- Large region with a lot of destinations, sites and activities
- Main cities; Huaraz, Chachapoyas and Cajamarca
- Cajamarca was Peru’s second most important Inca city
- Huaraz is the heart of the Cordillera Blanca; Peru’s prime hiking region
- Chachapoyas is home to the ruins of Kuelap and the Gocta Falls
The Peruvian Northern Highlands are the common name for the central / northern part of the Peruvian Andes. With cities such as Huaraz, Chachapoyas and Cajamarca as great exploration base, the region has so much to offer it would easily be the highlight of any country. (Un)fortunate due to Machu Picchu few people come to this region, making it all the more worth exploring. Amazing archaeological sites, for once not from the Inca such as Kuelap and el Chavin de Huantar, Peru’s highest Mountain the Huascaran at 6,768m (22,000ft) or the world’s most beautiful mountain the Alpamayo can be found in the Cordillera Blanca. Other unique sites are the avenue of the waterfalls with several waterfalls well over 700m (2,200ft) high and unique ecosystems or the ransom chamber and Baños del Inca in Cajamarca. For the lucky few who take the time to visit the Northern Highlands you will realize that this is perhaps the most beautiful part of the country yet.
THINGS TO DO
Northern Highlands Itineraries
Northern Highlands Hotels
Following you can find some of our favorite Northern Highlands Hotels. Please note that these are located in different cities such as Huaraz, Cajamarca and Chachapoyas. This list is of course far from complete so let us know if you would be interested in other properties as well.
Northern Highland History
The Peruvian Northern Highlands are a very diverse region; not only for its geography but also for its history. With the ancient cultures of the Chavin de Huantar estimated to go back to about 500BC or the Inca contemporary site of Kuelap next to hundreds of smaller ruins and sites from other cultures, it is obvious that this region was no different than other regions in Peru with a huge wealth of history. Nowadays it is especially the Chachapoyas Culture that takes the spotlight in the northern highlands as they are known as one of the few cultures that have withstood the pressure of the contemporary Inca culture. Even though not completely true –there have been found architectonic proof that the Chachapoyas have been introduced to Cusco for instance – the Chachapoyas were one of the few cultures that during the reign of the Incas were allowed to maintain a large part of their own culture and were not subject to the obligatory workforce the Incas used as a way of levying taxes. The Chachapoyas left behind many smaller sites but the most important one is Kuelap, probably the only site in the Andes that can compete with Machu Picchu and Choquequirao when it comes to grandeur. The main foothold for the Inca in the Northern Highlands was Cajamarca. Cajamarca was Peru’s second largest Inca city and for some time contested when the huge empire split in two in a civil war with Quito the capital of the northern empire and Cusco of the southern empire. This was the time that the Spanish also set foot on wall in north Peru. Hearing about an army station in Cajamarca the Spanish marched to Cajamarca and almost immediately decimated the entire army of the Inca Empire and with this gaining grant advantage for the execution of the rest of history as we know now.
Northern Highland Geography
The Northern Highlands are as the name indicates located in the highlands with altitude ranging from 500m (1,600ft) to 6,700m (22,000ft). In this region it is most the two cordilleras that create the countryside. The older Cordillera Negra and behind it the higher and more extreme Cordillera Blanca. Further north this geography is also influenced by the large Marañon River running to the Amazon Basin as well as the highlands around Cajamarca. Due to less tourism, infrastructure in this part of Peru is at times less developed making that getting around can be a little more challenging and time consuming. The main roads coming from the coast is the road from Chiclayo to Chachapoyas and from Trujillo to Cajamarca. Main airports of the zone are the airports of Cajamarca, Jaen, Jauja and Chachapoyas.
Northern Highland Weather
- Rainy season from November through April
- Dry season April through October
- Average Min / Max Rainy season 8ºC/46ºF – 22ºC/71ºF
- Average Min / Max Dry season 5ºC/41ºF – 23ºC/73ºF
- Most rain falls in January and February
- Typical rapid climate changes – common for mountainous regions
Northern Highland Attractions
For those looking to hike, especially multi day hiking North Peru is the place to be. Smaller hikes such as Lagoon 69 or longer hikes such as the Santa Cruz or the Cordillera Huayhuash hike are just some of the many options the Cordillera Blanca and Negra offer. For lower altitude hiking and amazing nature, try the valley of the waterfalls with the Gocta and Yumbilla both well over 700m high being the most impressive falls of the region. For the archaeology buffs the main sites on the bucket list for this region are Kuelap, the city of Cajamarca and Chavin de Huantar. For those with more time the Sarcophagus of Karajia, Sechin Alto or Kuntur Wasi are also worth the visit. For those looking for nice cities; the Inca city of Cajamarca is a point of reference culture wise in North Peru and the sleepy colonial atmosphere of Chachapoyas is also definitely addictive.