The charming city of Trujillo is the capital of the La Libertad region in northern Peru. It’s the country’s third most populated city, behind Lima and Arequipa. Situated 557km (346 miles) north of Lima, Trujillo is best reached from the capital via a short flight or an overnight bus ride. The city enjoys clement weather with almost no rain and year-round sunshine. Here are five things to see and do in Trujillo.
1. Chan Chan
Chan Chan is Trujillo’s, and one of Peru’s, best-known tourist attractions. This ancient city was the capital of the Chimor civilisation and one of the largest pre-Hispanic cities in South America. Built in around 850AD at its peak Chan Chan homed an estimated 40,000 to 60,000 people. The city is constructed entirely from adobe and spans an area of 20 square kilometres just north of Trujillo. The Inca empire eventually conquered Chan Chan in about 1470 AD.
The excavated portion of the city is 5km north of Trujillo and should cost between 10-15 Soles to reach by taxi. Tickets cost 11 Soles and also allow you to enter the nearby Chan Chan museum and two other historical Chimor ruins in Trujillo, Huaca La Esmeralda and Huaca El Dragon. The tickets are valid for two days so you can take your time, although it’s easily possible to see everything in one day. History buffs will enjoy the two smaller sites, but casual tourists may consider them more of the same. You must take taxis between the sites with fares costing between 5-7 Soles per journey.
2. Temples Of The Sun And The Moon
The temples of the Sun and the Moon are two Moche ruins four kilometres south of Trujillo. Though the Moche worshipped neither the sun nor the moon, these later assigned and somewhat romanticised names have stuck. The ruins predate their more famous neighbour, Chan Chan, being built over many years between 200BC and 600AD when the Moche ruled this area of Peru. When completed, the ‘Sun’ temple was the largest pre-Hispanic building in the Americas. Both temples were of great administrative and ceremonial importance to the Moche and used for burials and even human sacrifices.
Sadly, the temples suffered at the hands of looters over the years. They severely damaged the ‘Sun’ temple in particular, which contained burials and gold artefacts, when they rerouted the river Moche to undermine the building and destroy about two-thirds of it in the 17th century.
The ticket price includes an English- or Spanish-speaking guide who will show you around the ‘Moon’ temple at the base of the pyramid-like Cerro Blanco mountain. This is the smaller of the two, but the only one that’s been excavated. Here you’ll come face to face with the wonderfully named ‘Decapitator God’ and learn about the gruesome human sacrifices that took place under his ghoulish gaze.
Ten kilometres north of Trujillo sits the small coastal town of Huanchaco. This long beach may not be as picturesque as its counterparts in the far north, but it remains a favourite spot for tourists and locals alike. It’s an excellent place for surfing and hosts several surfing events each year. If you don’t fancy riding some waves, take a seat at one of the many beachfront restaurants and try a plate of ceviche. Legend has it Huanchaco’s the birthplace of the famous Peruvian national dish.
4. Plaza De Armas And Trujillo Cathedral
Trujillo town square, or Plaza de Armas, is home to the majestic Liberty Monument and Trujillo’s Cathedral Basilica. The Liberty, or Freedom, Monument was designed by Edmund Moeller and completed in 1929 to commemorate Trujillo’s independence. Surrounded by elegant architecture, the Plaza de Armas is a pleasant spot to wander and relax in the late afternoon and early evening. Constructed in 1647-1666 the cathedral is located on the east side of the plaza. It’s a charming building that’s free to enter and has some impressive ceiling paintings.
5. Casa Urquiaga
On the south side of the Plaza de Armas, this grand colonial house now serves as a museum. On display, you’ll find many fascinating local artefacts from Trujillo’s past. Open weekdays from 9:30am to 3:30pm admission is free.