North Coast

This archaeological site, around 30km north of Lambayeque on the Panamericana, is not particularly well known, but it's the most impressive collection of ruins in the region. A vast area, with more than 200 hectares of crumbling walls, plazas and 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.

There is a small but attractive on-site museum with some interesting tidbits, including some fine carved rocks. Guides are available for S30.

There are a couple of circuits available to visitors. The first loop includes a visit to the museum and the Huaca Las Balsas ruins, while on the second 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.

From Chiclayo combis (S2.50) depart from the corner of Leguia and Belaúnde, north of the center, every 10 minutes from 5am to 9pm. You can also catch one from Lambayeque (ask at the Brüning Museum). Guided tours from Chiclayo cost around S40 per person, excluding admission fees.

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