The energetic city of Trujillo makes for a very interesting stop on the coast of Northern Peru, between the surf hotspot of Mancora 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 starter, main course and postres) – 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!
Colourful churches in Trujillo City
Places to Stay:
In Downtown Trujillo: If you prefer to be in the city, there are a variety of hostels and guesthouses. El Mochilero is a cheap and cheerful favourite with backpackers or the fancier Hotel Posado Del Sol. We stayed at the extremely friendly Hostal El Centurion – perfect for flashpackers and those in need of some comfort on their backpacking trip. With amazing rooms, hot showers and delicious breakfast included in the price, we reckon sometimes you just need to treat yourself!
Flashpacker haven – El Centurion Hostel / Hotel in downtown Trujillo
In Huanchaco: Just 15-minutes from Trujillo city centre, many backpackers prefer the chilled-out feel of this beachside town. Favourites include Hostal Naylamp, Casa Amelia and Chimu Beach Hotel. Prices start at $7 USD.
Things to do in Trujillo:
- Huanchaco: Many backpackers choose to base themselves in mellow Huanchaco with its accessible beach, sea-front bars and many cheap guesthouses. Huanchaco also 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? Hire a surfboard for the whole day for just 20 soles and take to the waves – be careful if you are a beginner, these waves are gnarly! If surf isn’t your thing, take a short boat trip on the famous “cabalitos de totora”, the ancient fisherman reed 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.
‘Cabalitos de Totora’, traditional fishing boats at Huanchaco Beach
- 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 kilometers 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: 25-30 soles (more for an English-speaking guide). Entrance fee – 11 soles.
- 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 civilization between 100 AD and 800 AD. Archaeologists believe that the sites were used for religious and ceremonial purposes including burial sites. The archaelogical ruins make an interesting day-trip from Trujillo (price 15-30 soles, entrance fee 11 soles) with many interesting murals and artifacts.
- 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 publicized 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.
Look out for the indigenous Peruvian ‘hairless dog’ around temples in Trujillo – a Peruvian pride!
- Sand boarding and Laguna Conache: Had enough of history and culture? Why not take to the dunes with a board and partake in some adrenaline-fuelled sand boarding! 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 35 soles / day.
- Restaurant hopping: Trujillo is a gastronomical playground, the perfect place to sample some Peruvian specialties 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. 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.
Papas Rellenas (Stuffed Potatoes) at El Rincon de Vallejo – just 2.90 soles (that’s $1 USD!)
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.