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Introducing Túcume

This is a little-known site which lies around 30km to the north of Lambayeque on the Panamericana. A vast area – with more than 200 hectares of crumbling walls, plazas and no fewer than 26 pyramids – it was the final capital of the Sicán culture, who moved their city from nearby Batán Grande around AD 1050 after that area was devastated by the effects of El Niño. The pyramids you see today are a composite of structures made by several civilizations; the lower levels belonged to the Sicán while the next two levels, along with the distinctive surrounding walls, were added by the Chimú. While little excavation has been done and no spectacular tombs have been found, it’s the sheer size of the site that makes it a memorable visit.

The site can be surveyed from a stunning mirador (lookout) atop Cerro Purgatorio (Purgatory Hill). The hill was originally called Cerro la Raya (Stingray Hill), but the name was changed after the Spaniards tried to convert local people to Christianity by dressing as demons atop the hill and throwing nonbelievers to their deaths. There is a small but attractive onsite museum with some interesting tidbits. Guides are available for S30.

From Chiclayo (S2.50), combis depart from Leguia 1306 north of the centre. You can also catch one from Lambayeque (ask at the Bruning Museum). Guided tours cost around S50 per person.