The energetic city of Trujillo, Peru makes for a very interesting stop on the coast of Northern Peru, between the surfing hotspot of Máncora and the gateway to the spectacular mountains of the Cordillera Blanca, Huaraz.
The town itself is interesting to walk around with an impressive Plaza de Armas, a beautiful 16th-century colonial cathedral and many other colourful churches and atmospheric streets.
There are also some great local Peruvian restaurants serving delicious and authentic ‘almuerzos’, (set menus for lunch serving a starter, a main course and a postre) – every little café seems to serve up culinary delights that make Peru a delight for foodies!
As well as the downtown, several nearby architectural ruins of the ancient Moche and Chimu civilisations nearby make for pleasant day trips; such as the impressive Chimu-built Chan Chan, the largest pre-hispanic city in South America, or El Brujo, where you’ll see the mummified remains of an ancient Moche Queen.
After all that culture, you can head to the fishing village of Huanchaco, just 15-minutes from Trujillo city centre – roaring waves ideal for surfers and sea-side cafes to watch the sunset!
Where to Stay in Trujillo
If you prefer to be in the city, there are a variety of hostels and guesthouses that are suitable for budget travellers.
- El Mochilero is a cheap and cheerful favourite with backpackers with beds from $9 US per night. The owner, staff and pet tortoise are all super friendly and happy to help!
- Ugarte Street is another option for travellers with friendly owner, Rafael, an attached café and beds from $9 US per night. It’s a great place to meet fellow travellers and arrange trips in the area.
- El Centurión is perfect for couples, flashpackers and those in need of some comfort on their backpacking trip. With amazing rooms, hot showers and delicious breakfast included in the price, sometimes it’s nice to treat yourself! Rooms start at $23 US and breakfast is included.
Just 15-minutes from Trujillo city centre, many backpackers, and especially surfers, choose to base themselves in mellow Huanchaco with its accessible beach, sea-front bars and many cheap guesthouses. You may prefer the chilled-out feel of this beachside town.
- Hostal Naylamp is a friendly laid-back hostel with beds from $7 US per night. The hostel has a large sunny courtyard, an attached restaurant with good food and cheap beer, lots of outdoor seating areas. Some of the rooms have terraces where you can hear the sound of the ocean. Great choice for budget backpackers.
- Punta Huanchaco Hostel is another hostel in Huanchaco that gets great reviews with beds from $8 US per night. Dario, the owner, is happy to help guests with anything and everything and the property is only one minute walk from the beach.
- ATMA Hostel & Yoga is a great choice if you’re wanting to get your yoga mat out whilst in Huanchaco. They offer one free Spanish class for all guests as well as a discount on daily yoga classes. (Currently 7 soles for a session with the discount.) There is a communal kitchen, comfy beds, hot showers and a lovely courtyard that’s great for meeting fellow travellers.
Top Things to do in Trujillo
1. Visit Huanchaco:
Huanchaco makes an easy day trip from Trujillo; many of the tours to the architectural ruins will tag this onto the end of a cultural day or if you want to go by yourself, the town is just 15-minutes by taxi. So what’s there to do here?
2. Go surfing!
In Huanchaco, you can hire a surfboard for the whole day for just 20 soles ($6 US) and take to the waves – be careful if you are a beginner, these waves are gnarly!
3. Take a reed boat trip
If surfing isn’t your thing, take a short boat trip on the famous “caballitos de totora” (reed boats), the ancient fisherman boats that have been portrayed in ceramics since the year 500 BC! They are a Trujillo pride, and their unusual shape makes for an awesome photo whilst you are sipping the local Trujillo beer in a beachside bar.
4. Visit the Chan Chan Ruins
Built by the Chimu civilization, Chan Chan is the largest pre-Hispanic city in Latin America founded around 850 AD. The city covers 20 square kilometres and is located 5km West of Trujillo, just a short bus or taxi ride. The city that was home to over 30,000 people lasted until 1470 when the Inca Empire conquered the Chimu race; just a few decades before the arrival of Fransisco Pizarro and the Spanish Conquistadors in 1530. The area was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1986.
Today, backpackers can wander around the dense 6km centre of the city including remains of citadels, palaces, plazas, burial grounds and ancient irrigation systems. Most guesthouses in Trujillo will organize day trips to Chan Chan including transport and guide.
Approximate price: 50-60 soles (more for an English-speaking guide). Entrance fee – 11 soles. Peru Together Travel offers a half day Chan Chan Tour for 60 soles ($18 US). Included in this price is the transport to and from the archaeological sites and guide (Spanish speaking only). Entrance fees are payable on arrival to the ruins.
5. Visit The Temples of Huacas Del Sol y La Luna
The two temples that make up the ‘Huacas del Moche’ (Huaca del Sol and Huaca de la Luna) were built by the pre-Incan Moche civilisation between 100 AD and 800 AD. Archaeologists believe that the sites were used for religious and ceremonial purposes including burial sites. The archaeological ruins make an interesting day-trip from Trujillo (price 15-30 soles, entrance fee 11 soles) with many interesting murals and artefacts.
6. Visit El Brujo
El Brujo is an archaeological complex built by the Moche civilisation sometime between 100 AD and 600 AD. The amazing discovery of ‘Señora de Cao’ in 2006 in a tomb high up on the side of the pyramid turned history on its head. What shocked researchers was that the mummified remains that quite clearly belonged to a Moche ruler belonged to a woman!
National Geographic ran a hugely publicised documentary about the ‘Dama de Coa’ in 2006 and a replica of her mummy has toured the world. Today, you can visit the burial chamber and the museum where her body is displayed along with the treasures that were buried with her. Trips to El Brujo can be arranged from guesthouses and travel agencies in Trujillo for around 60 soles for a day trip.
7. Sandboarding and Laguna Conache
Had enough of history and culture? Why not take to the dunes with a board and partake in some adrenaline-fuelled sandboarding! In nearby Conache, Northern Peru’s desert turns into steep sand dunes surrounding Lake Conache, so you can ride the sand and then take a dip in the beautiful lake afterwards! Trips can be arranged from as little as 60 soles / day and it takes just half an hour to get there. Read more about sandboarding at Laguna Conache here.
8. Restaurant hopping
Trujillo is a gastronomical playground, the perfect place to sample some Peruvian specialities such as papas rellenas, causitas, lomo saltado, tiradito and tequeños. Whether you eat at a cheap café or splash out on a pricier restaurant, you won’t be disappointed.
9. Eat at El Rincón de Vallejo
Check out the local’s favourite ‘El Rincón de Vallejo’ located just off the main ‘Plaza de Armas’ serving up authentic northern Peruvian dishes. It’s also the former home of César Vallejo, Peru’s most famous poet and revolutionary.
Where to go next?
Huaraz: The gateway to the second highest mountain range in the world, the spectacular Cordillera Blanca of Peru. Be prepared for some serious trekking! Night buses depart Trujillo for Huaraz daily.
Mancora: A popular surfing and party town further north on the coast of Peru. Great waves, delicious eateries and some notorious party hostels such as Loki and Kokopelli. It’s around a 10-hour bus ride north.
Chiclayo: Another large coastal city in northern Peru, with more interesting archaeological ruins and a huge traditional market to explore.