Chan Chan and the Huacas

We took a short side-trip up to Trujillo to see the largest adobe city in the world, Chan Chan, and the ancient huacas.

Chan Chan and the Huacas

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by ShannonBrooke on June 29, 2007

Trujillo is surrounded by ancient archaeological ruins that predate the Inka civilization. Pyramids rise above the desert and the world's largest Adobe city surrounds Trujillo proper. One gets the feeling that Peru would like the north coast, including Trujillo, to be the next gem in its crown, the equivalent of Cusco and Machu Picchu. They need the tourism dollars, but they can't risk Machu Picchu.

But Cusco and Machu Picchu have a few things going for them that the north coast lacks. For one, the surrounding natural areas are not as beautiful as the mountains. The desert is quite flat and with the coastal fog, it can feel quite dreary. The archaeological sites here are not as developed yet. They can be difficult to get to, and when you arrive, you may not have the education to know what you are seeing. Many are much older than the Inka ruins and therefore are in worse states of repair. And while the Quechua culture is strong in the highlands, the coastal culture is strongly Spanish-influenced and therefore less interesting.

On the upside, it is much cheaper to eat, stay, and visit the sites here. There are far fewer tourists (we saw none outside of the two sights.) You can create your own organic experience and for those who like adventure and enjoying figuring it out for themselves, this place could be a wonderland. One good thing about the lack of tourists is the lack of touts. The roads to Chan Chan and the Huacas were not lined with people selling souvenirs, and you could easily walk down the street without being asked to buy a finger puppet. (Not so in Cusco).

During the summertime, the nearby beach of Huanchaco is famous for its surfing. Cevicherias line the beach and the ceviche in the north is supposedly the best.

Overall, I would not visit the area again, but I am glad I saw Chan Chan. I was disappointed, but keep in mind, my experiences were colored by the fact that my travelling companion had a terrible stomach virus and couldn't enjoy herself.${QuickSuggestions} It doesn't take long to visit Trujillo, and it's pretty easy to get around to see most of the sights. When planning your trip, you only need one day in Trujillo to see Chan Chan, the Huacas, and Huanchaco Beach. You could add another day for museums and colonial houses.

There is a street called Jr. Pizarro that leads from the main plaza to the university. The street is lined with bakeries, ice cream vendors, shops, Internet cafes and travel agencies. Some parts of the street are blocked off to cars and are for pedestrians. This is the main shopping street in Trujillo and a good place to pick up dinner. The grocery store is also located here.

The weather here is very temperate, around mid-70s year round with very little rain. The beach water is very cold except during the Peruvian summer (North America's winter).${BestWay} Public transportation options were available, reportedly. Combis traverse the stretch between Trujillo and Huanchaco Beach. However, my guidebook described much of the transport options as limited, such as having to get off early and then walk a few miles. In fact, some of the ruins are so remote that no roads lead to them. Overall, this is not a city with a lot of English speakers, so combis and buses are only a good option for Spanish speakers.

Taxis are readily available. There have been a few stories of taxis abducting and mugging people, so most people recommend that you get a cab from your hotel. We arrived at the airport late without a pickup, so we went outside and chose between the many taxi drivers outside. It didn't cost very much to get into the city from the airport.

We paid approximately 120 soles (40$USD) to have a taxi drive us to the Huacas, Chan Chan, and the beach. He drove us and waited for us for six hours. According to our hotel, this was an average price for a day on the town. He was also willing to drive us to Chiclayo (a 3 hour drive to the north) and stay overnight there if we would pay for his lodging. However, we went home early and did not use this service. It would have been pretty easy to set up.

You can also hire a tour that will take you to all of the sites. A recommended tour guide is Clara Bravo, who also owns a guest house in town.

Hotel Libertador Trujillo

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by ShannonBrooke on July 3, 2007

Hotel Libertador is appropriately located in the Independence plaza in the city where Peru declared its independence from Spain. The location couldn't be more central, looking out on what some people say is Peru's most beautiful square.

The hotel has all the amenities of a 4 star hotel, with room service, television, hot water. It services business travellers, and there was a convention going on when we visited. Unfortunately, they closed the pool area during this event. Because of the hotel's business focus and the general lack of tourism in this part of Peru, it is possible to feel ignored as independent travellers. We never felt uncomfortable here, but we also never felt at home.

The rooms are well-apportioned and clean, feeling very secure. Wireless Internet, minibar, hairdryer, and beauty supplies round out the offerings, making this hotel very much up to North American standards. The walls are thick enough that you do not hear the noise from the street below. Everything was in working order, which if you have been to other countries, you may be familiar with the fact that some hotels offer the amenities but they do not work.

The hotel's restaurants are safe, if bland, choices. The breakfast buffet is quite extensive, with hot and cold food on offer.
Hotel Libertador Trujillo
Jr. Independencia 485
Trujillo, Peru
+51 (44) 232-741

Huacas del Sol y la Luna

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by ShannonBrooke on July 3, 2007

These ancient Mochica structures rise out of the desert looking more like mountains than human-built pyramids. One feels a sense of unreality - did people actually build this giant structure made only of Adobe bricks? Now, the area is surrounded by low-lying buildings, comprising small villages of mostly indigenous people. But at one time, grand pyramids rose up from the desert and between them, an ancient city.

All entrances come with a complimentary guide and we had a sweet woman who was struggling to improve her English, and the tour was more fun for the English-Spanish exchange where we tried to help her come up with the appropriate English phrasing to express certain concepts. And what concepts! The people who constructed this pyramid were much enamoured of human sacrifice, done on a regular basis, but not before many hours of torture. All this is painted on their murals, brightly colored still once excavated from the desert sands. A mass grave was found in the center of the Huaca de la Luna, showing evidence of extreme violence. It can feel a bit difficult to relate to these people, with their images of sacrifice and the fanged Jaguar god presiding over it all. But of course, our society has its own human sacrifice - the death penalty for example. Not to mention our own violent wars and mass graves. It leaves much to ponder upon.

This site only takes an hour to visit and is best seen in the morning before the sun is out in force.
Huaca del Sol y la Luna
near Las Delicias Beach
Trujillo, Peru

Chan Chan

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by ShannonBrooke on July 3, 2007

Chan Chan was once the largest Adobe city in the world at 20km and even today you can see its oblong walls and structures spread out on all sides of the highway, as you drive in from the airport to Trujillo. The city consisted of nine palaces and even more structures that housed the city workers. Today, only a few parts of the city are safe and restored for visitors. Much of the city is in danger of being destroyed and lies unprotected, and it is said that thieves lie in wait for the unsuspecting would-be Indiana Jones. Only 14km is presently being protected.

The most popular site is the Tschudi Palace. One of the nine palaces of the original city, it is the only one that has been restored and signposted for visitors. Each time that a king died, his entire palace complex became a tomb, and people would continue to visit the complex but only as a kind of ancestor worship. They ceased to live within the complex. When the emperor died, all of his concubines and some of his servants and warriors were killed along with him. So these palaces were like house-tombs, both at once. The structure reminds one of Eastern homes, with a series of courtyards. The first courtyard was for the commoners and visitors and tradesmen, and each succeeding courtyard is smaller and more personal. It reminds one of China's Forbidden City.

The scale of these places is quite astonishing, and the artwork, fishes and otters carved into the walls, is quite different and beautiful. Chan Chan is so different from Machu Picchu, the other great citadel of Peru. It lies in a flat desert by the sea, with only two colors visible - the blue of the sky and the yellow of the Adobe.

Visitors will find it is very inexpensive to visit Chan Chan, particularly in comparison to the aforementioned Machu Picchu. It is only a few dollars for an entrance ticket, and you can pick up a guide for only a few dollars more. We were lucky to meet a young man who claimed descent from the Chimu, and knew many of the Chimu words. He even told us the original name of Chan Chan. While Chan Chan means "Sun Sun", the original name Nik-An means "Home of the Moon." Much more appropriate for a culture (the Chimu) who worshipped the moon and the tides moreso than the sun.

If you are in the area, Chan Chan is a must-see.
Chan Chan
Between Trujillo and Huanchaco
Trujillo, Peru

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