On a luxury travel journey to Trujillo and Chiclayo, Peru, you will be immersed in what is known as the country’s Cultural Capital region. Regarded for its year-round pleasant climate, the best time to visit this region of Peru is during the southern hemisphere’s summer (December through February). Sunny weather, beautiful beaches, and impeccably fresh seafood await in northwestern Peru, but destinations like Trujillo and Chiclayo have the added bonus of in-depth historical and cultural experiences.
Let us introduce you to Trujillo and Chiclayo, two cities shaped by the ancient Moche and Chimu cultures and yet packed with modern excursions for today’s luxury traveler. We’ll explore mysterious archaeological sites (including royal tombs), stunning 17th-Century architecture, and nearby nature-based getaways. Let’s discover Trujillo and Chiclayo!
Before the Spanish founded Trujillo in the 16th century, it was the site of two great pre-Inca cultures, the Moche and the Chimu. These two highly-developed cultures used Trujillo as their base between 200 B.C. and A.D. 700. Remnants of the pre-Inca cultures are some of the most important pre-Columbian sites in the Americas.
As much as it is a draw for history-buffs, Trujillo is referred to as the City of Eternal Spring due to its year-round pleasant climate and is an attractive destination for surfers. And despite it being the third-largest city in Peru, Trujillo continues to preserve what remains of its influential past and has become the so-called Cultural Capital of Peru.
Trujillo is the birthplace of the Marinera, Peru’s famous national dance, as well as the Peruvian Paso Horse, a breed of horse known for its elegant high-stepping gait. With its vibrant artists’ community located just an hour’s flight from the capital city of Lima, it is a center of national and international cultural events, including the Marinera Festival in January, the International Book Festival in March, and the Trujillo Spring Festival that begins at the end of September.
Let’s look at the year-round treasures you can discover in Trujillo!
• Chan Chan
One of the major archaeological sites close to Trujillo is Chan Chan, known as the largest adobe city of ancient times. Chan Chan was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1986. Active around the year 850 AD, it was the home of the Chimu culture, and is called the largest Pre- Columbian adobe city in South America!
At the height of the Chimu culture, Chan Chan was home to 30,000 people. It consisted of ten walled citadels containing many buildings: homes, burial chambers, temples, ceremonial rooms, and reservoirs. The adobe walls were covered with a smooth finish, inlaid with intricate designs depicting fish, birds, sea monsters, crabs, turtles, and other sea-themed representations.
Although the Incas would defeat the Chimus by 1470, the marvelous Chan Chan complex would stay intact and active until the Spanish conquest, when it was plundered and ravaged. Such events, alongside the toll that climate change has had upon the mud construction, have resulted in endless hours of excavation and restoration.
• Temples of the Sun and Moon
Another major archaeological site located near the northwestern city are the Temples of the Sun and Moon, the largest adobe pyramid in Peru. Known as Huacas del Sol y Luna in Spanish, the temples are located at the volcanic peak of Cerro Blanco. Much older than Chan Chan, the construction of the archaeological sites took the Moche people hundreds of years to complete.
The Huaca del Sol is built of more than 130 million adobe bricks and was the largest pre-Columbian adobe structure in the Americas! It is believed to have had political and administrative purposes. Located at the same site, the Huaca de la Luna (Temple of the Moon) is better preserved though smaller. Despite its size, the Temple of the Moon was likely of greater importance as it is believed to have served as the main political and ceremonial center for the Moche.
• Plaza de Armas
Bordered with elegant facades of various colors, the Plaza de Armas (Main Square) of Trujillo is a wonderful spot to spend a few hours soaking in local life and the great weather. Surely the canary-yellow Cathedral Basilica (more about that below) will catch your eye as will the monument to Liberty, situated in the plaza’s center.
Sculpted out of marble, the Liberty Monument (also referred to as the Freedom Monument) is the work of German sculptor Edmund Moeller. Inaugurated in 1929, the monument glorifies the libertarian group that brought Trujillo its independence in 1820. Get up close and observe the three sections representing health, art, and the sciences; the struggle for freedom, and liberation.
• Cathedral Basilica
Today, Trujillo hangs on to its colonial-era appearance with baroque churches and colorful houses. One prime example is Cathedral Basilica, which locals refer to simply as La Catedral. Situated in front of the Plaza de Armas, the 17th-century cathedral was destroyed by an earthquake just one century later and soon after rebuilt.
Once a basilica, the cathedral today houses spectacular examples of viceroyalty period art. Art history experts can geek out at the Rococo interiors and Baroque altarpieces.
• Huanchaco Beach
Yet another attraction located a short car or bus ride away from Trujillo is the beachside town of Huanchaco. Huanchaco is a popular Peru vacation spot, known for its surfing opportunities, its ceviche, and the caballitos de totora, ancient reed boats whose design dates back to pre-Inca times. They are still used today, ridden astride like horses, hence the name, “little reed horses.” Huanchaco’s seaside charm and friendly atmosphere make it an ideal destination for the sea-loving tourist.
• El Brujo Complex
Less than an hour’s drive away from the city center, tucked in the Chicama Valley, is the curious El Brujo Complex. Translated to mean the Wizard’s Complex, this impressive archaeological site belonged to the Moche culture.
Consisting of three huacas (sacred spaces), the structures date back nearly 2,000 years. One of the most spectacular and comparatively recent archaeological finds has been Señora de Cao, a tattooed and heavily jeweled woman of likely high status (perhaps even a ruler of the Moche people). Her mummified body was discovered in 2006 in the Huaca Cao and is now located inside the on-site Cao Museum.
Nicknamed the Friendship Capital of Peru, Chiclayo is actually a buzzing metropolis in northwestern Peru. In fact, Chiclayo is considered the fourth-largest city in Peru. Dotted with ruins and packed with gastronomic wonders, Chiclayo is a wonderful destination for luxury travelers seeking experiences slightly off the beaten path.
Ancient pyramids and tombs reveal a rich cultural history that was the seed to seeing this area prosper and is what draws the majority of tourism. Later on, Spanish missionaries in the 16th century would spark a shift and leave behind a magnificent touch of their architecture. Today, Chiclayo is home to what many travelers agree is one of the best archaeological museums in all of South America. Meanwhile, natural reserves protect unique flora and fauna, much to the glee of travelers of all ages.
Join us as we explore some of the best things to see and do in Chiclayo.
• Royal Tombs of Sipan Museum
Pioneers in agriculture, irrigation systems, and architecture, the fascinating Moche civilization left its remains scattered in the area surrounding modern-day Chiclayo. Take a guided tour through a collection of cultural and artistic expressions belonging to the Moche culture at this museum. The Royal Tombs of Sipan Museum were even designed to mimic the ancient culture’s pyramids.
The name of the museum derives from one of the greatest archaeological findings in the Americas, the tomb of the Lord of Sipan. The iconic Moche ruler was buried with hundreds of pieces of jewelry and other ornaments and was unearthed in 1987 by Peruvian archaeologists.
The aforementioned ruler and his supposed guards are found on display in the museum, as are extensive collections of gold and other treasures from the ongoing excavation sites nearby.
• Playa Pimentel
A short drive from the city center, Playa Pimentel is a pleasant beach all year round. This coastal spot is popular with locals and travelers seeking a prime spot for surfing or windsurfing. That said, don’t expect the beach to be overcrowded; the area remains calm and is ideal for a relaxing day.
Spend some time lazing on the beach or playing in the water before you head to one of the nearby ceviche restaurants.
• Tucume (Valley of the Pyramids)
For an otherworldly experience near Chiclayo, don’t miss Tucume, Valley of the Pyramids. Established around 700 A.D., the Valley of the Pyramids consists of 26 mud brick structures, which are hugged by a forest of carob trees.
The largest pyramid on the 540-acre site is the 30-meter-tall Huaca Larga. Archaeologists consider the site to have Sican origins, a culture that was overtaken by the Chimus during the 14th century.
There is a site museum as well as a trail that leads to a lookout point above the so-called Valley of Pyramids.
• Pomac Forest
Located about an hour from the city center of Chiclayo, the Pomac Forest is a dry coastal forest and Historical Sanctuary. The rare dry equatorial forest is also home to archaeological wonders, including Batan Grande and the tomb of the Lord of Sican (not to be confused with the Lord of Sipan).
Batan Grande belongs to the Sican culture (A.D. 700-1100) and is made up of 20 adobe pyramids. Graves containing metal and ceramic artifacts, ceremonial masks, and more have been discovered on site. Among the buried was the high-ranking dignitary, Lord of Sican, discovered with personal artifacts.
This site can be visited on horseback and is a great stop for those on their way to Chachapoyas!
– Visit Northern Peru with Kuoda
All of the above attractions make Trujillo and Chiclayo, Peru, the ideal travel destinations any time of year. With its lovely weather, cultural and arts events, fresh seafood, and fascinating pre-Inca ruins, you’ll want to spend at least several days visiting northwestern Peru. Speak to a Kuoda travel designer today to begin planning your customized Peru vacation to Trujillo and Chiclayo and other exciting Peru destinations.