Ancient empires, lost cities, citadels, temples, tombs and gold, northern Peru is an enthralling journey of discovery.
The northern coast of Peru – Chiclayo, Trujillo and the stretch of coast in-between – is an area that is very rich in culture, from ancient mud brick pyramids, the golden splendour of the Royal Tombs of Sipán to the massive archaeological site of Chan Chán.
For anyone intrigued by the past a holiday in northern Peru is a treat. Explore the cities, strongholds and temples of the Moche, Chimú, Chachapoyas and Lambayeque civilisations with museum visits to see ancient artefacts as you immerse yourself in the past. The scenery is special, too, cloud forest, mountain valleys and stunning waterfalls. It’s a lost world waiting to be discovered.
Chan Chán & Trujillo: Chan Chán was the capital of the Chimú empire which dominated this region before the Incas. The site was home to 50,000 people at its height and contains nine citadels, each with temples, storehouses and dwellings. There are carved friezes and many of the buildings would have been covered in gold displaying great wealth and skill. The Museo de Sitio includes scale model replicas showing the richly adorned structures. Nearly Trujillo is an attractive coastal city with a well preserved colonial centre and an excellent base from which to visit Chan Chán and other nearby archaeological sites.
Kuelap & Chachapoyas: Kuelap is a remote ridgetop fortress at almost 3,000m above sea level. It was built by the appropriately named Chachapoyas, people of the clouds. A cable car takes you up into the cloud forest full of bromeliads and orchids where you find the huge walled stronghold. Inside there are hundreds of identical roundhouse homes and there are examples of stone carvings on the walls depicting animal gods. Chachapoyas town is ell placed for exploring not only Kuelap but other sites of the Chachapoyas civilisation.
Read an article about Kuelap by travel writer, Amar Grover.
Sipán, Túcume & Chiclayo: The Lord of Sipan awaits! In the late 1980s, a horde of treasure and gold was unearthed and the royal tombs of Sipán were discovered. This fabulous collection of Moche copper, silver and gold jewellery and remnants of textiles are now housed in the purpose-built museum in Lambayeque where you can also see a reconstruction of the burial of the Lord of Sipán. In nearby Túcume you can see the remains of a pyramid city constructed by the Lambayeque (also called Sicán) people, later used by the Chimú and then the Incas. The town of Chiclayo, founded by Spanish missionaries, is the best place to stay while exploring these sites.
Gocta Waterfall: It seems amazing that this waterfall was barely known outside the immediate area until the turn of the 21st century as it is surrounded by cloud forest. It is reached on foot or horseback, travelling through forest till you emerge at the base and the sight of the 770m high waterfall. The falls can be admired from a distance, too, plunging down the sheer rockface.