Why visit northern Peru
Whether you harbour a keen interest in pre-Colombian history or are merely curious, the craggy northernmost regions of Peru are home to many of the greatest archaeological treasures in the country. Largely unexplored, the sweeping Pacific coastline, rolling valleys and steep highlands swathed in forest prevail as the best kept secrets of explorers, historians and trekkers worldwide.
About Northern Peru
Northern Peru is a fascinating area of the country that very few tourists visit. It is rich and varied in terms of geography, culture and archaeology. Remarkably, many of the pre-Inca sites have remained hidden for hundreds of years, only having been discovered in the last decade or two. The north offers coastal towns and beaches, secluded mountain villages, Andean peaks blanketed in lush forest and lowlands home to the Amazon jungle. The northern coast and highlands of Peru are immensely rewarding to anyone who makes it this far.
Located on the northern coast of Peru, the historical city of Trujillo with its churches and colonial homes is surrounded by pre-Columbian sites. Close by are the impressive ruins of Chan Chan which is the largest adobe city in the world. The UNESCO World Heritage site is a complex labyrinth of adobe passageways carved with beautiful and intricate murals. It’s a sight to enthuse and encompasses several royal compounds, temples, dwellings and burial chambers. Also close to Trujillo are the sacred pyramids, Huaca del Sol (Temple of the Sun) the largest adobe structure in the Americas and the smaller Huaca de la Luna (Temple of the Moon) with its amazing murals. As well as the archaeologic sites, there are good local beaches and surfing possibilities.
The small settlement of Chiclayo sandwiched between the Andes and Pacific Ocean is close to two of the most famous sites for pre-Columbian art; Sipan of the Moche culture and Tucume with its pyramids, walled citadels and ancient cemeteries.
Chachapoyas is a small town in the Andes, the base to explore some of Peru’s most spectacular pre-Colombian remains. Visit the cliff burial centres of Karajia with the huge stone sarcophagi and Revash with the colourful house-like tombs. The most impressive site in this region is the mighty fortress of Kuelap, perched majestically on mountaintop cliffs overlooking the verdant Andean landscape. Kuelap is a keen contender to rival the stature of Machu Picchu, the largest ancient stone structure in South America. Dominating a ridge high above the Rio Utcubamba with some 400 cylindrical ruins to explore, the citadel provides vital clues into the legacy of fierce Chachapoyas warriors who fought there.
Cajamarca is a charming Andean city in the highlands of northern Peru with a surprisingly pleasant climate. It is well known for its hot springs and colonial architecture, in particular the colonial churches including the Cathedral, San Francisco church, and the Belen Monument Complex.
The sun drenched beaches of the far north offer a haven to surfers who flock to resort towns such as Máncora and Hianchaco to take advantage of consistently good surf and excellent seafood restaurants.
The vast north has a plethora of near tourist-free things to see and experience.
- Look down upon the tombs of some of the most important members of the Moche culture from around 100-800AD.
- Speculate upon the mysteries of the Moche people whilst examining the remarkably well preserved artefacts at the Royal Tombs of Sipan Museum.
- Visit the fascinating museum in Leymebamba, home to 219 mummies that were only found in 1997.
- Explore the vast complex of Kuelap. Enchanting and overgrown, you will find very few other tourists and an experience very different, but just as awe-inspiring, as Machu Picchu.