Been to Trujillo, Chiclayo, Lambayeque, Cajamarca, or Chachapoyas, Peru?
May 18, 2016 5:53 PM   Subscribe

I'm considering a trip to northern Peru this summer. I would love to hear from people who have been to Trujillo, Chiclayo, Lambayeque or Cajamarca recently, as well as from anyone who has been to Chachapoyas or to the site of Kuelap. I'm primarily interested in Peruvian archaeology and history, but I also love the Peru of today. I'm proficient in Spanish. What were your impressions? What sorts of day trips and excursions did you go on? Pros and cons?

I was last in Trujillo, Chiclayo and Lambayeque in 1972. I expect they've changed a bit since then.

I've actually witnessed the change in Arequipa, Peru, because I also visited there in 1972 and then returned for extended periods over the past few summers. So I know that the center of Arequipa is still charming, and that the newer parts are interesting too, even if they do stretch forever over what used to be farmland.

I'd like to find out what the northern cities I've mentioned are like today. I am expecting overdevelopment and traffic congestion but I'm hoping for areas of old Peru - churches, plazas, casonas, museums, etc. and for interesting places to visit outside the cities such as the archaeological sites.

I've not been to Cajamarca, but I'm interested in it as a gateway to Chachapoyas and beyond and perhaps for its own charms, too.
posted by A. Davey to Travel & Transportation (4 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I've spent a bit of time in Chiclayo, mostly passing through, and I've visited Chachapoyas a couple of times. I don't really like Chiclayo city, it's interesting enough but has a big petty theft problem and there's not a lot to see there. But, you can do great tours of the museums and archaeological sites from there. I've only ever passed through Trujillo and Lambayeque so can't speak to whether they'd be better places to base yourself. Chiclayo also has nice beaches nearby (Pimentel and Santa Rosa) which I found very nice for brief stays (there's not much to do but relax). And it's a transport hub for getting inland towards the selva, through Jaén, Bagua or Pedro Ruiz.
I love Chachapoyas, it's still a charming small city in a geographically amazing location. I took a day tour from there to Kuélap and highly recommend it, it was stunning and there were literally 4 visitors total during the time I was there (this was in 2008, things may have changed). Tours are easy to get from the plaza in Chachapoyas and apparently other sites such as Gocta falls and other archaeological sites are also good but I haven't visited them yet. I haven't yet been to Cajamarca either but hear it's very good and it has a *lot* of history.
You don't mention heading to the selva, but I'll throw a suggestion in: from Chachapoyas you can travel through Pedro Ruiz, Moyobamba (great hot pools!) and Tarapoto to Yurimaguas by road - ideally by car, you have to change at each stop but it's very easy to find the next car going where you need to go and it's a better way to see the scenery and meet nice locals. I've travelled that route a few times (most recently a few weeks ago) and it is hands down my favourite highway in the world. Any of those towns would make a good stop for a night or two (except Pedro Ruiz, which is really just a crossroads, although rapidly developing into a decent sized town). The scenery is absolutely amazing as you head across San Martin and down into the jungle. From Yurimaguas you can take a small plane or car back to Tarapoto and from there fly back to Chiclayo or Lima. Sure, there's not much archaeology in the selva but it's worth a visit!
posted by nomis at 9:44 PM on May 18, 2016 [2 favorites]

I spent a week in Chachapoyas back in 2012. The charming small city thing holds true, and I was in Kuelap with a total of 14 other people, all Peruvian. I slipped away from the guided tour after a while (they didn't care) and just explored on my own. It was amazing.

The other really cool stuff around Chachapoyas includes Gocta Falls, which is another day trip, the fifth (I think) tallest waterfall in the world. I rode a donkey for most of the trail, and then hiked the last hour or so. Stunning, and once the little group I was with headed back, my friend and I stripped to our skivvies and stood under the water for a while. Absolutely incredible.

There's also day trips to Pueblo de los Muertos and Karajia. Great hike with sarcophagi lining the mountain sides.

I also recommend heading to Tarapoto if you're there, via collective taxis or friendly locals heading your way. The scenery is epic. Tarapoto is turning into a bustling little town on the edge of the jungle, with good restaurants and lots of local art. There are pretty waterfalls all around the edge of town, and if you head out over the last of the foothills you can see the entire Amazon basin spreading out as far as you can see.
posted by ananci at 11:44 PM on May 18, 2016 [2 favorites]

It's been a while since I've been to Trujillo, but not as long as you (2000). I don't recall the city to be very interesting, I much prefered Arequipa, but the sites around are well worth it. I was actually over there for an archealogy fieldtrip.
posted by domi_p at 2:48 PM on May 19, 2016

I was in Chiclayo, Chachapoyas and Trujillo a couple of months ago. Once the cable car to Kuelap is finished, the place is going to be infested with tourists (perhaps not to the extent of Cusco and Machu but still bad) so I'd recommend going as soon as you can. It's already much more busy than what others are reporting. But the site was fascinating and easily doable in a day - the BBC episode of Lost Kingdoms of South America was very informative too. Gocta definitely worth seeing too and an organised tour is unnecessary also.

Trujillo isn't as boring a city as you'd think but you're right in that the highlights are the archaeological sites nearby. All are easily visited independently using public transport apart from the El Brujo Archaeological Complex. In Huacachina, try to eat at Mococho.

Chiclayo is certainly congested but still a nice place to visit and again, the nearby ruins and museums are definitely worth a trip. Again, I'd definitely do this independently if you can and it's all perfectly straightforward in collectivos if you have rudimentary Spanish.
posted by turkeyphant at 8:48 AM on May 22, 2016 [1 favorite]

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