Things to Do in Trujillo
The ancient city of Chan Chan, in Peru’s Moche Valley, was once the largest city in the Americas. For nearly 600 years, this metropolis of adobe buildings was the seat of the Chimú Kingdom (1000–1471 AD) and home to around 60,000 people. Today, the ruins constitute one of the world’s most important archaeological sites.
Across the arid Moche Valley, the two Temples de Moche (Huacas de Moche) are Trujillo’s most important sites remaining of the once powerful Moche Empire. Though still quite imposing, the twin pyramids are weathered and rounded by time and heavy rains and were built around 500 AD, a while seven centuries before the nearby city of Chan Chan.
Temple of the Dragon (Huaco el Dragon) is an immaculately preserved Chimú temple just outside Trujillo. The pyramid-shaped adobe structure features intricate frieze murals depicting rainbows, dragons, and figures that have valiantly stood the test of time. Less known than other Chimú sites, this anti-seismic temple is an engineering marvel.
Sitting in Trujillo’s Plaza de Armas—the large square that forms the heart of the city’s historical district—there is a surreal feeling knowing this is the spot from which modern Peru began. On the Spanishconquistadores’ push through the continent in search of silver and gold, the city of Trujillo was founded when this square was created in 1534. Nearly 300 years later, in 1820, it would be from right here in the Plaza de Armas that Trujillo would become the first city in Peru to announce its independence from Spain.
Despite the fact that modern day Trujillo is one of the largest cities in Peru, the historical center around the Plaza de Armas has retained its Colonial charm. The distinctive architecture of 17th century Spain forms a ring around the square, and colors such as the pastel yellow of the Trujillo Cathedral and the deeply rich blue of the Archdiocese, infuse the square with a sense of life which seems to permeate everyone who visits.
In the center of the square, interspersed amongst the throngs of pedestrians and locals on a midday stroll, the Freedom Monument springs from the crowd in an artistic form of defiance. Set atop a granite base, the uppermost statue of a man with raised fist is an enduring symbol Trujillo’s quest for liberation and independence. By night, the Colonial buildings around the Plaza de Armas are bathed in hundreds of lights, and walking through the illuminated Plaza de Armas is one of Trujillo’s most romantic displays.
The arid shoreline of northern Peru has been the historic site of thousands of years of civilizations. Empire in Trujillo has risen and fallen like the sand dunes along the coast. Essential cultural artifacts and artistic relics are still being discovered in this unique coastal desert, many of which are on display at the National University of Trujillo Museum of Archaeology, Anthropology, and History.
Huanchaco, a sleepy coastal suburb of bustling Trujillo, is known for its long slow waves and is one of the best surf spots along the Peruvian coastline to learn how to ride a wave. Stroll along the town’s oceanfront promenade, watching fisherman come in with their catch on traditional reed boats called caballitos de totora.
Located along Trujillo's central Plaza de Armas, this striking royal blue colonial mansion offers a rare glimpse into the political history of the city. Magnificently restored, its courtyards and rooms are furnished in the ornate style original to the early 17th-century, with a small collection of gold and ceramics from the Chimu and Moche empires.
El Brujo Archaeological Complex offers a fascinating look at Peru’s pre-Inca Moche culture. More than 2,000 years ago, the Moche people ruled over a sprawling empire along the coast in the Chicama Valley. Archeologists are only now beginning to unearth the secrets of their civilization.
Located in the heart of Trujillo’s historic center, this cathedral (aka the Cathedral Basilica of St. Mary), brightly painted yellow with white wedding-cake piping and twin bell towers, is a stalwart representation of the city’s colonial past. Highlights are its noteworthy altarpieces and religious paintings in the cathedral’s art museum.
Stretched out over an entire block, the lovely El Carmen complex includes a church, a Carmelite convent and a museum that includes the most important collection of colonial art in Trujillo. Its white facade, punctuated with bright red trim is a colonial masterpiece, a fitting home for the baroque and rococo paintings inside.