Treasures of the North

If I had to sum up the archaeological, historic and natural wealth of Peru’s northern coast in a single word, that word would be IMPRESSIVE.
I just came back from an exploratory visit to the city of Chiclayo, and 3 intense days of travel weren’t enough.

We landed in Chiclayo and then headed to Ventarrón, 25 minutes east of the city. Over 5000 years old, this archaeological complex is the most ancient religious center in the Americas, and is considered the “Cradle of Civilization of Peru’s Northern Coast”.

After admiring the complex and the excavations there, we continued our trip eastward to the village of Sipán. This is the location of Huaca Rajada, the exact place where in 1987, Peruvian archaeologist Walter Alva discovered the intact tomb of the Lord of Sipán, a royal burial of a Peruvian civilization that predates the Incas. We passed through a calm, picturesque village where fruit trees abound and everything moves at a relaxed pace.
Huaca Rajada has a Site Museum, which showcases artifacts and replicas of objects from daily life in the Sipán culture. The museum was an excellent starting point for our visit to Huaca Rajada. Here we saw the tomb of the Lord of Sipán and other secondary royal tombs (replicas included), and we were able to admire pyramid structures built over 1800 years ago.

Upon completing our visit to Huaca Rajada, we went to Lambayeque to visit the Royal Tombs Museum, where the vast majority of the artifacts found at Huaca Rajada are now exhibited. The museum was built to resemble the truncated pyramids from the pre-Incan Mochica culture, and is home to over 400 jewels from the Moche governor, displayed in over 32,200 square feet (3,000 square meters) of exhibition space. During our two hour visit, we were able to see an infinite variety of pieces made from gold, silver, precious stones and spondylus shells, all beautifully designed and crafted.

After enjoying a traditional northern lunch featuring ceviche, tortilla de raya (egg omelet made with dried raya fish) and seco de cabrito (goat stew), we continued on to the seaside town of Pimentel to relax and enjoy a beautiful sunset by the sea.
Pimentel is Chiclayo’s place to relax by the ocean. Here you can see the traditional caballitos de totora, reed watercrafts which are still used every day as fishing vessels.

On our second day, we visited the town of Ferreñafe, located about 13 miles (20 kilometers) north of Chiclayo. There we visited the Sicán Museum, devoted to the Lambayeque culture which flourished from 700 to 1300 A.D. The permanent exhibit centers on all aspects of Sicán society, providing a comprehensive overview of this important center for cultural development in Peru’s northern coast. We discovered details of the home life of the Sicán population, the manufacturing process of ceramics and metals, and the replicas of two tombs belonging to members of the nobility, which contain gold ornaments and other objects of value.

In the afternoon, we visited the pyramids of Túcume, located about 8 miles (around 13 kilometers) north of Ferrañafe. These 26 adobe pyramids surrounded by cultivated fields were built approximately 1,000 years ago. According to legend, Túcume was founded by Naymlap (a mythical hero who arrived in a fleet of ships, with his court, servants and army). Although the pyramids have been affected by the rains that come every 10 years with the El Niño weather phenomenon, they still provide us with a very clear idea of the original magnitude of the complex.

On our last day, before our flight back to Lima, we visited the witch market, located inside Chiclayo’s central market. Northern Peru is known for its shamanic practices, and at this witch market you can find different products used by the shamans in their witchcraft practices (herbs, animals, masks, cures, ceremonial objects, etc.) It is worth noting that shamanism is practiced widely in Peru to heal diseases or resolve love-related issues.

As I mentioned at the beginning, the treasures that await in Chiclayo are impressive. Even though Trujillo−around 125 miles (200 kilometers) south of Chiclayo−is known for the excellent preservation status of its pre-Incan legacy, in monuments such as Chan Chan, Huaca del Sol, Huaca de la Luna, and El Brujo, Chiclayo is an excellent accompaniment to get to know the richness and treasure created by these northern cultures.

Related programs:  Peru: An ancient country, Chiclayo & Trujillo (3days/2nights), Trujillo & Chiclayo (4days/3nights)

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