Along the main road, between the city of Trujillo and the village of Huanchaco, there lies the ancient adobe city of Chan Chan. You can’t see much from the road but it still manages to give an impression of size due to the remains of its immense city walls. Chan Chan is also severely eroded, which while tragic, that erosion contributes to its aura of great age and mystery.

What is Chan Chan?

Chan Chan was once the largest city of the pre-Columbian era in the Americas and one of the largest adobe cities in the world. It was the capital of the Chimor Empire from 900 A.D. to 1470 and its name meant “Sun Sun” due to the region’s climate. During its heyday, Chan Chan spanned about 20 square kilometers and would have been home to 40,000 to 60,000 people. After its defeat by the Incan Empire and then its looting by the Spanish, Chan Chan fell into decline. Today, its ruins are on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

Visiting Chan Chan

You can visit Chan Chan on your own but if you do not have some sort of documentation that explains what you’re seeing, not a whole lot of it is going to make sense. That is why I, oddly enough, do recommend a guide or tour group. When at the site, you will need to use your imagination for a lot of it. Remember, Chan Chan was constructed with adobe so time and weather has not been kind to this ancient place.

There are a few things of particular interest at Chan Chan, some of which are original and others have been reconstructed. There are statues, beautiful friezes, huge walls, and the old massive water reserve (it contains the only greenery you’ll see at Chan Chan).  Relatively speaking, there isn’t a whole lot to see here and so a visit will not take very long. However, it is well worth checking out.

Planning Your Visit

If you are planning a visit, you can stay in either Huanchaco or Trujillo. A local bus or taxi to Chan Chan is very cheap if you want to visit the site on your own. You can catch a tour group in either Trujillo or Huanchaco as well. I suggest planning your visit to coincide with the end of the day – the light is nice for photography, there are less people at the site, and it won’t be as hot!