The Northern region of Peru is one of the most under explored and underappreciated areas of the whole country, and could be somewhere to consider for your next trip! Understandably most people who come to Peru head to the South, where the biggest attractions are found, such as Cusco, Machu Picchu and Lake Titicaca, but this does mean missing out on the treasures of the north.
Aside from the attractions, one of the best things about heading to Northern Peru is that you will be one of only a handful of tourists there. Given that they are the most popular attractions in the country, the sites of the southern area can get a bit crowded at certain times of the year, and although this isn’t really a problem, it’s always nice to explore somewhere fresh. Enjoying the North feels like you are discovering you own little corner of Peru! Although it has all the tools to become incredibly popular with visitors, for some reason the North hasn’t really taken off as a tourist destination, meaning that you get to enjoy your holiday without lots of other travelers around. So take advantage of it now, before everyone else catches on!
As far as attractions go, the biggest draw of the Northern coastal region is that it is home to some of the greatest archeological sites in the whole country, centered around the cities of Chiclayo and Trujillo. Both these cities, particularly Trujillo, are beautiful colonial places to explore, with fascinating streets and architecture, but they really serve as bases for the nearby archeological ruins. The most famous of all is the great adobe city of Chan Chan, situated 5km west of Trujillo. Built around 850 AD by the Chimu civilization, Chan Chan is the world’s largest adobe city and is composed of ten walled citadels which were used as ceremonial rooms, burial chambers, temples, and residences. It is a truly fascinating place to just wander round and explore! Near the city of Chiclayo is another wonderful site, and the Royal Tomb of Sipan is definitely a must-see. It is a really modern museum with some striking architecture, holding a selection of Peru’s most spectacular exhibits. The principal attraction is the tomb of the Lord of Sipan which was only discovered in 1987, and details the multilevel funeral tomb of a Moche civilization figure buried more than 1,700 years ago. It is a remarkable site to witness and it is worth venturing to the North for this alone. In this archeologically rich area there are also myriad other sites, such as Moche civilization pyramids, and it is just something a bit different from the more famous Incan ruins of the south. These sites are the jewel in the crown of the North, if not Peru as a whole, and they are really worth a visit.
For those of you who want something a bit more relaxing, the beach town of Mancora could be worth a look. The vast Pacific coastline is home to miles and miles of great beaches but Mancora is the pick of the bunch. This old fishing village has evolved into a charming little town in recent years and has become one of the hottest new destinations in Peru, with visitors taking advantage of the beautiful beaches and scenery, as well as the fantastic seafood on offer. It has a true South American beach vibe, and although the crowds have started to flock there in recent years it still retains the charm that made it popular with locals in the early days. And if you are into surfing this is definitely the place to come, as the waves are worthy of the professionals!
Moving slightly further south towards the center of the country we have the Cordillera Blanca mountain region and the city of Huaraz. This is a true climber’s paradise with dramatic snowcapped mountains reaching heights of over 6,000m. The most famous mountain to be explored is Huascarán, topping out at 6,768m (22,205 ft), and in addition to this there are more than 30 other peaks that reach over 6,000m. This area is the premier spot in Peru for climbing and trekking, and it is somewhere that will appeal to experienced mountaineers and adventurers. The striking scenery really takes the breath away! But it is not just the climbing that attracts visitors as there are ever increasing opportunities for other adventure sports such as white-water rafting, mountain biking and rock climbing. And if you are not an extreme climber don’t worry, as the extraordinary scenery will also appeal to those who don’t have any climbing experience. The region is perfect for day walks and leisurely strolls, so whatever your ability, put Huaraz on your list and enjoy this hidden away region.
These are just some of the great things to be explored if you venture north and away from the more traditional sites around Cusco. It is not a region that gets a lot of visitors, so take advantage of the lack of crowds and enjoy some of the lesser know parts of Peru. If you fancy something a bit different, with great colonial towns, archaeological sites and beaches, the north of Peru may just be for you!