When you consider that these temples were built more than 3,000 years ago, the mud and adobe pyramids, 10 km (6 miles) southeast of Trujillo near the Panamericana Norte and Río Moche, are quite impressive. The Moche people were the first to spread their influence over much of the north coast, and all subsequent civilizations, including the Chimú and Incas, built upon what this group began.
The smaller of the two pyramids—the only one you can actually tour—is
the Huaca de la Luna, the Pyramid of the Moon. The adobe structure is painted with anthropomorphic and zoomorphic reliefs. Many of the figures picture the Moche god Ai-Apaec, whereas others depict fanciful creatures, notably dragons; the use of dragon images may point to cultural and commercial exchange between the cultures of South America and Asia. The Moche expanded the pyramid several times during their reign, covering up the exterior's original reliefs. Since 1990 archaeologists have slowly uncovered the ancient layers of the pyramid. Walk through to its very heart to glimpse some of its first facades. On most days you're able to watch archaeologists as they uncover multicolor murals. Facilities include a flashy new museum not far from the entrance, a small craft market, cafeteria, restrooms, and parking area (free).
Although the nearby Huaca del Sol, or the Pyramid of the Sun, sits along the same entry road, it's far from ready for the public. Standing more than 40 meters (130 feet) high—slightly shorter than it originally stood—with more than 140 million bricks, this is the largest adobe-brick structure in the New World. Scattered around its base are what some archaeologists believe are "signature bricks," with distinctive hand, finger, and foot marks that identify the community whose labor produced the bricks for their lords. Researchers believe that the pyramid served as an imperial palace for the Moche people. Once a storehouse of untold treasures, it has been stripped clean over the centuries by huaqueros. So great were its riches that in 1610 the Spanish diverted the Río Moche to wash away the pyramid's base and lay bare the bounty within. Although many tourists wander around the base, this is not recommended as the structure may not be solid and it's possible to destroy part of this important temple with a single step.