North Peru – rare delights, Part 1
Most people know Peru firstly for Cusco and Machu Picchu, and then the likes of: Puno, the Colca Canyon, Arequipa, The Jungle of Pto Maldonado or Iquitos, Paracas and Ica. This is known as the Southern Circuit and the land of the Incas.
But beyond these popular sites, Peru has a host of other attractions. Indeed in Peru you just keep stumbling over ruins or ancient civilizations! Nowhere is this more true that in delightful north Peru. Whilst not too many folks go up there, there are some fabulous world-class sites to discover!
Let’s start with lovely Trujillo. Assuming we are beginning in Lima, our flight will take about 1 hour and 15 minutes.
It’s a dry and dusty place, always warm and quite flat, so no potential altitude problems like in Cusco.
On arrival, the transfer time into the town of Trujillo is about 30 minutes, where we will stay for 2 nights.
Assuming we have arrived in the afternoon, we can visit the attractive old colonial center of Trujillo, which was built by the Spanish in 1534 and is really interesting. Trujillo is on the coast and you can spend your evenings wandering around and sampling the great flavour and hospitality of this attractive, historical place.
Next morning we will begin with a visit to Huaca Sol y Luna, which is about a 15-minute drive from Trujillo and is the ancient capital of the Moche Civilization. This civilization existed between AD100-800 and two beautifully preserved Huacas still remain.
Huaca del Sol was an administrative center and the Huaca del Luna was the religious complex and the site for pilgrimages made from the coast and the northern mountains – a sacred space for communication with the gods.
Afterwards we can drive to Huanchaco and have lunch by the ocean. Here you can still see the ancient reed boats from the Inca Period still being used.
In the afternoon, we can visit Chan Chan, which was the largest pre-Inca empire, known as the Chimu Civilization. It is now reduced to 20 square miles of adobe and is regarded as the largest mud city in the world. It has also been declared a World Heritage Site by Unesco and its importance is only comparable to the old cities of Egypt, Mesopotamia, India and China. This civilization reached its peak in the 15th Century, after which it was overrun by the Inca General, Tupac Yupanqui.
To complete the day, we can pay a visit to the El Dragon temple, better known as Huaca de Arco Iris, which is about 10 minutes from the center of Trujillo. It was built at the beginning of the Chimu Civilisation and at the end of the Tiahuanuco-Wari Culture, which would have been between the 10th and 11th Century AD, so is estimated to be about 1,100 years old. The building is decorated with zoomorphic and anthropomorphic representations and is well worth a visit.
The following day we can visit the archaeological complex of El Brujo (The Sorcerer), which includes Huaca Prieta and the nearby colonial remains of Salinar, Moche, Lambayeque and Chimu. The Huaca El Brujo and the Huaca Cao Viejo were built by the Moche, sometime between 1-600AD. Huaca Cao Viejo is famous for its polychrome reliefs and mural paintings and the discovery of the Senora de Cao, the first known governess in Peru.
At the end of the morning, we will make our way to Chiclayo, which is about a 1 hour and 30 minute journey, arriving in the middle of the afternoon, when we’ll check into our hotel. You’ll then be free to spend the rest of the day exploring this bustling commercial town. It’s interesting to sit in the main square and observe the local people. It is completely different to Trujillo, as it wasn’t developed by the Colonial Spanish and so does not have a traditional historical center. It was originally just a small village, which has since grown organically, and is a very interesting place.
Next day we can enjoy a full-day program, visiting first the archeological complex of Hausa Rajada, where in 1987 some of the most extraordinary tombs in the world were discovered.
This Moche archeological site on the north coast of Peru, pre-dates the Incas by some 1,000 years. The most famous of the tombs belonged to the Lord of Sipan, a Mochican Warrior Priest who had been buried with fabulous wealth. The finding is considered to be the most important in South America.
Afterwards we can visit Tucume, located 35 kilometers from Chiclayo and referred locally as the Valley of the Pyramids, as it consists of 26 adobe pyramids. Built by the Sican Civilization about 1000 AD, Tucume was the capital of the Lambayeque Civilization; the complex was built over a 500 year span. Later in the 1300´s the Chimu Civilization moved in and expanded Tucume into a very large complex running about 1.5 km in each direction. One of the pyramids, Huaca Larga, is said to be the largest adobe brick structure in South America.
Enjoy a typical lunch of this region and after visit the Museum of Tumbes Reales, which showcases the marvelous finds at Huaca Rajada and the Lord of Sipan. We then return to Chiclayo and overnight.
The following morning we can visit the famous Witches Market and then journey to the Museum of Sican. This unique place is the result of over two decades of scientific investigation by the Sican Archeological Project and is dedicated to the Sican/Lambayeque cultures.
The museum contains the treasures recovered from the tomb of the Lord of Sipan at Batan Grande. On the 2nd floor is the impressive Sala de Oro containing the gold pieces found at the tomb. The museum also displays replicas of the Lord of Sipan´s tomb, plus the second tomb discovered at the site and, interestingly, both the Lord of Sipan and the second tomb were found beheaded and buried upside down.
At the end of the morning we can either return to our hotel and enjoy a further night or fly to Lima.