Trujillo is one of northern Peru’s premier cities for travelers to visit. A coastal city with incredible food, ancient ruins, and endless sun and surf make it an extremely attractive destination for all types of travelers. There is an incredibly diverse range of things to do in Trujillo. Whatever your taste may be, Trujillo has got something for you.
Visit Huaca de la Luna y Huaca del Sol
Let’s start with my favorite thing that I did while I was in the area. Peru is best known for its Incan ruins, and oftentimes, the other millennia of Peru’s history get overshadowed by the Incan history. For example, how many of you have heard of the Moche civilization that pre-dated the Inca? They were around for hundreds and hundreds of years, thriving with complex societies, towering pyramids, and a culture where arts and tradition thrived.
I didn’t hear about the Moche until I actually arrived at the entrance to Huaca de la Luna. These two pyramids were known as the temples of the sun and moon. They flanked the city of Moche on both sides, about 30 minutes away from modern-day Trujillo. I found myself stuck in Trujillo for another day after a night out caused me to miss my desired departure for the bus to Huaraz. So to me, visiting Huacas de la Luna y del Sol was meant to be nothing more than a time-killer.
But like I said, it turned out to be my favorite adventure in Trujillo. While we couldn’t visit the Huaca del Sol, we were able to take an extensive tour of Huaca de la Luna. It kept getting more and more impressive, capped off by seeing the still-painted exterior of the several-story-tall pyramid. It was absolutely incredible to see, and it was a one-of-kind experience that I was not expecting to have when I woke up that morning.
To get here, you can take a taxi from the city center for about 15 soles ($4 US) or take a colectivo or bus for about 2 soles from Trujillo.
Explore the Ruins of Chan Chan Archaeological Site
Perhaps the most famous of the archaeological sites near Trujillo, the city of Chan Chan is an extensive archaeological site between Trujillo and Huanchaco. It feels like walking through another world, one that you would have never expected to find in Peru. As we walked through the towering adobe walls and through the sandy remains of the massive city, it almost felt like we were taking a stroll through ancient Egypt.
We only got to explore a fraction of the site, as so much of it is yet to be uncovered and excavated. Seeing a model of the city at the museum gave a glimpse at just how massive this city was, and how little of it has yet to be unearthed. Chan Chan should be one of your first priorities when arriving in Trujillo.
It costs about 1.50 soles to get there from Trujillo or from Huanchaco and then entrance is another 10 soles. If you went by bus, you’ll have to get off on the main road and walk about half a kilometer to the entrance of the site. However, that long walk can go by pretty quickly as you are surrounded by the ruins of the ancient city as you walk. If you want to hire a guide, you will have to pay 50 soles per group. Depending on the size of your group, this could be a lot or it could be negligible. Between 4 of us, the 12 soles fee for a guide was well worth knowing what it was that we were seeing.
Explore Huaca Esmeraldas and Huaca Arcoiris
Included with your ticket to Chan Chan is entrance to two other sites as well as the museum for Chan Chan. The museum is about a kilometer from the entrance of Chan Chan and can be walked if you just follow the main road to Trujillo. However, the other two sites are a bit harder to get to as they are further from the city center. You can take a taxi to the sites if you really want to visit them.
Be warned, though. The sites close at 4 PM, which put a damper on our day as we only found that at around 3:40 PM after we had already walked the majority of the way to Huaca Esmeraldas. Since the entrance is included in the 10 soles fee for Chan Chan, it is still worth considering going if you want to indulge a bit more in the history of the area.
Go For A Surf At Huanchaco
About 45 minutes from Trujillo is the backpacker haven of Huanchaco. It is a popular spot for surfers, yoga enthusiasts, or backpackers just looking to find a spot to settle away from the hustle and bustle of Trujillo. I spent nearly a week in Huanchaco, filling my days with idle time and beach sunsets.
The surf in Huanchaco is among the best that you will find in Peru. Huanchaco is also widely considered to be one of the birthplaces of surf, with the reed boats used by the fishermen of the past believed to be among the first ever surf vessels. My first surf in Huanchaco was my first time surfing in nearly a month, so despite the quickly fatigued arms, I still had a blast. The beach is quite rocky but the waves are constant and it is a perfect spot for surfers of all skill levels. As a beginner, I found it really easy to catch waves. And for more experienced surfers… Let’s just say Huanchaco was hosting a surf competition the weekend that I left town.
So yeah, it’s a pretty good place for surfers of all levels.
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Take A Ride On A Caballito de Totora
Keen to find out a bit more on why Huanchaco is considered the birthplace of surfing? If you’ve visited Huanchaco, then there’s no doubt you’ve seen those reed boats lining the beach. It’s one of Huanchaco and Trujillo’s many claims to fame, and you’ll undoubtedly hear it or see it mentioned over and over again.
Well, you can actually go out with the fishermen and ride on the boats with them for a while. They’ll show you how the boats are made, then take you out to sea for a bit of fishing before riding the waves back to shore. It will cost you about 120 soles ($35) for a four-hour adventure. That might seem a bit steep, especially for backpackers on a budget, but it definitely isn’t every day that you can say you’ve done something like that.
Visit El Brujo Archaeological Site
I didn’t actually have time to visit El Brujo, but from what I’ve heard, it is another can’t-miss archaeological site within the area. It is a bit further out located in the Chicama Valley over an hour away from Trujillo. The complex is also very large, boasting three main Huacas. One of those huacas, Cao Viejo, is famous for having the earliest known remains of a female ruler in Peru. The Lady of Cao is estimated to have lived in the early to mid 400s before dying in her mid-twenties due to childbirth or pregnancy complications.
Roam Around The Plaza de Armas
Trujillo’s Plaza de Armas is one of my favorites in all of Peru. It is unique with its gigantic statue in the center of the plaza that takes up the spot usually filled by a fountain or some other less magnificent structure. The area surrounding the Plaza de Armas is an amazing neighborhood to wander around. I personally wasn’t a fan of the chaos and congestion of Trujillo outside of the Plaza de Armas so I admittedly stuck around this area. There are plenty of churches, historical buildings, and significant areas for the history-lover willing to do their research.
The central market is also just two blocks from the Plaza de Armas where you can feast on as much food as you could hope for. Oh, and unlike most parts of South America, the menu del dia’s often offered…
Feast On Some Ceviche
Ceviche! Huanchaco is considered to be the birthplace of Peru’s most famous dish. And it is everywhere. And it never gets old. The best part of Trujillo for me was that ceviche was a staple with every meal. Where most other parts of South America only offer soup as the starter for their lunch combinations, Trujillo offered a generous portion of ceviche.
Another combination to consider is the trio marinero often offered by many restaurants around lunchtime. This usually includes three options for a price of about 10 soles. You’ll get ceviche, arroz con mariscos, and chicharron de pescado. For the seafood lover, this is heaven for $3.
Take A Surf Trip Up To Chicama
For surfers who haven’t gotten their fill in Huanchaco, then Chicama might be the spot to be. Chicama is world-famous for boasting some of the longest waves in the world. If you get lucky and catch the right wave, you might be riding that thing for nearly two kilometers. The waves in Chicama are the stuff of legends, and at just over an hour from Trujillo, it is well worth the visit for surf lovers staying in the area.
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