Ancient Cultures of the North Coast

Peru’s Northern Coast

Peru’s Northern Coast is rightly referred to as a cradle of nations.

Throughout the pre-Inca millennia, waves of cultures flourished here. Curiously, compared to the Inca sites of Southern Peru, the North’s ancient cities receive few visitors, allowing the intrepid few to explore in relative privacy.

The largest pre-European city in the Americas, Chan Chan, was constructed by the Chimor culture three miles west of present-day Trujillo.

An ornate wall with lines and figures carved into its face, behind a detailed ancient statue in Peru

Although it appears arid, the section of the coastal plain is fertile, and was irrigated anciently by an extensive canal network.

The site was occupied continuously from approximately 850 AD until the Inca Túpac Yupanqui defeated the Chimor emperor Minchancaman in 1470 AD.

Chan Chan’s Urban Core

At its zenith, Chan Chan’s urban core—divided into ten citadels—covered more than two square miles, much of which was surrounded by adobe walls fifty to sixty feet high.

The surrounding settlements filled nearly eight square miles and supported an estimated 30,000 residents.

Most visitors to the site tour a group of three walled plazas known as the Tschudi Complex.


Although impressive for its scale, Chan Chan is difficult to understand the site without the direction of an expert guide.

Twenty minutes from Trujillo and not far from Chan Chan, the village of Huanchaco is famous for its traditional fishing techniques.

Fishermen straddle small boats—caballitos de totora—made from bound reeds, a design that reportedly dates back 3,000 years.

Temple of the Sun and Temple of the Moon

To the southeast of Chan Chan, two enormous adobe pyramids tower over the surrounding landscape—the Temple of the Sun and the Temple of the Moon.

These monuments of the Moche culture were constructed between the first and eighth centuries.

Ancient Mural in the Temple of the Sun and the Moon in Peru

Huaca de la Luna

Huaca de la Luna is decorated with multicolored friezes, one of which covers nearly an entire side of the pyramid.

Approximately 160 miles to the north, near the town of Chiclayo, lies the ancient Moche burial site of Sipan, or Huaca Rayada.

The site was excavated in the late 1980s, unearthing a royal tomb filled with gold and silver jewelry. The tomb of this “Lord of Sipan” and reproductions of its contents are displayed in situ.


North of Sipan, sits an area known as Túcume—a 540-acre site containing 26 major adobe pyramids and platforms built by the Sican.

Ancient ruins under excavation in North Coast of Peru

Constructed on a plain around La Raya Mountain, the site was originally settled around 800 AD.

It continued under Sican control until 1350 AD, likely occupied by successive Chimor and Inca populations in years thereafter. Like Chan Chan, this area is crisscrossed by scores of ancient irrigation canals.

Getting to Trujillo

Trujillo can be reached by air from Lima in just over an hour. Flights from the capital reach Chiclayo in about 90 minutes.

Visits to these areas can be combined with extensions to the historic city of Cajamarca and the cultural sites of the mountainous Chachapoyas region.

Trujillo and Chiclayo have pleasant weather year-round.


LANDED delivers the finest in custom, private travel to Central America, South America, and Antarctica. These regions are our passion; we know them first-hand and by heart. Speak with one of our expert travel planners today at 801.582.2100. We’ll create the most exceptional trip of your life.

“One can only really travel if one lets oneself go and takes what every place brings without trying to turn it into a healthy private pattern of one’s own and I suppose that is the difference between travel and tourism.”

Freya Stark

Let’s Talk


Could not have been more pleased.  This was the trip of a lifetime for our family.  Thank you!

S. Gentry, San Clemente, CA


What an amazing adventure we have had.  Many thanks to you for putting it together. The whole rhythm of the trip was perfect, and leaving one place for the next worked perfectly. This trip definitely made me want to experience other great spots in South America as the people have been wonderful and the places incredible. Wish we had a month to really explore.  Everybody in the family had a great life experience. Thanks again!

S. Ecenia, Knoxville, TN


One of our best trips ever, made excellent by LANDED’s attention to detail. When planning the trip our travel planner listened to us carefully, asked the right questions, and customized the trip to have just the right balance of adventure and city sights for us. The guides, drivers, and “handlers” were superb. The hotels were top notch. We felt relaxed and pampered all the way. Will definitely look to LANDED to plan our next trip to South America.

M. & J. Siegel , New Rochelle, NY

Absolutely amazing. Thanks again John. Carlos was the best guide I’ve ever had anywhere in the world. Top notch talent.

T. Hill, Fort Worth, TX

We returned yesterday from our trip and I wanted to let you know that it was absolutely amazing!  There is not a single thing on the itinerary that we would change.  The guides were knowledgeable, friendly, and prompt.  The hotels were beautiful, the food delicious and the pace of the activities was perfect for us. Thank you so much for making our trip such a fantastic experience.

B. Baltes, E. Rockaway, NY

In short, our trip was amazing, and, as we had hoped, the Inca civilization was fascinating to us. Thanks so much for your constant assistance and thorough planning.

H. Liroff, Minneapolis, MN

The planning, service and execution of the trip was flawless – thank you for making it perfect!

R. Hayek, San Francisco, CA

LANDED’s services were excellent. You were helpful and knowledgeable, making our trip a memorable one.  I will use your services in the future as I continue to explore Central & South America.

A. Reynolds, Tucson, AZ

It was like being in a very well organized dream. Your patience with my questions and concerns during the planning stage was remarkable.

W. Sibley, New York, NY

I’ve never had such great service from a tour operator. Not only were you a great help on the planning-insuring that I was staying at the right places and enjoying the type of activities we love-but the follow up was incredible. Your team checked in with us several times during the trip to confirm that everything was going well, and that the guides you assigned were satisfying us. It’s one thing to get a “thank you card” or a “hope your trip was great” note after you’re back, but to insure that it’s going well during the trip is a welcome first! I look forward to working with you again on a another trip.

C. Leavitt , New York, NY

You actually got to know us, which made it possible to know just what we like. You promised the best trip ever and you kept your promise.

B. Furstenberg, Roxbury, NY

The entire trip was amazing. Both the hotel & restaurant recommendations were well thought out and helped us thoroughly enjoy our honeymoon.

C. Venezia, New York, NY

LANDED is like the ultimate virtual guide, suggesting the high points and helping us get the most out of a week’s time.

F. Greenberg, New York, NY

We had a great time, and didn’t miss anything. We zip-lined, rafted, sailed and surfed. The contacts and drivers were professional and courteous. We don’t want to be back at work. Thank you for all of the work you did to set up this trip.

M. Marrocco, Dallas, TX