The North Coast and Northern Highlands Travel Guide

The North Coast and Northern Highlands Sights

Chan Chan

  • Ctra. Huanchaco, 5 km (3 miles) northwest of Trujillo Map It
  • Trujillo
  • Archaeological Site/Ruins
  • Fodor's Choice

Published 02/07/2017

Fodor's Review

With its strange, honeycomb-like walls and labyrinth of wavelike parapets, this sprawling ancient capital is the largest adobe city in the world. Its surreal geometry once held boulevards, aqueducts, gardens, palaces, and some 10,000 dwellings. Within its precincts were nine royal compounds, one of which, the royal palace of Tschudi, has been partially restored and opened to the public. Although the city began with the Moche civilization, the Chimú people took control of the region 300 years later and expanded the city to its current size. Although less known than the Incas, who conquered them in 1470, the Chimú were the second-largest empire in South America. Their territory stretched along 1,000 km (620 miles) of the Pacific, from Lima to Tumbes.

Before entering this UNESCO World Heritage site, check out the extensive photographic display of the ruins at the time of discovery and postrestoration. Then, begin at the Tschudi complex, the Plaza Principal, a monstrous square where

ceremonies and festivals were held. The throne of the king is thought to have been in front where the ramp is found. The reconstructed walls have depictions of sea otters at their base. From here, head deep into the ruins toward the royal palace and tomb of Señor Chimú. The main corridor is marked by fishnet representations, marking the importance of the sea to these ancient people. You will also find renderings of pelicans, which served as ancient road signs, their beaks pointing to important sections of the city. Just before you arrive at the Recinto Funerario, the funeral chamber of Señor Chimú, you pass a small natural reservoir called a huachaque. Forty-four secondary chambers surround the funeral chamber where the king, Señor Chimú, was buried. In his day it was understood that when you pass to the netherworld you can bring all your worldly necessities with you, and the king was buried with several live concubines and officials and a slew of personal effects, most of which have been looted. Although wind and rain have damaged the city, its size—20 square km (8 square miles)—still impresses.

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Sight Information


Ctra. Huanchaco, 5 km (3 miles) northwest of Trujillo, Trujillo, La Libertad, Peru

Map It




Sight Details:

  • S/20, includes admission to Huaca Arco Iris, Huaca Esmeralda, and Museo del Sitio; ticket valid for 48 hrs

Published 02/07/2017


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