I must admit that visiting the main cities of northern Peru wasn’t all that exciting. That being said, what makes cities like Trujillo and Chiclayo interesting is that they are “every day” cities. Regular people going about their lives mostly away from the main tourist trail. At the same time though, the average tourist isn’t an anthropologist or a sociologist. Most just want to see what an area has to offer and then move on. So bearing that in mind, is it worth spending your hard earned vacation days in Chiclayo? My answer is, “kind of”.
Chiclayo: A visit
Chiclayo lies a bit inland from Peru’s Pacific coast, 770km north of Lima. It was founded by the Spanish during the 16th century. Today, it is Peru’s fourth largest city. Quite frankly, there isn’t a whole lot to see in Chiclayo itself. After spending about one morning or afternoon, you’ll be ready to move on. The two main things within the city that stood out to me were:
El Paseo de las Musas: This place was just so very odd to see. It’s a quiet park in the middle of traffic and it features statues of Greek muses, of all things. My sister and I stumbled across it when we went the wrong way looking for the market mentioned below. The park is a nice place to sit but seriously – the random Greek theme was definitely strange.
Mercado Modelo: A large local market near the Plaza de Armas. If you like markets, this one is pleasant enough. One section is the Witch Market (good luck finding it – it took us a while to find and I have no idea how we stumbled upon it). While small, it was fascinating to see everything from traditional medicines to love potions to dried animal parts. Overall, this market was cleaner and less stinky than the market in Iquitos.
Chiclayo: Practical Information
Where to stay: We stayed at the Inti Hotel. It was a straightforward hotel, decently priced. They were in the main part of the city and close inter-city bus station. It was also within walking distance to a few good restaurants, a supermarket, and most anything else we’d need. It also served breakfast so this place was perfect for our needs!
Where to eat: I recommend Café 900, hands down. It had great drinks, huge delicious sandwiches, and yummy Peruvian snacks. I also recommend Paprika, located in the Costa del Sol Hotel. It was more upscale so if you’re looking to keep costs down, go for lunch like we did.
Chiclayo: A day trip base
While Chiclayo isn’t all that interesting itself, it does well as a base for day trips. If, like us, you do not rent a car, there are various day tours available. Here are the main things you can expect to see:
Museo de Huaca Rojada-Sipan: This small museum is well worth a visit. It is located right next to the archaeological site that held the tombs of the Lord of Sipan. He was a Moche noble buried over 1700 years ago. A visit to both the museum and the tombs are quite fascinating – lots of masks, crowns, jewelry, weapons, armor, and skeletons. Some of the larger pieces are hosted in the Royal Tombs Museum of Sipan and the Brüning National Archaeological Museum, both of which are also in the region.
Tucume: On dusty isolated land, there lies a site that holds 26 pyramids, all of which were constructed more than 1,000 years ago. One of these pyramids, the Huaca Larga, has a base over 2,000 ft. in length, making it the largest pyramid in the world. Unfortunately, these ancient pyramids were built with mud brick and so have been eroded by time and nature. Archaeological discoveries continue to be made in the burial chambers underneath them. Some of these items can be found in the nearby museum.
Royal Tombs Museum of Sipan: The riches that are in this museum are absolutely mind blowing. And that is why you go through fortress-like procedures to get inside: you pay at the front gate when you approach the property, you leave your bags/cameras/phones in your vehicle, and your ticket is checked at a ramp which takes you to the front door. Then you ring a doorbell to be let inside! Why you ask? Well, this museum is chock full of gold, silver and jewels, all of which were found buried with the Lord of Sipan mentioned earlier. Some call this guy the “King Tut of Peru” and it is easy to see why – dude was rich. This museum, despite photography inside being forbidden, is highly recommended. Keep your eye out for a hilarious historical diorama of stiff mannequins moving to music.