Trujillo is the center of the tourist cirucuit in Northern Peru, mainly because of the large number of cultural and historical attractions, including well-preserved colonial buildings living the Plaza de Armas, the famous Marinera dance competition held every January/February, and its pleasant beaches located just 20 minutes from the town center.
Often ignored by travellers, Peru’s north coast is possibly the most important archaeological area in the whole of the Americas. Even though the Incas have taken the lion’s share of archaeological attention in Peru, the prior cultures of the north coast were at least as important, and survived for a much longer period of time. A visit to Chiclayo and Trujillo is an unforgettable cultural experience.
The Moche culture developed near Trujillo and spread out over much of the north coast, lasting from 200BC to 800AD.
The area around Trujillo was important long before the arrival of the Spanish, and the Moche valley was the origin of the Moche culture, one of the most important in the history of Peru. The Chimú culture emerged when the Moche culture died out, and built Chan Chán, the largest pre-Hispanic city in Peru. Although the Spanish saw the walls of the city when sailing along the coast, Chan Chán had been abandoned before their arrival, as the Incas had transferred the Chimú population to a new city as punishment for their resistance to Inca rule.
The city grew in importance during the colonial period as a result of agriculture, and there are still many fine colonial houses and churches in the city. However, the city also rebelled against Spanish rule, and declared its liberty from the crown before the rest of Peru.
Location: Northern coast of Peru, 34 meters (112 feet) above sea level. 557 km (346 mi) from Lima, 206 km (128 mi) from Chiclayo and 294 km (183 mi) from Cajamarca.
Trujillo is also the starting point to visit the city of Chan-Chan, the religious and administrative center of the Chimú culture and the largest mud city to have been discovered. The City of Chan Chan, Capital of the Chimor Realm, is one of the best examples of the architectonic development reached by this Culture. The largest mud city in the pre-Columbian Americas is divided into nine citadels or palaces, conforming autonomous units that extend over an area of 20 square kilometres.
The Huacas in the Peruvian North
According to the latest studies, the Huacas were buildings strongly related to the military and religious might. It is believe that its construction, made by stages, corresponds to successive generations of priests or authorities. When a generation died, the precincts were completely buried and a new story was built above the previous one.
Huaca de la Luna y Huaca del Sol
The tour takes us 5 kilometres South of Trujillo, to the Huacas of the Sun and the Moon, buildings that were once part of the old City of Moche. According to legend, the Huaca of the Sun was built in only three days, employing 250 thousand men and using close to 70 million adobe bricks. It is approximately 20 metres high, 345 metres long and 160 metres width, thus considered the largest Huaca in the country. The Huaca of the Moon, where astonishing murals depicting the rituals of the Moches, can be appreciated, is composed of superposed temples. Beautiful polychrome murals can be seen on its walls, whose figures include the image of the God Ai-Apaek. It has an approximate extension of 290 metres from a north to South and of 210 metres from East to West.
Huaca del Dragon
At 5 kilometres Northeast of the City of Trujillo, we will find the Huaca El Dragon or El Arco Iris (The Rainbow), an adobe pyramid whose antiquity is calculated in 1100 years and which is believed to have been the first settlement of the Wari Culture in the Moche Valley.
Likewise, we will visit the Huaca of the Emerald, 3 kilometres away from Trujillo, belonging to the Chimú Culture. It has a rectangular base (65 metres long by 41 metres width) and two platforms with central ramps. The adobe walls are decorated in bas-relief with zoomorphic and geometric figures.
Huaca el Brujo or Cao Viejo
The tour through history in the Northern valleys ends at the Compound of the Sorcerer (El Brujo), one of the most important archaeological sites in the Northern Coast of Peru. It is located 60 kilometres away from the City of Trujillo in the Chicama Valley. This compound has three major buildings, the Huaca Prieta, the Huaca El Brujo, and the Huaca Cao Viejo. It was built through a prolonged cultural sequence that started during the pre-ceramic period (5000 years ago). On its walls, the Mochicas shaped a very rich iconography, being The Throat Cutter (Degollador de Cabezas) one of the most important polychrome friezes and the best known sample of this.
Museums in Trujillo
The Museo de Arqueología, Antropología y Historia is housed in the elegant Casa Risco, a colonial house built in the early 18th century. This charts the development of pre-Hispanic cultures in northern Peru, especially the Moche, Chimú and Inca cultures.
The Museo Cassinelli has a very interesting collection of ceramics, although it is not really a museum. There are 2,000 pieces on display, piled from floor to ceiling in one room with flickering neon lights.
Description of Tours in and Around Trujillo
City Tour & Casinelli Museum (3 hours)
Visit the city of Trujillo, known as “the City of the Eternal Spring”, where you will visit the Main Square, the Cathedral and the beautiful residential and commercial areas which contain grandiose colonial houses and well preserved porches, balconies and churches such as the Colonial Mansions of “Casa Iturregui” and “Casa Bracamonte”. Then visit the Casinelli Museum, which houses a fine collection of Mochica and Chimu ceramics.
Chan Chan Ruins & Huanchaco (3 hours)
A short ride in Trujillo will take you to Chan Chan, the former home of the Chimu Kingdom. This pre-Columbian adobe city is famous for its geometrical patterns and is the largest archaeological city in South America! From Chan Chan you will pay a visit to the beach village of Huanchaco, known for its “caballitos de totora” (small reed boats used for fishing). (3h.)
Huacas del Sol y La Luna and Huaca Dragon (3 hours)
Visit one of the most important centers of the ancient Moche. This pre-Inca civilization, a warrior culture, once dominated the valleys of the northern coast of Peru. Experience the amazing adobe engineering of the Temple of the Sun (sol), the tallest pyramid in the Americas at a height of 48 meters, which is estimated to have involved over 200,000 workers in its construction and over 140 million adobe bricks. Steps away is the temple of the Moon (Luna), the Moche political center where recently uncovered friezes of mystical images are believed to belong to a divinity of sacrifices. A stop is made at Huaca Dragon to visit this restored, pyramidal, adobe temple consecrated to the rainbow, with beautiful bas-reliefs and a small archaeological museum.
Calipuy Off the beaten path nature tour from Trujillo
We head towards the south to the Sanctuary and National Reserve of Calipuy, which has a 4500 hectare extension and is located in the Provinces of Virú and Santiago de Chuco. In there, one of the largest woods of Puya Raimondii, a rare species of wild flora belonging to the family of the Bromeliads, is protected. This plant has the largest inflorescence in the world, which happens only once along it’s approximately 100 years of life. Among the wild fauna there are the Andean fox (Pseudalopex culpaeus), the White Tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus), the Vizcacha (Lagidium peruanum), the Puna Tinamou (Tinamotis pentlandii) and the Aplomado Falcon (Falco femoralis).
Chiclayo and Trujillo 5 Days/ 4 Nights Suggested Package
A quite complete 5 days trip in the past of the most spectacular remains of the coastal cultures of north Peru: Mochica, Sicán and Chimú and a visit to the colonial cities and traditions of Chiclayo and Trujillo.