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The impossible became reality! Check out how I planned this incredibly short 10-day trip in North Peru and despite that have still seen most of the places.

Normally you need at least two weeks to explore northern Peru at a quite normal pace. But you can do this even in a shorter period of time. However, this is for you just in case you have a tight schedule and budget as I had. But you will see the most important things and get at least one day for each city.

Here is my itinerary for 10 days:

Day 1- Huaraz / Pastouri Glacier
Day 2 – Paron Lake / Lagoon 69 / Llanganuco Lagoon
Day 3 – Trujillo (Huaca del Sol, Chan Chan, Huanchaco beach)
Day 4 – Cajamarca (Ventanillas de Otuzco, Los Baños del Inca, Ransom Room, Santa Apolonia)
Day 5 – Celedin / Cumbemayo / Leymebamba Museum
Day 6 – Chachapoyas (Fortaleza de Kuelap)
Day 7 – Gocta waterfall/  archeological site El Tigre / Yumbilla waterfall
Day 8 – Chiclayo (Royal Tombs Of Sipan Museum, Tucume pyramids)
Day 9 – Mancora / Vichayito / Organos
Day 10- Mancora (whale watching, water sports)

Click on the image to see all the places on a map.

Day 1 – Huaraz

The best place to start your north trip in Peru is from the capital, Lima. My first stop was Huaraz, you just can’t skip these spectacular mountain views of Huascarán national park. There are many bus companies, like Cruz del Sur, Oltursa, Linea, or Movil bus and you can check their schedules and prices on RedBus. I took Transportes Julio Cesar which leaves from this address, but I wouldn’t really recommend this company. I paid around S/40 ($10) for the ticket, and the bus left at 8 pm (well, of course not exactly). The biggest problem was there was no ventilation at all, I could barely breathe and this was already during the pandemic so imagine that with a mask. I don’t even know how I could fall asleep in that stuffy, overcrowded bus (or maybe that’s why I fell asleep that quickly).

Anyway, wherever you will be staying in Lima, you would need to call a taxi to your bus station. Public transport is not a really safe way to go, especially when you travel with luggage. Don’t take a taxi from a street, better call Uber. Make sure you call it in advance since the drivers might cancel or not be able to make it on time due to Lima’s traffic.

So when you take a bus to Huaraz you can either travel during the day (it’s approx. 8-hour journey) or during the night and then have a whole next day for exploring. Just keep in mind that Huaraz sits at an altitude of 3,050 meters so make sure you take some time for acclimatization.

Source: selina.com
Source: selina.com

In Huaraz, I would recommend you to stay at Selina. A dorm room costs around S/50 ($13) per night and you can even arrive there early in the morning. I arrived around 5 am and they were already open, so I took a nap upstairs on their sofa. They have a bar with a pool table, back yard, kitchen, movie room, tour desk, and co-working space.

My first day was actually a working and resting day, I didn’t pay for coworking, but you can work from upstairs, it’s pretty quiet there. If I could change one thing on this trip I would’ve definitely done something that day even though you should take it easy the first day at a high altitude.

2. day – Paramount full-day trek to Paron Lake

The next day I took a tour of Paron Lake which cost me S/80 ($20). We left Selina at around 7 am and took a minivan through a dusty, jumpy road. It was pretty painful but worth that breathtaking view of the turquoise blue water with 6,000 meters high Pirámide mountain. The lake sits at a 4,200 meters altitude, but you can hike up around 150 meters to have an even better view of it.

Make sure you take some cash with you as you will stop for the breakfast on the way there, also you need to pay S/5 ($1,30) for the entrance and, most important, for a traditional lunch by the lake.

Oh, yea, and the local agencies call the trip Paramount since the Pirámide mountain looks almost the same as the mountain on the Paramount pictures studio.

paron lake huaraz peru
peru street food chicharon

There are many other popular treks and tours like the gorgeous and even more popular Lagoon 69, Llanganuco Lagoon, or the spectacular Pastouri Glacier. Those are the one-day tours and it’s pretty complicated to do it by yourself. Then you have multi-day treks – the most popular are the Santa Cruz trek, Alpamayo, Huayhuash, or Cordillera Blanca Circuit.

After the tour, I had my bus scheduled at 10 pm, so I had time for some beer. And here is my lesson from this day. The beer at Selina was so good, that I almost missed my bus. When I realized what time it is, I just grabbed my stuff and took a taxi from the street. When I came to the station, they were already calling my name and the bus was about to leave. Fortunately, the buses in Peru are almost all the time late, so I had time to board. So make sure you don’t drink too much before going on a bus.

3. day – Trujillo

The journey from Huaraz to Trujillo takes around 8 hours and I paid for my ticket S/57 ($15). The good thing about these buses is that you have a whole day in the city. At 6 am, I was already at the station and if you will travel on the same day you can usually leave your luggage at the station which is pretty useful.

Trujillo is a coastal city with the biggest adobe city in America and some other pretty important adobe pyramids and the famous Huanchaco beach. Actually, I wrote an article about how to spend one day in Trujillo.

Don’t be afraid to take a taxi from the street it’s pretty safe here. You can also take a minivan or bus.

The second night in a bus heading to Cajamarca cost me S/50 ($13) and the departure was again at 10 pm. This night I had just one drink.


4. day – Cajamarca

After 7 hours on the bus, I was already in Cajamarca, a really important city during the Inca empire. The city is known for The Battle of Cajamarca and the last Inca, Atahualpa, was captured and murdered here.

Since I arrived at 5 am I wasn’t sure if my hostel will let me in. But they were super nice and I could already get into my room early in the morning. I paid S/40 ($10) per night for a private room. Also, when you get off a bus, there are gonna be many taxi drivers fighting for the customers. Just go for it. Actually, you don’t have any other option. The price they give you it’s the best you can get at that time.

I didn’t want to lose any minute and as soon as I had gotten into my room I went out to look for the transport. I was heading to Ventanillas de Otuzco which is out of the city. You can get a minivan for S/2 on this street, but make sure you ask someone before. This place is actually full of tombs in a rock that used to be a funerary complex. During the pandemic, they are open from Tuesday to Saturday (10:30 am – 4:30 pm), but I found it out after I had gotten to the place at around 8 am. So I went around the place passing by the houses and entered from up by climbing the short fence. But don’t do it, take a rest in your room if you get it and arrive later. There are also other Ventanillas de Combayo, but these are a bit farther.

los banos del inca peru

You can also go to Los Baños del Inca, which served as thermal baths since pre-Inca times. They are open pretty soon and the best thing is that you will get your own bath. The entrance fee is S/10 ($2,50) and in case you don’t have a towel just go outside of the complex they will sell you everything related to bathing and swimming.

To get back to Cajamarca, just ask for the minivans, but usually, they leave from the place close to the exit of the thermal baths.

When I had gotten back to Cajamarca, I really needed to take a nap. Sleeping two nights on a bus for just a few hours made me exhausted, but my excitement of seeing a new place in the morning was stronger. So after my power nap, I headed back to the city to see the Ransom Room or El Cuarto del Rescate. It’s considered to be a place where the Incan emperor Atahualpa was imprisoned by Francisco Pizarro. Inside you can find a perfectly carved Inca stone room, you can’t enter the room, but you can walk around. The ticket costs just S/5 ($1,30) but you must buy it at Iglesia Belén which is just around the corner.

In general, Cajamarca has a pretty nice main square with a park where you can hang out or go up to the hill of Santa Apolonia. There is a park with a church and a view of the whole city. It reminded me a bit of Cusco.

cajamarca peru
ranson room cajamarca

5. day – Celedin

This is the part where it got a little bit tricky. There is just one bus company that goes from Cajamarca to Chachapoyas (the city I was heading to) and it always leaves at 5.30 pm. However, my plan was to go to the bus station in the morning and try to catch something that would leave earlier.

I had woken up really early to catch a moto-taxi or tuk-tuk from the street in front of my hostel and asked a driver to take me to the main bus station. Probably still a little bit drunk, the driver left me at the bus station where was no sign that something will go in my direction. Then another driver stopped by and offered to take me to another station. This was a station of minivans that go just to a small village called Celedin. The village is around 2 hours from Cajamarca, but still a little bit closer to Chachapoyas.

peru transport minivans
peru minivans celedin

So I had gotten to the minivan, but the first trouble came when we ended up waiting for around one hour which is not common. In a situation like this is good to know some Spanish, because you can negotiate a price for the delay and actually get to know what is happening. Eventually, we left and I was trying to get some sleep. I didn’t know the road would be winding. If I had eaten something I would have probably thrown up. My stomach was so upset and the only thing I could fix it with was a fresh soup from the Celedin village.

When I arrived at Celedin and finished my soup for breakfast I found out there was no transport going to Chachapoyas during the day. The taxi would be super expensive and there was just one minivan going in the late afternoon. I didn’t have any other option just to book the minivan for S/50 ($13). Fortunately, I could leave my big backpack at the station office and go explore this village.

celedin peru
Celedin peru

I found out the village has actually a pretty nice main square and a lovely blue church. I had decided to walk up a small hill, I sat on the ground and started writing another article. It was such a nice day and I didn’t expect to end up in a village, I didn’t have a clue that it existed, chilling with the view of the surrounding Andean nature. What I didn’t expect either was that a Peruvian family will ask me to take a picture with every one of them.

I would strongly recommend you have a Peruvian SIM card since it’s pretty hard to find wi-fi in the places like this. Eventually, I decided not to go to Chachapoyas directly (because the minivan would arrive around 1 am), but to get off at Nuevo Tingo. It’s a village right below the Kuelap fortress where I wanted to go anyway. So I booked a hostel in this village and let the owner know when I will arrive. I must say I couldn’t have been luckier. The owner of the hostel arrived exactly at the time when my van was passing by and if the owner didn’t stop the van I would’ve gone directly to Chachapoyas.

silic hostel kuelap peru
silic hostel kuelap

When the van left we started walking up to the village for about 30 minutes. He helped me with my backpack and while we were walking and talking, suddenly it hit me. I know him! I met him in Cusco when I was volunteering at a bar. What a coincidence! His name is Roberto and his hostel’s called Silic hostel. It’s a low-cost, but pretty cool place, there is a room with beds, a kitchen, and back yard for camping.

I arrived around midnight and just went to sleep after this exhausting day. If you don’t want to spend a day in a random village, you have two options. You can either spend one more day in Cajamarca and go for a hike to Cumbemayo (it’s the volcanic pillars and petroglyphs) and then take a bus at 5:30 pm to Chachapoyas. Or you can take a minivan from Cajamarca later during the day to Celedin and catch another minivan later afternoon to Nuevo Tingo (as I did). There is also a museum worth mentioning – Leymebamba Museum on the way to Chachapoyas. You would probably need to book your visit in advance and extend your trip to stay in the village. However, they have over 200 mummies which makes it really unique.

6. day – Kuelap & Chachapoyas

So since I was already really close to Keulap I didn’t need to go from Chachapoyas to Kuelap and then go back to the city. Fortaleza de Kuelap or just Kuelap was a fortress of the pre-Inca amazon culture called Chachapoyas. It’s situated at the top of a mountain so you can either hike up for around 2 hours or take a cable car (the only one in Peru). Kuelap is also called Machu Picchu in the north.

kuelap cable car

A cable car roundtrip ticket will cost you S/20 ($5) and the entrance to the archeological site S/30 ($8). You can also hire a guy with a horse to go around the site, but it’s much better when you just walk around. It will probably take you around two hours, but it’s definitely worth it. Not just for the site itself but also for the spectacular views and lamas hanging around.

In the afternoon, you can start heading to Chachapoyas city. The minivans cost around S/10 ($2,50) and you can just walk around to the main square or go up to Pozo de Yanayacu for the view of the city.

7. day – Gocta Waterfall

Traveling is also about meeting new people so I decided to spend another day with Chaska, a Peruvian girl I met in Roberto’s Silic hostel. We went hiking to one of the highest waterfalls in Peru, Gocta. It’s a full-day hike from the small community of Cocachimba. The hike should take you around 2 hours, but be ready for many people. The waterfall is amazing and even hiking in the jungle with many kinds of butterflies flying around is a great experience.

gocta waterfall

From Chachapoyas go to the bus station and take a minivan. Tell them you want to go to Catarata Gocta and they will drop you off on the main road. From there you need to bargain the price for moto-taxis to Cocachimba. Once you get to the community you will see a ticket office (yes, you need to pay to see the waterfall) and they will charge you S/15 ($4). When you pass the community and start reaching the trail they will ask for your ticket.

Going back to Chachapoyas is the same as arriving from there. Buses to Chiclayo leave around 7 – 8 pm and the best companies are Transportes Chiclayo or Movil bus. It will take around 9 hours and the price is around S/50 ($13). By the way, I almost missed my bus again, because the trek to the waterfall had taken us a bit longer. You also need some time to find a moto-taxi back to the main road from Cocachimba and then wait for a minivan to Chachapoyas.

8. day – Chiclayo

I felt like there is not much to do in the city of Chiclayo, but more around it. There is a small village called Lambayeque where you can find the Royal Tombs Of Sipan Museum. The museum itself has a unique design, it looks like a sinking red building, and inside are the most important archaeological remains of pre-Inca culture. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get to the museum. They have different opening hours due to the pandemic. If you want to go there, make sure you plan it for Monday, Wednesday, or Friday. Instead, I went to the Museo Arqueológico Nacional Brüning, which was also pretty interesting. The minivans to Lambayeque should leave from the front of the bus station, but make sure you ask someone.

Royal Tombs Of Sipan Museum
Museo Arqueológico Nacional Brüning

Once you get to explore the museums, you can go back to the main road and get the minivan to Tucume. There is a huge complex of adobe pyramids. I was lucky I had a local friend to show me around and be great company. On the way to the Tucume pyramids, we stopped to eat in a restaurant called Mi Huerta specialized in seafood. From here, you can either take a moto-taxi or walk around 10 minutes to the entrance of the pyramids. The archeological site of the Tucume pyramids is huge, there are around 26 adobe pyramids, cemeteries, and residential areas. Be ready for a long walk since the area is pretty huge. There is also a museum inside the area.

tucume pyramids
tucume pyramids peru

At late night, I was finally waiting for my last stop, Mancora. I took Transportes Chiclayo again and at around 10 pm, I was already sitting on a bus. It had only one catch, the bus didn’t stop in Mancora at 6 am as it was written on the schedule, but around 4 am. A guy sitting in front of me had woken me up saying we are in Mancora, but when I was trying to get all my stuff, the bus started moving. So eventually I ended up going all the way up to Tumbes, close to the Equatorian borders.

9. day – Mancora

When I arrived in Tumbes around 6 am, an older woman was trying to help me to get me back to Mancora. I think she freaked out more than me (I was actually glad that I could sleep more), but it didn’t take long because after a while she disappeared. So I took a moto-taxi to a place where the minivans usually leave for Mancora (you can just ask any driver and they will know). This was actually the most comfortable minivan I’ve ever been in and I didn’t pay more than S/20 ($5) for the ride.

After around 2 hours I was finally in Mancora, a town and beach resort, popular not just among the tourists, but mostly locals. The area is considered to have the best beaches in Peru, a great spot for surfing and the nightlife is also pretty wild.

Source: selina.com
selina mancora
Source: selina.com

If you will be planning to take a moto-taxi, within the town should cost you around S/3 ($0,70). If you can, bring sunscreen before you arrive there, since the prices get higher than normal (S/20 – $5). Actually, everything is overpriced here.

There are also pretty nice places out of Mancora, like Vichayito or Organos worth visiting. To stay in Mancora, you don’t have to look for a place really long, Selina hotel is your win.

10. day – Whale watching & water sports

If you made it this far, your last thing to do (except for deserved sunbathing and partying) is to see the whales or go surfing. Practically every agency there will provide you with a solid tour to see the whales, but I was satisfied with Discovery Mancora Tours.

whale watching mancora
arroz con mariscos

Oh yeah, and don’t forget to stop for ceviche in Food on wheels, makis in Tokuyo, or Arroz con mariscos in Playa Palmeras in Vichayito.

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