb and batteries).
  • Penknife.
  • Travel alarm clock.
  • Plastic bags – ‘Zip-loc’ & tough bin liners.
  • Camera and film / memory cards (take at least twice the amount you think you will need!). Print & slide film is available locally. Polarising filter is recommended for SLR cameras.
  • Book, e-book, mp3 player/ipod or other for free time.
  • Binoculars.
  • Spanish/English phrasebook.
  • Extra snacks i.e. cereal bars or favourite chocolate bars.

All other non-personal trekking camping gear e.g. tents, cutlery etc is provided.


Miscellaneous others

  • Money belt.
  • Passport.
  • U.S. dollars cash, mixed-denomination notes, undamaged and unmarked.
  • ATM cash/credit card.
  • Any inoculation certificates.
  • Personal & medical insurance certificates.
  • Presents e.g. Postcards from home.
  • Comfortable clothes for travel, smart clothes for night life.

Quick facts about Peru


Official name: Republic of Peru

Country population: 27,083,000

Capital city: Lima (8.1 million)

Largest cities: Lima, Arequipa, Trujillo, Chiclayo

Languages: Spanish (official), Quechua (official), Aymará

Latitude/Longitude: 10º S, 76º W

Official currency: New Sol

Major industries: copper, gold, zinc, textiles, chemicals, pharmaceuticals

Time zone: GMT-5

ATOL holiday protection

Andean Trails has two decades of experience of dealing with South America holidays.

We pay a fee to the CAA for every licensable passenger we book since we hold an Air Travel Organiser’s Licence granted by the Civil Aviation Authority. In the unlikely event of our insolvency, the CAA will ensure that you are not stranded abroad and will arrange to refund any money you have paid to us for an advance booking.

We also offer ATOL (Civil Aviation Authority) protected holidays to give our customers peace of mind when booking and travelling.

When you buy an ATOL protected air holiday package from Andean Trails Ltd you will receive a Confirmation Invoice from us confirming your arrangements and your protection under our Air Travel Organiser’s Licence number 6275.

You can read more about ATOL, who is covered and what protections you have if not ATOL-covered, on our ATOL page.


What is ATOL?

The CAA’s ATOL scheme offers protection to your money and your holiday if you book with us. Not everybody is covered (see ‘Who is covered?’ for more), as you must purchase an ‘air package holiday’ with Andean Trails to be protected.

And  ‘air package holiday’ is defined as including a flight and some ground services (hotel, transfer, trek etc). This is also known as an ‘ATOL-protected holiday’.


Who is covered?

To be covered by ATOL, you must book a flight and some ground services with us and be from the UK. If you are from the UK and only book ground services and no flights, you are not covered by ATOL (see below for more on how non-ATOL clients are covered).

If you are outside the UK and buy flights with us, you will be ATOL protected IF any of the flights booked with Andean Trails touches/stops in the UK at any point during your holiday package booked with us.

If you buy your flights elsewhere, please check with that agent if you are ATOL protected. Be careful with online flight purchases and make sure you know what protection you have, if any, before paying for flights.

Not all holiday or travel services offered and sold by us will be protected by the ATOL scheme. Please ask us to confirm what protection may apply to your booking.

For land only holidays not involving any air travel, in accordance with “The Package Travel, Package Holidays and Package Tours Regulations 1992”, all UK passengers booking with Andean Trails Ltd. are fully protected for the initial deposit and subsequently the balance of all money paid to us, arising from cancellation or curtailment of travel arrangements due to the insolvency of Andean Trails.


I’m not ATOL covered, what protection do I have?

If you are not ATOL covered, any payments you make to us go to a Trust account.

We can only access this money once your tour has been completed, meaning that if anything happens to Andean Trails Limited while you are on holiday, then your money is secure and you can either complete the trip or be able to make it home.

If you pay for your holiday with a credit card, some offer payment protection – please check with your cardholder.

You also should have cancellation protection written into your insurance (which we recommend you have at the time of booking) in case you need to cancel.

Be safe in Peru

The Lima suburb of Miraflores is a good base for easing yourself into Peruvian culture.

Although a fairly safe district, we strongly recommend taking these precautions in Lima and also throughout the country:

  • Leave paper valuables in hotel safe (caja fuerte), taking only what you need for the day. Carry a copy of passport (leave original in safe). When travelling, carry paper valuables in a money belt under clothing, not in a ‘bum-bag’.
  • In Miraflores (Lima), be suspicious of ‘overly-friendly’ locals or ‘tourists’ who might be con-men/women. Also, avoid the beach areas off-season. During the Dec-April beach season, beware bag-snatchers on the beach.
  • We suggest you do not exchange money on the street. Use either a casa de cambio (bureau de change) or bank, ATM machine.
  • More care is needed in downtown Lima. Only take a daypack if you’re in a group. We suggest you carry this on your chest. Carry camera in bag, replacing after use. If alone, you’re advised to avoid downtown Lima at night.
  • In Lima, as elsewhere in Peru, always take special care in markets and busy streets. Great care is needed in the markets and bus offices of central Lima, the San Camilo market in Arequipa and Cusco’s San Pedro market. Never carry a bag or valuables in these areas, as bag-slashers, watch snatchers and pickpockets operate. Beware of distraction techniques.
  • At night, avoid quiet streets or streets with poor lighting, especially if alone; it’s best to use taxis at night, wherever you are.
  • NEVER leave your bags unattended, especially in airports, bus terminals and hotel lobbies.
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