Guide to Chiclayo & the Lord of Sipan Burial
Chiclayo is on the northern coast of Peru and is the last big city before you reach Ecuador. For visitors, holidays in Chiclayo itself don’t offer all that much to see and do but the surrounding areas are an entirely different matter...
Until relatively recently it was widely thought (outside of Peru) that the north didn’t have much archaeological importance, this all changed in 1987 when Dr Walter Alva discovered the tomb of the Lord of Sipan... His skeleton was discovered in a wooden sarcophagus and was surrounded by gold and silver jewellery, weapons, armour and much more. There were also the skeletons of a llama, dog and two young women by his side and a warrior at his feet complete with golden shield.
You can visit the site itself, but the pick of the finds are exhibited in the superb Royal Tombs Museum in nearby Lambayeque, which is arguably the most important (and certainly one of the best-curated) museums in South America. Also just outside of the city are the colossal adobe pyramids of Tucume, another hugely important pre-Inca site.
What to See and Do in Chiclayo
The major sites of interest are outside of Chiclayo itself, and public transport is relatively limited so you will need either your own vehicle or to visit them with a driver.
Lord of Sipan Burial (Huaca Rajada)
The Huaca Rajada site is an archaeological complex belonging to the Mochica Culture and is where Dr Walter Alva discovered the Lord of Sipan. A replica of his remains and the accompanying paraphernalia can be seen here as the originals have been moved to the museum for safe keeping.
The Lord of Sipan’s tomb is regarded as the most important archaeological findings anywhere in the last century and has produced some of the most superb pieces ever found in Peru. Although the pick of the finds are now in the Royal Tombs Museum, the site itself is well worth the trip.
Royal Tombs Museum
This impressive pyramid-inspired modern museum was opened in 2003 and is a testament to the hard work and commitment of those working in the area. The building itself was designed by architect Celso Prado as a combination of a museum and a mausoleum to preserve and display the cultural treasures of the Lord of Sipan burial. It’s one of the most sensitive, well thought-out museums in South America and showcases the Sipan exhibits perfectly, giving you time and space to appreciate the sheer quality of the pieces – you’re left in no doubt as to the importance and significance of this excavation.
Peru’s answer to the Valley of the Kings is within easy reach of Chiclayo and is a fascinating site well worth visiting, although you'll need to do it on a tour from Chiclayo. The site at Tucume includes the walls, squares and foundations of buildings from yet another ancient culture (the Lambayeque/Sican culture) but the true draw has to be the 28 huge pyramids. These have understandably contributed to theories about prehistoric contact between South America and the Mediterranean. The lookout on Cerro Purgatorio offers views of the entire site and is a must for some impressive photo opportunities.
Eating Out in Chiclayo
The regional ceviche is definitely one of the dishes you must try while you are here and the local speciality arroz con pato (duck with rice) is pretty good too. Chiclayo doesn’t have a vast selection of restaurants but you can find loads of good places serving set menus if you’re up for trying out a bit of Spanish. The pollerias (chicken joints) around the central park are a good choice for value and people watching, and Chez Maggy at 413 Balta is good too. Both the restaurants at the Gran Hotel and Costa del Sol Hotel are pretty reasonable, and the Fiesta Gourmet on Avenida Salaverry claims to be the best in the north of Peru but is a little pricey and you will need a taxi to get there (about 5 soles).
Getting To and From Chiclayo
There are regular daily flights to Chiclayo from Lima and flights every other day to Tarapoto in the Amazon basin. Both of these journeys take just under an hour and a half. And since June 2016 you have also been able to fly with Copa Airlines directly from Chiclayo to Panama City. This may not seem that helpful, but because KLM code-share with Copa, you can fly with KLM from the UK via Amsterdam to Panama, and start your holiday in Peru in Chiclayo rather than Lima, then fly home from Lima to Amsterdam at the end of the trip.
If you would rather travel overland to or from Chiclayo, there are also daily luxury buses from Lima. These take about 11hrs, and there are also regular good-quality coaches to/from Trujillo every half-hour or so: the journey is smooth and short at 3 hours.
Further afield, there are also long-distance coaches from Chiclayo to Chachapoyas, if you want to include a visit to the cloud forest citadel of Kuelap.
Tailor-made Tours in Chiclayo
All our holidays in Peru are 100% tailormade, so if you'd like to customise any of the tours you see above, or just plan a trip completely from scratch then get in touch and let us know - we'll be delighted to help you plan your perfect holiday in Chiclayo!
Did you know?
If you have some free time during your stay in Chiclayo then an interesting place to visit is the Witches Market, a small section in the south-west corner of the main market. Here Shamans, brujos (witch doctors) and curanderos (healers) can be found selling a fascinating selection of tonics, teas, amulets and medicines for probably any condition you can think of. They will also read cards or your future and even claim to send bad spirits on their way. Whether you choose to buy a monkey skull or love potion or not it’s an experience you won’t forget!