While on our way to the North of Peru, we passed by two other cities that offered some really nice attractions: Lima and Trujillo. They were not the highlights of our time in Peru, but then, between Machu Picchu and passing our diving license, we set the bar quite high. In any case, it is nice to visit this region of Peru, especially if you are interested in the pre-incan civilisations.
The colonial city center of Trujillo is quite well preserved. But the main attractions of the area are the archaeological sites of two pre-Colombian populations: the Chimù and the Mochica. You can get to both of them by public transportation. To find which bus to take can be a little complicated: we ended up asking at which corner to find it and then stopping all of the buses passing, hoping for the best…
Chan Chan was a big city, built exclusively in adobe. This material is a mixture of mud, straws and little rocks. The city is really well preserved thanks to the stability of the weather, which is quite unexpected given the material used. Moreover, even though adobe might be considered poor, the decorations along the walls are luxurious. They represent waves, fishes, pelicans and other birds. It was impressive. We didn’t expect to see that many decorations on buildings made out of mud.
While walking toward the site you will see what seems like other cities. The walled citadel you can visit is not the only one. There are indeed ten of them, one per ruling king. Each of them include ceremonial rooms, temples, residence and the burial site of the corresponding king.
Included in the price of the visit there is also a museum. Luckily we did not pay more: the museum was quite a delusion.
Huaca de la Luna
The first thing you will see while arriving is actually another Huaca, an adobe pyramid, the one of the Sun. This had an administrative function, but cannot be visited. What you can visit, on the other hand, is the Huaca de la Luna (moon), a religious center. Here you will need to join a tour. You will quickly realize that the place is actually much bigger than what it seems from outside.
We were pleasantly surprised: we were expecting a building like the one from Chan Chan. Instead the excavations revealed rich and colorful decorations. The brightness of the red was astounding! The peculiarity of this site is how it was built in layers. The Moche were building their new pyramid on top of the previous one, making it every time a little bit bigger. Up to 10 different layers, built in different epochs, were discovered. That is how the colors were so well preserved.
Here the murals are not only inspired by nature, but they also represent the gods and the sacrifice they were doing in their honor. In fact, the prisoners of war were sacrificed to the gods on this very ground.
We’ll be honest with you: we did not really like Lima. It might be because we were tired by all the trekking in Cusco, and we were feeling a little homesick. Or because we did not see the sun in the four days we were there. Also the difficulty of moving in this very big city did not help. The public transportation does not cover sufficiently the different touristic points. But we have enjoyed nonetheless some of our staying there.
We decided to stay in the nice neighborhood of Barranco. It is the bohemian district, filled with street art and with a view on the sea. Perfect for a walk and or to go for a drink at night.
In the historical city center of Lima you’ll find some very nice buildings. The baroque facades of some churches are amazing. The plaza de armas is nice, although not at the level of the one of Cuzco or Arequipa.
If you have time to visit only one thing in the city center of Lima, you should go to the convent of San Francisco. The Franciscans seem to have forgotten the vow of poverty when passing the ocean: gold, richly decorated ceramic tiles, paintings. Caroline got really fond of their library. Underneath the convent, you find the catacombs, containing the bones of the deceased monks.
The Larco museum might be a little expensive, but it is well worth it. It hosts a lot of archaeological pieces from the whole region. The explanations are in several languages, English, Italian and French included! There is also a whole section dedicated to the erotic art. At the end, you get to visit the warehouse where more than 30 000 artifacts are stocked. And that is when you realize all the work behind what you just saw in the museum.
Note that there are not many buses between the center and the museum. It was so long and complicated from Barranco that, exceptionally, we decided to take an Uber.
Finally, a culinary suggestion. Peru is famous for ceviche, raw fish with lemon and onions. You should not leave Lima before trying it at least once. Our Airbnb host suggested the Canta Ranita and we loved it. The ceviche was delicious and they also created their own version of it. There is something for everybody!
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