6 Amazing Towns To Add To Your North Peru Itinerary

Peru’s northern region is an endless territory of things to do and visit. It has beaches, the most ancient archeological sites, stunning nature, highlands, rainforest, colonial cities and much more.

The north tends to get less attention than the south, and travelers usually neglect it to preference Cuzco and Machu Pichu. 

However, let me tell you that the north is worthy and gorgeous. What an incredible diversity Peru has!

I’m skipping the Amazon region in this post because that deserves their own itinerary. 

Do you want to discover dozens upon dozens of UNESCO sites? Do you want to surf in one of the longest left-breaks in the world? Maybe you want to hike the highest peak in the country? The north of Peru is the place for all of that. 

Here are 6 worthwhile cities to add to your north Peru itinerary and all the awesome things to can do while visiting them.

Why should you visit the north of Peru?

To start, the north is much cheaper than the south, from the food, the accommodations to the activities. Mainly because is less touristic and most travelers are actually Peruvian. Tours and entrances keep a reasonable price. 

The north has all the colors in the landscape palette, from white sand beaches, turquoise glacier lakes to green mountains.

The north shaped the history of Peru, because of that you can find unique pre-Incan archaeology sites, including the adobe city of Chan Chan or the citadel of Kuelap. Even if you are not into ruins, these two deserve a visit. 

Huascaran National Park in Huaraz Peru

1. Huaraz

Huaraz has the highest mountains outside the Himalayas, with 23 snow-capped mountain peaks. It is a hiker’s paradise!

The city of Huaraz is the base for most travelers and it is ideal to spend some days acclimatizing to the altitude. At 3091m /10138 feet, is mandatory to plan a couple of chill days in the city and do some day hikes before embarking on an expedition.

Huaraz is not a beautiful city, however, in the last years, more amenities and restaurants keep popping up.

Warning: The city has been the center for some of the worst earthquakes in the country especially the deadly side effects, that’s why most buildings seem unfinished and in bad shape. Don’t be surprised if you experience some tremors or even earthquakes.

The Huascaran National Park contains the highest mountain in the Americas, mount  Huascaran at 6765m /22195 feet. The park is the best destination for hikers, climbers and any adventure enthusiasts.

In the city is easy to find tour operators that offer day-hikes or longer expeditions in the surroundings. Make sure the company has all the necessary permits and experience, most of the equipment can be rented here but don’t expect to be new.

Visiting the Pastoruri Glacier in Huaraz Peru

Best day-trips from Huaraz

Chavin de Huantar: It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site, located in a high valley it was a place of worship. Inside the main temple, there are tunnels and chambers.

Llagonuca: The Lake has the perfect turquoise water fed by the glaciers. It takes around 4 hours from Huaraz to get there. You can get there by public transport but it is much easier if you take a tour. The hike is not hard and the views of the Cordillera Blanca are stunning.

Pastoruri Glacier: Probably one of the best day-trips you can do and who knows for how long since the glacier is melting quickly. The glacier is the last stop at 5240m/17187feet, and the landscape of Huascaran Park is exquisite. Cool seeing the landscape change from green to ice.

Tip: Dry season, nearly May to October is the top time for any high-altitude climbing in Peru. The adjustment to the altitude is sometimes hard and it affects half of the tourists, make sure you take your time before hiking. You can always purchase the soroche pills in almost every pharmacy to help you with the discomfort.

Looking for more travel tips for South America? Check out some of the other posts to help you plan your next trip!

Sunset Mancora beach with surfer in Peru

2. Mancora

The north beaches of Peru have something special. Maybe are the surf waves, the cool vibe, or just the Pacific Ocean. But all together makes this a wonderful corner next to the country border.

The beaches here attract backpackers that are coming down from Ecuador and especially a big surf crowd. Because of that, Mancora is more party-oriented and a crowded town.

However, a little bit south you can find Las Pocitas, Punta Sal, or Los Organos quieter beaches outside Mancora. In these villages, you will discover a calm Pacific paradise, white sand on your feet and the sun shining in your skin.

For surfers, Cabo Blanco beach is known for having fast left breaks to about 12feet. The best waves are from November to March. Don’t worry if you don’t travel with your board, you can rent all the gear in the surf shops all around town.

Best things to do in Cajamarca | Travel Peru | olgatribe.com #peru

3. Cajamarca

I don’t know how many times I can mention that Cajamarca is my favorite city in Peru, oops I just said it again!

Cajamarca is better known as the capital of the Peruvian carnival, the place where the last Inca stood, a colonial city surrounded by green hills and the main cheese-making place in the country. What else can you ask for?

Best things to do in Cajamarca | Travel Peru | olgatribe.com #peru
Visit Cumbemayo in Cajamarca Peru
Ventanillas de Otuzco Cajamarca peru

Best day-trips from Cajamarca

Cumbemayo: Green hills, petroglyphs, weird geological rock formations, an aqueduct and a two thousand-year-old volcanic carved canals. All of that can be found southwest of the city. It is hard to get there by public transport, so taking a tour will be more accessible and easy. 

Ventanillas de Otuzco: Carved into the rock, ancient cultures used to buried their members here. An easy and short ride on public bus will drop you just at the entrance from the city.

Granja Porcón: This cooperative focuses on agro-tourism and testing with ecologically friendly programs. Check the farm and the workers in their daily tasks, the different projects and their tasty artisanal cheeses, yogurt and other delicious treats like ice creams. A fun trip to spend the day. 

Huanchaco trujillo Peru

4. Huanchaco

Huanchaco is the beachfront place to stay instead of the near city of Trujillo. It’s also a surf spot, a fishing village and the place for one of the ancient ruins in the country.

Trujillo, the capital of the department, is 15 minutes away and you can check it out on a day trip if you are interested.

In Huanchaco, you can lay on the beach although the waters are on the cold side. Walk on the beach to find the handmade reed fish boats that locals have been using for centuries. Nowadays you can spot them between the surfers and well put on the sand for the touristic pic, you can even pay to ride one.

The town is next to the most impressive pre-Inca ruins in Peru. Chan Chan, Huaca de La Luna and Huaca del Sol. All of them can be visited in one day from Huanchaco.

Reed boat in Huanchaco Peru
Chan Chan archeological site in Trujillo Peru

Best day-trips from Huanchaco

Huaca de La Luna: The Moon temple is an ongoing excavation, so each year they discover more details and pieces, in addition to the five temples and well preserve decorated walls. 

Chan Chan: The world’s largest adobe city. The adobe walls seem unending and make the site huge. I will recommend hiring one of the guides so you can understand and imagine better the city that it was once. There is also a newer museum included with the entrance, better visited before entering the site. 

Sunset beach in Peru

5. Chiclayo

Let’s be honest, Chiclayo is not a cute city whatsoever. Then why is it on this list? 

The city host one of the largest markets in the country, Mercado Modelo is worth a visit just to walk around it and get lost; especially the witchy area where you will find all possible cures, witchdoctors, herbs, all kinds of preserved animals and many charms for all your troubles. 

Chiclayo is also known for its sweets and its famous King Kong, a sandwich of cookies mixed with manjar blanco and other creams. Just as you imagine it, it can be too much for a human person to eat one in a sit. 

The main reason to visit Chiclayo is the two unique museums near Lambeyeque. However, if museums and tombs are not your things, you can definitely skip Chiclayo. 

Best day-trips from Chiclayo

Museo Tumbas Reales de Sipán: Shape like a pyramid is the place of the Lord of Sipan tomb and his treasures. This museum is one of the largest in the country and the tomb was found in impeccable conditions. The museum is quite new and has an incredible collection of gold, silver and copper. You can also take a day trip to the tomb, which is currently being excavated.

Tucume: North the city is also unique with around 30 pyramids, the place is destroyed and deteriorated, but the site encompasses several civilizations and the longest adobe structure pyramid. 

hike in Chachapoyas in Peru
Gocta waterfalls in Chachapoyas Peru

6. Chachapoyas

Chachapoyas is just at the beginning of the jungle in the Amazon region and the perfect base to visit Kuelap. 

The city is quite charming with its colonial style, wooden balconies and safe walking streets. There is little to do in the capital of the Amazon department, but you can always try some local chocolate. 

Chachapoyas is the perfect base for two awesome places. 

Visit Kuelap fortress in Peru | Travel South America

Best day-trips from Chiclayo

Kuelap: One of the coolest archeological sites in the country and one of the ancients in the continent. Check the complete guide to visiting the ruins in this post.

Gocta waterfalls: Hidden in the Chachapoyas cloud forest are one of the tallest waterfalls in the world. You can see the waterfall from the top on a trail, which lasts around 2hours. To check the falls from the bottom and swim on them, the light hike through the humid forest takes about 3hours.
While is possible to go on your own, if you just want to do it in one day from Chachapoyas going on a tour is probably the easiest way, since public transport is limited.

Best things to do in Cajamarca | Travel Peru | olgatribe.com #peru

When is the best time to visit the north of Peru?

The rainy season in the highlands is from November to April, and the dry season runs from May to October.

The rainy season is best to check the waterfalls, full lakes and more greenery overall, with the downside of cloudy days. Dry season is optimal for hiking and climbing around Huaraz. 

The coastal cities such as Mancora or Huanchaco, mainly have great weather all year round. Be aware that Peruvian summertime runs from December to January and it can be really hot and more crowded with locals, but otherwise, the weather should be temperate, summery and sunny.

How to get around in the northern cities in Peru?

The north has fewer airports and consequently fewer flights than the south. Domestic flights don’t even operate daily, so plan with time if you want to take a flight. 

There are direct flights to the main cities such as Trujillo, Chiclayo and Cajamarca, and from there you can always take shorter buses. 

Your best chance and, on the cheaper side, is traveling by bus. Also, the fun way. 

Bear in mind that most roads are not well developed or even maintained in these areas, also several buses transfers will be necessary to get to one place. Buses will take more patience and more of your time, but the scenery won’t disappoint, neither some of the curvy rides. 

There are a few good bus companies that ride the North, such as Cruz del Sur or Movil Tours. All of them offer night drives, which is a good option to gain some time and save on accommodation.

Most companies offer VIP seats that are supposed to recline more and have more space. And most of them include a small dinner and breakfast, although I won’t count on being super tasty or healthy. 

Buses arrive at terminals or just inside the cities and are safe in general even for solo travelers. The best way to get tickets is to go directly to the terminals and check around for the best deal, or purchase tickets through Red Bus website, they always have good deals and you can search for a bus that fits your needs. 

To give you an overview, these are the bus travel times from Lima:

Huaraz: 8h / Mancora: 20h / Trujillo: 10h / Chiclayo: 12h / Cajamarca: 13h / Chachapoyas: 20h 

Travel to the north of peru

The popularity of northern Peru is getting higher, although a small fraction of the visitors explores it at the moment.

These north cities offer ancient sites that shape the history of the country, great beaches to lay down or surf and incredible nature for unforgettable hikes and adventures. 

On the north, Peruvian life looks more untouched by modern living, is less crowded with travelers and the pace of life is slower. On the other hand, you will need more time to get around and more patience to explore the areas. Nevertheless, the rewards will exceed the troubles and difficulties.  

Have you visited any of these northern cities in Peru? Which one did you like the best?

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Towns to visit in the north of Peru while traveling
Best cities to travel in your North Peru itinerary

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