Immerse yourself in culture whilst experiencing Trujillo’s incredibly fascinating archaeological sites – some of the best in Peru.
The semi-cama overnight bus leaves Huaraz at 9:30pm and takes around 8 hours to arrive in Trujillo at 5:30am – if all goes well.
Regardless of whether I’m upright in a seat or near-horizontal in a semi-cama seat, I rarely sleep on buses.
Perhaps it’s the violent swerving around mountainous terrain, the air-conditioning turned down to polar incubation levels, or the TV volume at ear-piercing decibels, but it is hard to get some sleep.
If you’re a beach bunny, you may find renown surfer village Huanchaco more suitable – it’s only 20 minutes from Trujillo.
Elegance, vibrant, culture, and a profusion of colonial buildings come to mind when describing Trujillo, the capital of northern Peru and one of my favourite cities in this country.
Situated along the Moche River’s parched valley, prehistoric Moche and Chimu cultures inhabited Trujillo prior to the Inca conquest. The Spaniards then arrived in 1534 and officially ‘founded’ Trujillo.
Proclaiming independence from Spain only in 1820, the city is remembered for its fight for Peruvian Independence.
What to see?
Meander the clean streets of Trujillo and absorb the wonderfully colourful colonial architecture, quaint restaurants, and relaxing city spaces.
Escape the sun whilst visiting one of the three main museums: Cassinelli Museum, Archaeological Museum, and Cassinelli Museum.
If you’re lucky enough to visit Trujillo during January then you’ll experience the month-long Marinera Festival – a celebration of the Marinera dance, which originated in this city. Dancers use handkerchiefs whilst re-enacting romantic courtships during elegant movements.
Here’s a little taste of this national dance recorded by Folk Dances Around the World. I notice that the female dancer is always barefoot in a lot of the Marinera dance versions and not sure of the reason?
Trujillo also hosts a book festival and Spring festival.
Plaza de Armas
The Plaza de Armas is your place to see locals interacting and enjoying everyday life or for a shoe shine.
The 1820’s proclamation of independence is commemorated in the centre of Plaza de Armas with the imposing Freedom Monument sculpture by Edmund Moeller.
All zebra crossings lead to the Plaza de Armas or so it seems…
Shiny pavement, blossoming flowers in well manicured garden beds, and resting spots make for a pleasurable respite stop.
Cathedral Basilica of St. Mary
Whilst in the Plaza de Armas, wander across to the stunning and well-preserved Cathedral of St. Mary, which was built from 1647-1666 – sadly it’s closed so no inside viewing today.
Love checking out the market when arriving in a city, town, or village and Trujillo’s market sells almost everything you require from food to clothing and souvenirs.
As with most markets in South America, just be aware of your surrounds and pickpockets.
Trujillo street scenes
Spotting an intriguing photographer creating his art on a make-shift flatbed camera whilst capturing the many local street scenes especially in Plaza de Armas, just can’t help myself…
Attractive iron work adorns many of Trujillo’s buildings, which adds to the picturesque street appeal.
Energetic blues of the splendid Municipality building mimic the Peruvian sky.
Day trip to Chan Chan ruins
Where is Chan Chan?
It’s an easy short 12-kilometre bus ride east from Trujillo and you arrive in Chan Chan.
From the city, take any of the public buses going to Huanchaco as all pass Chan Chan’s entrance along Av. Mansiche.
As it’s around a 2-kilometre walk to the ticket booth and ruins, many taxis wait if you don’t wish to walk.
Named the “largest adobe city in the world”, Chan Chan dates back to the 15th century and was the capital of the vast pre-Incan Chimu empire, which started in the 1st century.
Be blown away by the remarkable and precise carvings adorning the adobe-brick ruins.
Expansive Chan Chan covers just over 12 kilometres of this Peruvian arid landscape. When visiting, make sure you take lots of water and your lunch as there’s not much around.
This very short video by ScriptSocket Video gives you a little taste of just what to expect when exploring Chan Chan.
Day trip to Huaca del Sol and Huaca de la Luna
Trujillo’s surrounding dessert holds another extraordinary archaeological site much of which is still under excavation.
An even shorter hop than Chan Chan of only around 7-kilometres from Trujillo, until you reach Huaca del Sol and Huaca de la Luna (Sun and Moon temples).
About 20-minutes south of the city centre on Ovalo Grau and in front of the petrol station, take a Combi (small bus) to the temples.
Start with the museum near the Temple of the Moon, which holds fabulous Moche ornaments and ceramics but also to learn a little of the Moche civilisation.
It’s a luxury to experience this site today with only a couple of other visitors.
Craggy Cerro Bianco juts out of the hot desert with the Temple of the Moon at its base, which consists of four large plazas and three main tapered platforms.
Several alters grace the ceremonial and religious buildings and believed to have been used in human sacrifices. From around 100 AD to 800 AD the Moche built imposing structures such as these temples.
Vibrant iconography depicting everyday Moche culture is fastidiously inscribed in walls as is this Mochica God “Ai Apaec” (Degollador) fresco…
Our guide – included in the entrance fee – explains the impressive carved and painted murals that restorers are still painstakingly cleaning frescos of mud and dirt.
One of Peru’s pre-Incan breeds of hairless dogs sits as proud and still as an Egyptian Sphinx resembling a bronze sculpture, whilst guarding the temples, ignoring visitors and cameras.
Our guide explains that this type of breed is prone to skin cancer and dermatitis – also spotted this type of unusual dog in Lima’s Huaca Pucllana pre-Incan ruins.
Huaca del Sol – adobe-brick temple in the dragon-like building in this photo – is currently closed to the public, but said to open in a few years.
Approximately 140 million mud bricks make up this pyramid, which is believed to be the largest adobe building in the Americas.
Pick up a cute three-wheeler-taxis to take you around the sites if you don’t feel like walking the distance.
The perimeter of the site is dotted with sporadic tiny shops…
…and a small local restaurant.
This short video by PeruTravelTrends provides an excellent brief insight of the temples and what to expect.
Where to sleep in Trujillo?
Residential Munay Wasi is a comfortable family-run hostel and everyone makes you feel very welcome.
Always prefer booking a private bedroom with a private bathroom – dorms are also offered – but it’s fun sharing the fully-equipped kitchen with other travellers.
A Continental breakfast is on offer and free wi-fi is available in your room.
Catching up with travel friends for some well-earned R&R in Los Organos on the coast so Chiclayo is next for a couple of nights to break up the journey.
There isn’t much information on Chiclayo – should be interesting…