We entered Peru in the northern mountains without any expectations whatsoever, and we were blown away and could immediately enjoy a wonderful drive along rivers and hills.
The first night we spent on a very lonely river spot. Our morning routine was only interrupted by a thirsty cow.
Catarata del Gocta ranks among the tallest waterfalls of the world. The hike to the falls from Cocachimba leads through green landscapes and sometimes deep down into the gorge.
Kuélap is a walled settlement from the Chachapoyas culture in the 6th century. Unfortunately a lot is left to imagination.
Across the mountains
The entire road from the border with Ecuador down to the coast in Trujillo is very scenic. The stretch from Leymebamba to Celendín must be one of the most spectacular yet comfortable road trips. It is all paved, but mostly just one lane along the hillside atop steep cliffs.
The northern coast
We only went along the northern coast from Pacasmayo to Chimbote going through Trujillo. It is not an extremely interesting drive, but there are a few nice landscapes left and right.
Trujillo has a small colonial center and a few archeological sites of the pre-Columbian era of which we visited Chan Chan.
Temperatures at the coast do not reach 20°C at this time of year. Therefore we soon headed back to the mountains along Río Santa and through Cañon del Pato to Caraz.
The Cordillera Blanca is one of the highest Andes mountain ranges with snow-capped peaks up to above 6700m.
We took a scenic drive to Punta Winchus at 4200m in the Cordillera Negra with vistas of the Cordillera Blanca. At this spot some of the rare Puya Raimondii flowers grow higher than 10 meters. They only bloom after several decades.
A highlight in this area are the various mountain lagoons in blue and turquoise colors. We visited Laguna Parón at 4200m and hiked along its shore.
Next we took a loop into the heart of the cordillera across the passes Portachuelo de Llanganuco and Punta Olímpica.
The first pass was a bumpy ride on a gravel road filled with stones and great vistas of the surrounding mountains and lagoons from above at 4700m altitude.
The next pass goes on a more comfortable and paved road and is therefore much more visited. The views are not any worse here though.
Our last stop in the Cordillera Blanca was at Glaciar Pastoruri. Due to its continued retreat, the last 150 meters up to 5000m altitude now need to be hiked.
Some more Puya Raimondii greated us along the road.