Updated February 3rd, 2020.
Not many travellers make it to Chiclayo, Peru. On the average backpacker’s trail, Northern Peru is usually neglected, with traveller’s instead choosing to focus their time on the big cities and historical gems located South. This comes with huge benefits for travellers wanting to get off the beaten track as they can explore a more authentic Peru with fewer crowds.
To be honest, unless you are planning a visit to the Royal Tombs of Lord Sipán, you probably won’t be stopping at Chiclayo. However, whilst the city itself offers little for visitors and the outskirts are definitely best avoided, there are a few attractions surrounding the city that are well worth a look.
Further Reading: Check out our comprehensive Peru Travel Guide!
Best Time to Visit Chiclayo
Chiclayo is part of the coastal desert so prepare yourself for a dry and dusty landscape which gives little in the way of respite from the sun. Owing to the location of the city in relation to the equator, daylight hours vary by only twenty minutes throughout the year.
This also means that Chiclayo benefits from a warm climate year round. Summer temperatures can be sweltering so remember to wear light airy clothes and apply suncream liberally when you’re out and about.
Things to do in Chiclayo
Chiclayo’s main square is perhaps the prettiest part of the city. There is a beautiful church overlooking a green space in which to relax and people watch. Be warned though, shade is in short supply.
The surrounding streets are good options for food, notably Delicious Rolls which is located through a narrow doorway to the right of the church and up a flight of stairs. They serve rolled ice-cream of varying flavours and have a great view over the main square.
A huge market in the city where you can buy anything from ‘designer’ clothes to cooking utensils.
Locals will push through the narrow walkways forcibly, so follow their lead or you will drown in swamps of people. Haggling is commonplace in these markets.
Mercado de Brujos
Chiclayo’s famous witch market is located at one end of the main Mercado Modelo. Here you can buy a whole range of shamanistic props including herbs, skins, bones and even animal organs.
This market also sells San Pedro cactuses in abundance, which when boiled and reduced make a hallucinogenic drink consumed by both Shamans and travellers.
This walkway is marked by statues depicting the mythology from the local area. A great way to discover more about the Lambayeque culture, the walk will take around half an hour in total.
Paseo de las Musas
Another strange walkway in the city is the Paseo de las Musas. This scenic passage showcases statues of Greek goddesses. It is a little out of place in the city but a nice place for relaxing. Be wary of thieves who frequent the area at night.
Things to do Around Chiclayo
Sipán – Huaca Rajada
The original burial site of the Lord of Sipán. This tomb is one of the largest treasure troves ever discovered, second only to Egypt’s Tutankhamun.
The history of this ceremonial site is interesting and involves human sacrifice as well as grave robbing. There is a museum on site which contains some authentic exhibits but most are replicas of the tomb’s contents.
Sipán – Museo Tumbas Reales de Sipán
This museum claims to be the ‘real’ Sipán museum. It houses the vast majority of the original treasure discovered in the tombs as well as Lord Sipán’s body.
Your jaw will drop seeing the lavish gold jewellery worn by the Lord and your interest will pique as you discover just how many people decided to buy, steal and withhold treasure illegally. A must-see on your visit!
This museum houses replicas of a selection of the largest tombs discovered in South America. It is possible to arrange tours here from one of the tour agencies in Chiclayo centre.
Displays a wide range of artefacts from numerous different cultures, including, Chimú, Moche, Vicus and Chavín. These items were originally all parts of a private collection by German researcher Hans Heinrich Brüning until he volunteered them to the Peruvian government upon his return to his home country.
This archaeological site is unknown to many visitors and is an interesting place to explore. The area houses a large grouping of ancient pyramids (although to the untrained eye these look more like rock formations). There is a viewpoint nearby which offers a stunning view of the complex from above.
Whilst the historical sites can be visited independently, signage is nearly exclusively in Spanish so a tour is recommended. The most reputable provider in the area is Moche tours, who have an office based close to the main square. It is possible to haggle in person. Expect day tours to cost between 50-100 soles, depending on what is included.
A popular spot for both locals and tourists, Pimentel is a great place to watch the fisherman working in their reed boats. Food around the beach is rated highly although the beach itself is littered with debris and rubbish. Watch your belongings around this area.
Safety & Practical Issues in Chiclayo
Chiclayo is a big city by Northern Peruvian standards and of course, travellers should take precautions to protect themselves as they would anywhere. Pickpockets and thieves are common, especially in the centre of the city and around Pimentel beach. Avoid flashing expensive belongings in public.
Try to stick to the main streets. The infrastructure in Chiclayo is very bad and there is a huge rubbish problem when you leave the frequently trodden paths. It is very easy to stand on glass or something else unpleasant. Street dogs rule the outskirts of the city and whilst most of them will not attack unless provoked, they can be intimidating.
Where to Stay in Chiclayo
As Chiclayo is not a hugely popular destination with travellers, accommodation options are limited. There are a couple of good hostels in the city but aside from these, budget hotels make up the vast majority of options, generally marketing themselves at business travellers.
Without a doubt the best choice for budget backpackers in the area, Hostal Satelite provides clean private rooms with a delicious breakfast included in the rate. The owner is a lovely lady who will do anything she can to help with enquiries. Be aware that if you can’t speak any Spanish, you may struggle to communicate without a game of charades. A double room with private bathroom is available from 47 soles per night.
Located only a five-minute drive from the airport, this is a good choice for travellers looking for a convenient base from which to explore the city. The building has a 24hr front desk and the rooms are clean and functional. A double room with private bathroom comes in at 74 soles a night.
Another good budget option, Hostal Lllampayec offers comfortable rooms and bathrooms with hot water. Set in a quiet location, guests particularly rate the ease of travelling to Pimentel Beach from here. Staff are very helpful and can offer recommendations of what to do in the local area. A double room with private bathroom is from 48 soles per night.
Still not found what you’re after? Check out even more accommodation options in Chiclayo here!
Where to next?
Lima: Head to Peru’s capital for culture and cuisine. The food is some of the most diverse in the country and the quality is high. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to fly over the city with one of the local paragliding agencies either – Lima from the sky is beautiful!
Chachapoyas: This town surrounded by cloud forest acts as the gateway to the jungle for many travellers. There are a few notable attractions nearby, namely Kuélap, an ancient citadel from the ancient Chachapoyas civilisation. Head to the towering Gocta waterfall for a day of wildlife spotting and hiking.
Trujillo: For a mix of city and beach life, head to Trujillo and nearby Huanchaco for a spot of culture and relaxation. Take a journey on one of Peru’s famous reed boats or head out on a day trip to the fascinating Chan Chan ruins.