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I hadn't thought about including Northern Peru in my holiday itinerary but having heard about the pre Incan sites in that part of the country I felt that it was a must visit in addition to the more usual sites in the South. I am so pleased I did as it was a remarkable experience.

Lima

The first stop of my trip, capital of this amazing country. Luckily I had two days here in a lovely, well-situated hotel in Miraflores. Plenty of time for walks along the Pacific coastline, through well kept parks, past unusual sculptures and Gaudiesque mosaic walls. It was amazing to be able to visit an adobe pyramid in amongst modern buildings, abandoned in AD700 then used by the Wari people as a cemetery. Now juxtaposed with a fabulous restaurant where I ate an excellent meal of Peruvian food in the midst of floodlit ancient archaeology.

Nigel's Go Andes Holiday Blog - Miraflores Nigel's Go Andes Peru Holiday Blog - Barranco

 

I had decided to wait and visit the Plaza des Armas at the end of my holiday so that I could go to Barranco where I spent time having a brilliant tour of the Museo de Pedro de Osma. I learnt a lot about the different styles of Peruvian art which came in handy during the rest of my trip. Lunch was in a typical local restaurant before a walk to the Bridge of Sighs, then a well-deserved drink on the balcony at the Mirador overlooking the Pacific before returning to Miraflores to find a craft market taking place in Parque Kennedy. It was a really buzzy atmosphere – lively bars and restaurants and non stop traffic until late into the night.

To Chiclayo in the North of Peru

After a smooth transfer to Lima airport I had a short flight to the small Chiclayo airport followed by a short drive to my hotel. After dropping off my luggage I headed out to find the Plaza des Armas. It was evening by this time and the plaza was packed with families walking and sitting around. It was lovely to see all ages enjoying the warm evening.

Early next morning it was a beautiful sunny day and I was collected from the hotel in a posh new car by my personal guide and his driver. We set off for Lambayaque in the Valley of the Pyramids. We were travelling on the Pan American Highway (Alaska to Chile!) and were certainly not short of interesting sights to see through the window – makeshift, self built and half built dwellings strung along the side of the road, Tuk Tuks galore, skinny cows, scraggy goats, crops such as chillies, sweetcorn and quinoa, and many mud-baked potholed roads leading off in all directions.

Near Lambayaque we reached the Tucume site and, unbelievably, a new museum had opened only two weeks ago. I was the first British visitor! The museum is very well-designed and informative and I learnt a lot about the Sican civilisation. The new museum is in a better site than the old one as it is within sight of a number of the many pyramids that have been discovered here since 1100 AD. The pyramids themselves do not look like the typical structures that you see in other parts of the world, because they were built with adobe bricks they have been eroded over time but are still incredible. The largest one is over 700m long. You can see what they originally looked like in the museum. It must have been an awe-inspiring sight as the ancient people worshipped their gods of nature here.

Nigel's Go Andes Peru Holiday Blog - Chiclayo Nigel's Go Andes Peru Holiday Blog - Chiclayo Sican

We then visited the Lord of Sipan Museum, a modern take on a massive red pyramid. Sipan was one site of the Sican culture, probably in the 1200's, so before the Incas. What a fabulous display of original gold, silver, turquoise and copper unlike anything I had seen before. This was discovered in the Lord's tomb, an unbelievable amount of riches buried away – necklaces, nose-plates, huge belts and earrings etc. They need to be seen to be believed as they are so amazing.

Nigel's Go Andes Peru Holiday Blog - Chiclayo

We then saw even more pyramids in this incredible area as we travelled around and were also taken to a lovely restaurant in a courtyard where we ate traditional food. A great day.

Visiting Gocta Waterfall and Kuelap Fortress

Next day I began a three day trip inland to the huge Gocta waterfall and Kuelap citadel. I couldn't wait. This time I had a small minibus to myself with driver and guide, Julio, who was with me for the whole trip. There were temperature changes and varied scenery as we rode along the Intercontinental highway towards the Andes, then over the watershed to the start of the Amazon river basin. There was an array of vegetables being farmed by people living in one-roomed shacks by the side of the highway – we even eat their asparagus here in England. The last 11 kilometres was along a very bumpy mud road which led to the Gocta Lodge hotel. Wow! It's so beautiful and so quiet, surrounded by mountains and cloud forest. It's not far off 2500m high here and I am looking across an infinity pool from the terrace of my room at this wonderful sight.

Nigel's Go Andes Peru Holiday Blog - Gocta Lodge and Waterfall Nigel's Go Andes Peru Holiday Blog - Gocta Lodge and Waterfall

I couldn't wait to begin my hike the next day, clear sky, waterfall gleaming in the distance beckoning me and Julio. It was going to be about a 5 hour round trip with lots of colourful flowers and butterflies along the way. We passed over a rope bridge and saw coffee beans, sugar cane, pineapples, coco, yukka and many other plants growing along the way. We stopped for boiled coffee at Reyna's shack and then set off into the primary cloud forest with tangled lianas, moss and lichen growing abundantly all around. We finally reached the foot of the waterfall which is 700m from top to bottom and, depending on who you believe, is either the third or fifth highest waterfall in the world. It's also very noisy this close up.

Nigel's Go Andes Peru Holiday Blog - Gocta Waterfall Nigel's Go Andes Peru Holiday Blog - Gocta Waterfall

Nigel's Go Andes Peru Holiday Blog - Gocta Waterfall

This was a fantastic hike and by the time we got back to the village I was more than ready for a meal of fresh trout and yukka washed down by a local beer before relaxing on the hotel terrace watching the alpaca grazing in the grounds.

Nigel's Go Andes Peru Holiday Blog - Peruvian Trout

We set off early for Kuelap next morning. On the way we passed through a canyon which contained sarcophagus' in the cliff sides and a village, Macro, which was made up of round stone houses built into the mountainside. We turned off the road and onto a steep, bumpy dirt track which took us to Kuelap – after 38 kilometres! What a drive. We got some relief from the bumps when we stopped at remote villages for refreshments (coca tea) and we even saw a toucan perched in a tree. For a really remote spot there were an amazing number of farms and villages strung along the road and we saw quite a few farmers ploughing their land with oxen or travelling along the road on horses in colourful getup. There were also quite a few fat pigs lying in mud outside the farmhouses.

Nigel's Go Andes Peru Holiday Blog - Coca Tea

We climbed higher and higher until we reached the citadel of Kuelap. Literally on the top of a mountain at 3100m, Kuelap was built in around 5AD and is made up of about 440 round houses using more building materials than were used for the Great Egyptian Pyramid. Nobles and religious leaders lived here and were supplied by the ordinary folk who lived further down the mountain. The Incas came and admired the fortress before taking over and building a few structures of their own. It was rediscovered in 1843. As it has not been restored like some other sites it felt as if we were discovering parts of it ourselves. Remains of houses appear from the undergrowth and all around you can see the fantastic views from the top of the mountain. One of the best things from my point of view was the scarcity of tourists at this site. At times you felt as if you had it to yourself. A magical experience.

Nigel's Go Andes Peru Holiday Blog - Kuelap Fortress Nigel's Go Andes Peru Holiday Blog - Kuelap Fortress

Nigel's Go Andes Peru Holiday Blog - Kuelap Fortress Nigel's Go Andes Peru Holiday Blog - Kuelap Fortress

The next day was time to return from our fantastic Gocta Lodge hotel to Chiclayo for a flight back to Lima. Even the trip back was amazing as we passed through some stunning scenery and saw some fascinating sights – women spinning wool as they were walking along the road, people working in the paddy fields and brightly painted houses exhorting neighbours to vote for a particular candidate in the upcoming elections.

Northern Peru was a unique and fantastic experience and I am so glad I decided to visit here as well as the better known destinations in Southern Peru.

 

All photos courtesy of Nigel W, with thanks from the Go Andes team.

 
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