Trujillo is one of the most underrated tourist destinations in Peru and yet there are many interesting things to do in Trujillo. I actually don’t think I know anyone other than myself who’s been there. Most travelers to Peru are so keen on getting to see the treasures of the Sacred Valley of the Inca, to discover Cusco and to explore Machu Picchu, that they completely overlook the North of the country.
To be fair, even I visited Trujillo by pure chance. I stopped there on my way from Ecuador to Lima, because I wanted to break the long journey. I found the city to be incredibly laid back, colorful and interesting.
Curious to discover the many things to do in Trujillo, Peru? Continue reading, as I’ll be sharing everything there is to know – including some tips to plan your visit.
The Best Things To Do In Trujillo, Peru
Pay a visit to Trujillo’s churches
One of the best things to do in Trujillo is certainly taking in the history and culture of the city.
For sightseeing goodness within the city of Trujillo itself, make sure to pay a visit to its numerous historic churches. One of the most beautiful is the 18th-century El Carmen Church, which boasts gleaming gold altars and dozens upon dozens of paintings adorning its walls. Older still is San Agustin, which dates between the 16th and 17th centuries and features a Baroque style altar and a beautifully carved wooden pulpit.
The 17th-century La Merced is also worth a visit. This features a curious mix of architectural styles in its facade, while the interior gleams with Baroque opulence. Certainly not least is Trujillo Cathedral, built in the mid-1600s. With its Rococo interiors and Baroque altarpieces, this bright yellow building should not be missed.
People watch at the Plaza de Armas
The Plaza del Armas (main square) in any town or city in Peru is the place to be if you want to see the comings and goings of the local citizens, and that’s also the case when it comes to the city of Trujillo. It’s a great place to people-watch, especially after dusk. It’s also simply just a great place to take a breather between your sightseeing engagements.
The cathedral is located here, as are a handful of museums. It’s also here that the Independence of Trujillo (from Spain) was declared on 24th December 1820. Because of this Trujillo is considered to be Peru’s first independent city.
The name Plaza del Armas comes from these squares being used as rallying points for citizens, and for handing out weapons (armas), during times of potential threat of attacks.
Explore the ancient site of Chan Chan
Just a short bus ride from the center of town is the ruined city of Chan Chan. Visiting is certainly one of the unmissable things to do in Trujillo. This enormous archeological site stretched out across the Moche Valley, but much of it is yet to be properly excavated. This was once the capital of the Chimu Empire, a civilization that lived in this part of Peru around 1100 AD.
Here visitors can explore the adobe complex, which centers around the partially restored Tschudi Palace with its temples, plazas and cemeteries. The nearby accompanying museum is the ideal place to kick off the trip; here you can delve into the history of Chan Chan, learn about what life was like in the city and see a wealth of different artifacts that have been recovered from the site.
Chan Chan is open Tuesday to Sunday from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm. Admission is 10 PEN (around $2.50 USD). This also includes access to the sites of Huaca Esmerelda and Huaca Arco Iris, both located in Trujillo. To get to Chan Chan from Trujillo, take a colectivo that’s headed for Huanchaco for around 1.5 PEN (around $0.40 USD). Tell the driver that you want to be dropped off at the main gate for Chan Chan. It takes about 15 minutes.
To book your guided day trip to Chan Chan, click here or here.
Make sure to read my post A Guide To Visiting Chan Chan.
Check out Huaca Esmeralda and Huaca Arco Iris
The ancient credentials of Trujillo definitely don’t stop with Chan Chan; there’s much more to see in the area surrounding the city. Huaca Esmerelda, dated to the early development of the Chimu culture (around 900 AD onwards), is one such site. With its three tiers and zoomorphic adornments, Huaca Esmerelda is thought to have been used as a palace by a Chimu lord.
Getting here is easy as colectivos leave Trujillo every few minutes in the direction of the site.
Another site that can be visited on the same day is Huaca Arco Iris, also known as Huaca del Dragon. This adobe structure features an impressive wall with friezes characteristic to the Chimu culture. In a word, it’s stunning.
Marvel at the Huaca del Sol and Huaca de la Luna
The Huaca del Sol (Temple of the Sun) and Huaca de la Luna (Temple of the Moon) are some of the must-see archeological sites in the area and among the most interesting ruins in the country. Dating back over 700 years to the Moche period, the temples are older even than the nearby Chan Chan site.
Considering its age, the complex is incredibly well preserved and makes for a fascinating day of exploring the large adobe mounds in an arid desert setting just 5 miles (8 km) south of Trujillo, on the south bank of the Río Moche.
The main draw here are the beautiful multicolored friezes outside of the Huaca de La Luna. It’s thought this was the Moche capital’s main ceremonial center. The smaller Huaca del Sol was the administrative center. Between the two structures, the open desert was once home to residences and other buildings. Although the inside of the Huaca del Sol is unfortunately closed to visitors, an English-speaking guide can help bring this city to life.
Admission to the two Huacas is 10 PEN (around $2.50 USD) and that includes a guided visit.
The easiest way to get there is either by taxi or on a guided tour. To book your guided day trip to the Huacas, click here.
Take a day trip to the Laguna de Conache
While Huacachina is well known for its sandboarding credentials, there’s more than just one place to carve up the dunes in Peru. Case in point: Laguna de Conache. This beautiful lake is worth a trip in itself for the wildlife and scenery, but the fact that you can also go sandboarding here makes it all the better.
So if you find yourself in town, a trip to the (fairly) nearby lake is definitely one of the most fun things to do in Trujillo and can be arranged for something around 60 Peruvian Soles (around $16 USD), which includes transport and an experienced instructor. Being able to cool off with a dip in Conache Lake itself is the cherry on top!
Soak up sun, sea and sand at Huanchaco Beach
Staying in Trujillo and finding yourself in dire need of a slice of beach time? Then among the things to do in Trujillo, make a beeline for Huanchaco Beach. This relaxed coastal locale consists of a sizable stretch of sand, a pier, and a nice town with several great places to eat and some historical sites to see, too.
If you’re into surfing, however, you’re in luck: Huanchaco is where it’s at for catching a wave. It may not have the best surf spots in the world (or in Peru, for that matter), but the main swell (to the right of the pier) still attracts a whole bunch of surfers.
While you’re there, no doubt you’ll catch sight of a Caballito de Totora. Roughly translating to “Little Reed Horses”, these boats have been used by fishermen in Peru for the past 3,000 years – something which still takes place in Huanchaco.
Often cited as the first surfboard, these reed vessels are part of the reason that Huanchaco was made a World Surfing Reserve in 2013. Some people even consider that Huanchaco – not Hawaii (and not California) – is the birthplace of surfing.
And if you’re really into surfing, take a further trip to Chicama to ride the longest waves on Earth.
Discover El Brujo (aka the Wizard’s Complex)
For some more fascinating historical finds there’s El Brujo or the Wizard Complex. Located less than an hour’s drive north of Trujillo in the Chicama Valley, the ancient archeological site has impressive Moche structures that date back almost 2,000 years.
Three huacas or sacred spaces dominate the site: Huaca Prieta (thought to be the oldest), Huaca Cortada and Huaca Cao Viejo (the biggest). One of the main attractions here is the Huaca Cao pyramid where the mummified remains of a 1,500-year-old, tattooed woman were discovered.
Dubbed Senora de Cao, it’s thought she was a woman of high status as she was found buried with numerous pieces of golden jewelry and wrapped in a cotton funerary bundle. Some even consider her discovery as evidence for the first female ruler of the Moche civilization. She can be seen in the The Cao Museum along with other exquisite pieces of pottery and interesting everyday objects.
Admission to the site is 10 PEN (around $2.50 USD). You can get to El Brujo by a combination of public transport and mototaxi from Trujullo. First hop on a colectivo to Chocope, then take a bus to Magdalena de Cao and finally a mototaxi. Alternatively, opt for a guided tour that includes transport. You can book it here.
Sample some ceviche
If you’re a foodie, one of the unmissable things to do in Trujillo is sampling fresh ceviche. This local speciality made from fresh raw fish that has been deliciously cured in citrus juices is particularly good in Trujillo. One of the best places to try it out is the very popular Mar Picante, a stylish yet local spot with a menu that will keep you wanting to come back for more.
Head over to this friendly eatery for lunch or dinner. One of the most highly recommended menu items has got to be the ceviche mixto (mixed ceviche), which comes with fish, scallops, crabs and onions all marinated in lime juice and atop yucca and sweet potato. Just make sure to arrive early – it’s almost always busy with hungry customers!
Dine in style at El Celler de Cler
Sometimes you just want to treat yourself to a nice meal when your on a trip. If you’re craving a cocktail and something a little bit upscale then you should head to El Celler de Cler. Tucked away in the city center, the restaurant is all about old world charm and a chic atmosphere. The whole place is decorated with attention to detail – note the ’50s cash register and the carefully collected European antiques on show.
The menu consists of fresh pasta dishes, frills and modern twists on Peruvian classics. Head up to the second floor balcony and enjoy a memorable meal overlooking the city, whether you’re traveling solo or with a partner.
Practical Information To Plan Your Trip To Trujillo, Peru
How to get to Trujillo
Trujillo is easy to reach from various parts of Peru. Being a major city, it is really well connected with numerous bus routes that run to a number of different transit hubs throughout the region. Here are a few details on how you can reach this northwestern city.
If you’re short on time, the best way to reach Trujillo is by air in Peru. Flights between Lima and Trujillo leave regularly throughout the day, around every two hours. Flights take just over an hour but are much more expensive when compared with taking the bus.
By far the cheapest and most popular way to travel around Peru, getting to Trujillo by bus is made easy thanks to the Pan-American Highway. Several bus companies cruise along the coast to Trujillo from Lima, with the trip taking between 8 and 10 hours.
Prices vary depending on the level of comfort you choose and you can expect anywhere up to 15 buses leaving around the clock. Make sure to check where the bus will be dropping you off in Trujillo, the final destion in the city may vary depending on the bus company.
If you want to travel at your own pace then a private transfer could be a good idea for you. The Pan-American Highway makes hiring a driver to take you directly to Trujillo easy, but it can also be costly. However this is a great option if you’re traveling with a group and are able to split the cost. It’s also a nice idea if you want to stop off and visit places such as the archeological site of Sechín near Casma along the way.
Where to stay in Trujillo
Luxury – Costa del Sol Trujillo Centro
If you’re really looking for somewhere to splash the cash in Trujillo, you should consider staying at this sumptuous accommodation option. Situated on the Plaza de Armas itself, and occupying a historical building, the Costa del Sol Trujillo Centro mixes period features with modern luxuries. Think chic courtyard and swimming pool, well appointed rooms with polished bathrooms, and even an onsite restaurant and bar. For those who want to luxuriate in their rooms, there’s room service offered around the clock.
Mid-range – Gran Bolivar Hotel
The ideal mid-range option, this charming hotel is ideally located a short walk from the Trujillo’s main square. Inside, the historic hotel has been tastefully decorated with dark wood flooring, high beamed ceilings and antique furnishings. Guest rooms are clean and comfortable with modern en-suite bathrooms and crisp white linen.
Facilities at the accommodation include a small but useful fitness room, a restaurant for meals throughout the day and a chic bar, ideal for evening drinks. Nearby sites include Pizarro Walk, while the Airport is only a 15-minute drive away.
Budget – My Friend Surf Hostal
A great budget option for backpackers and independent travelers in Trujillo, My Friend Surf Hostal offers up a comfortable, friendly place to stay in the city. As you might already be able to tell from the name, this affordable hostel is also an ideal spot for those who are keen on surfing; and if you’re a first timer, lessons can be arranged onsite.
Further helping its budget credentials is the complimentary breakfast served up daily, with the happy hour and pisco sour service at its bar being an added bonus!
If you are planning a trip to Peru, these posts will be useful:
- A Classic Peru Itinerary
- The Best Things To Do In Peru
- The Best Peru Travel Tips
- The Best Time To Visit Peru