5 Reasons to Visit Northern Peru

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Day 253: Piura, Peru

Making my way from Ecuador to Peru I was surprised at how few people had advice for what to see and do. Apparently after dirty Mancora, most people make their way South to Lima.

But Northern Peru has a lot to offer and I took a few weeks to find its highlights:

21 SWEET TREATS TO DISCOVER: Peru Fruit

1) Mancora

It’s a typical surf town but the weather is fantastically delightful. If you can’t stand the barefooted backpackers just head 15 minutes along the coast with the locals to find chilled beach time.

Lord Sipan Museum

2) Chiclayo

This city is noted for thieves so keep your valuables close. There’s no reason to stay a long time but you must visit the nearby exhibit in Lambayeque.

The Lord Sipan collection is considered the “King Tutankamon of the Americas” and lives up to the hype with a vast collection of copper, old and silver in impeccable condition.

Unfortunately you cannot take photos as National Geographic owns the rights but you can also take a day trip to the actual tomb which is currently being excavated.

Cumbe Mayo

3) Cajamarca

I stumbled upon Cajamarca by accident. On the way to Chiclayo the woman sitting next to me on the bus insisted that I head here and wrote it down so I wouldn’t forget it.

A beautiful town in the mountains famous for cheese and chocolate, the altitude did bother me for a few days but what I loved was that I only saw one other backpacker while there, almost all the tourism consists of people from neighboring towns.

There are great $5 half-day tour options to nearby wonders such as natural hot springs and a number or archaeological sites.  

I’m not much of a hiker and found it quite enjoyable.

I really enjoyed Cumbe Mayo with its king and queen natural rock formations (above) a pre-Columbian aqueduct and Ventanillas de Otuzco, a pre-inca necropolis.

Chan Chan Ruins

4) Trujillo

One of the prettier colonial cities in the area that is somehow unmarred by the proliferation of casinos in the area.

The city is safe and a great base for visiting more ancient ruins.

Although I don’t like tours, I could not pass up the convenience of another $5 tour.

The big draw is Chan Chan (above), ruins of an ancient Chimor mud city, but I really enjoyed the Moche Pyramids (lead photo).

La Casa Tejas Ceviche

5) Piura

One of the few ugly cities that I had trouble finding beauty in.

Hostels are hard to find and decent internet is impossible. But I refused to pass up this city as it is known for its culinary prowess in Northern Peru.

Residents take food seriously and often complain that Lima has stolen its cuisine and is now selling it as its own.

I visited La Casa Tejas, a famous cevicheria on the outskirts of the city and was not disappointed. Conchas negras is now on my top 10 food I’ve eaten.

Now if that isn’t a reason to come here I don’t know what is…

Join the Conversation

  1. Rob - SHABL says:

    Looks awesome! As a fellow canuck, I think it’s cool you’re beating the weather too. Ottawa seems cold and icey!

    Happy Holidays from Arusha|!|

  2. Camels & Chocolate says:

    I love reading all your South America posts and seeing all your pictures as this is one region of the world in which I am woefully untraveled. I’ll just start planning my massive tour de South Africa from your blog alone! =)

  3. Ayngelina Author says:

    @Alexis

    You’ve never had ceviche? You must read the post before this one, it’s easy to make it yourself!

    1. Peruvian Lily says:

      We are traveling to Northern Peru next month supposedly when the crowds begin to die down. Hopefully, we’ll be able to savor in as many seafood restaurants as possible. Will fly into Piura then backpack our way South to Lima.

      1. Ayngelina Author says:

        I didn’t find the crowds bad at all but if you’re going make sure you head to Cajamarca, my favourite place by far.

  4. That dish at the bottom looks wonderful! I’m glad you stuck around to take that photo 😉

  5. Thanks for this post ! There is indeed not a lot of tips about Northern Peru. It’s too bad as it looks interesting (and Cajamarca gorgeous !). And I’d love to taste the food 🙂 Never had a Ceviche before…

  6. @aygngelina : Nice ! For some reasons I missed that post. I’ll try to make it for my parents during the holidays. Thanks !

  7. You’re right, one doesn’t hear much about Northern Peru. Cajamarca looks really interesting.

  8. @Sophie

    Definitely my favourite place, I was literally the only gringo there.

  9. Great that you have pointed this out. It seems that nearly every country has a vastly underappreciated part.

  10. I have been trying to get to Peru for over a decade but for some reason, other places keep winning out. I’m really looking forward to seeing where else you go. Thanks for highlighting a part of Peru I’d never even considered.

  11. Dan and I took a different route through northern Peru from Ecuador (via Chachapoyas), but really loved Cajamarca and wish we could have visited Trujillo. That last photo makes me really miss Peruvian food!!

  12. Great post and great photos! Enjoyed it.

  13. The north of Peru was the area we most wanted to visit, but as Simon had tons of work on we had to skip the overland route and fly to Colombia instead. You can even travel all the way to the Amazon by bus and multi-day boat from the northern region – that sounded really interesting.

  14. Nice roundup of northern Peru sites. If you haven’t already, you must read Kim MacQuarrie’s “Last Days fo the Incas”…much of the early story is about Spanish landfall in Piura and especially the initial slaughter at Cajamarca. One of the best books I’ve read in the past couple years. It will put your time in Cajamarca in a completely different perspective.
    Jason

  15. Ayngelina Author says:

    @Christine
    If only I knew a guy that walked around half-naked carrying beer…

    @Josef
    If you like archaeology and want a really affordable trip do not skip Northern Peru. Definitely less crowded and full of very cool sites.

  16. I’m one of those people. I suck. I wish I stayed in SA for longer as you are

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      @Lindsay

      You could always come back and visit me. I will be here until June…

  17. It looks awesome! You have me convinced!

  18. Too bad you don’t have a hot, shirtless guy to carry a case of beer for you. In case you forgot about that pic…

  19. Jozef Maxted says:

    Wow, we weren’t planning to venture that far north into Peru when we go, but now I think we might. Didn’t realise there was so much to see and we as well as eveything seems to be such good value there.

  20. Claire (Travel Funny Travel Light) says:

    Cheese and chocolate. Say no more.

  21. Loved the photos — Cajamarca sounds fantastic.

  22. Lindsay aka @_thetraveller_ says:

    I wish! I don’t think I’ll be going anywhere till Sept 2011… but you never know!

  23. I missed Cajamarca but heard from other travelers it was great.

    I hadn’t heard about Chiclayo being famous for crime. I was there three days with no problems personally, but I did take a minivan to Lambayeque and a thief hopped on, snatched a Peruvian female passenger’s purse, and then ran off so maybe you are right about that…

    I guess you didn’t get to Chachapoyas, but I absolutely loved that place with so much to see around it, especially the fantastic ruins of Kuelap. Also great hiking for those who like that and an alternative route to Cajamarca from there.

    You didn’t mention Huanchaco when you wrote about Trujillo, but it is a place most backpackers choose to use as a base for Trujillo and surrounding sites of interest. The water is cold and it is a much bigger place than Mancora, but it is a beach town and thus attractive for those who like that.

  24. Ayngelina Author says:

    @Jeff

    I was only in Huanchaco for an afternoon and beaches are so generic that I didn’t really consider it a highlight or a reason to visit Northern Peru as you could get something similar in many countries.

    @Globetrottergirls

    If you surf then you’ll probably like it, although even I heard surfers complain that there are a few that catch waves and don’t give others chances. But if you have to go out of your way I’d say skip it, it’s nice to pass through but disappointing if it’s a destination.

  25. Inca Tourism says:

    Peru is great. North Peru is incredible, but you should also visit South Peru. Not only Lima. There is Machu Picchu Inca city)in Cusco and The Colca Valley in Arequipa were you can see the condor fly and The Titicaca Lake in Puno with its floating islands, were you can get in touich with the andean communities and share their way of life. Also there is also Tacna and many uncrowded places. Peru is amazing. It has seashore, andes, jungle, beautifull landscapes, great people, history. I love Peru. I´m glad you like it too.

  26. Globetrottergirls says:

    We are getting so excited for South America, especially Peru!! Cajamarca sounds like a place we’d love, not so sure about Mancora though after reading your post on it – would you still say it is worth a visit?

  27. Lorna - the roamantics says:

    sold! great pics- yo quiero conchas negras ahora 🙂

  28. My sister in law is from Peru so my brother in law has spent a lot of time there. Indeed, there is a lot more to the country than Lima and Machu Pichu and there is so much that she could share about her country! Thanks for opening people’s eyes to other parts of Peru!

  29. Yum! Ceviche!!! The hiking trails sound awesome, I’d totally be up for something like that!

  30. I’m dying to go surfing in Peru!

  31. I’m planning to visit Peru sometime in the future and your post help me to start thinking about why and where to more and more. I love reading them!

  32. location lloret de mar says:

    Once again a great post..i love to read your blog…Your 5 reasons to visit Northern Peru are really good..

  33. Nice post. There is a lot more to the country than Lima and Machu Pichu and there is so much that she could share about her country! Thanks for opening people’s eyes to other parts of Peru!

  34. Great post! I love, love your post because I have never really thought a lot about planning to travel in S. America (although I want to) I have put other regions on the list first. It’s great to still be reading about all the amazing things it has to offer and I know where I’ll be when it comes time to plan my trip!

    By the way, so glad to hear that you still gave Piura a a chance because even ugly is worth good food!!!

  35. Jill - Jack and Jill Travel The World says:

    Nice roundup. Cajamarca sounds delightful. How was the cheese the chocolate the town is supposed to be famous for?

  36. Matt | YearAroundTheWorld says:

    Great shots as usual! I’ll be swinging by that area now too. 🙂

  37. That ceviche looks delicious! I recently tried a new cevichería here in Santiago that says it’s from Trujillo, and I really liked the photos they used as art. Now I see they’re photos of Chan Chan.

  38. I wish I had more time to go to Northern Peru. Great to know some facts about these places. Hopefully will visit them in the future.

  39. ciki/agentcikay says:

    Those 5 reasons are good enough for me! 😀

  40. Laurel @Expat in Germany says:

    Haven’t made it to Peru yet but this post makes it very tempting – one day!

  41. Well, I’ve never heard of any of these places so I think you’re right about them being under-traveled! Thanks for the neat summary!

  42. Caz Makepeace says:

    Peru is quickly becoming a must see place for me. thanks for letting me know some more great things about this country

  43. Nice post with excellent pictures. The pictures alone would make me want to go there, because they show how much character the place has!

  44. Cheryl Howaes says:

    Sigh! I want to come back to Peru right NOW and see these places. I’ll definitely refer back to this list in the future.

  45. Makes me want to visit Peru. Nice to know what each city has to offer.

  46. Really cool! You had me at #3… Cajamarca will be on my list for sure. I’m with you- the fewer tourists and gift shops the better 🙂

    What’s next on your itinerary?

  47. Aside from the beaches, does anyone know of flower farms to visit in Northern Peru? I understand Peru grows many unique flower varieties that can’t be found anywhere else. Orchids was one type of flower I heard about.

  48. You take some of the most awesome photos. I love that sandals pic. So much color.

  49. I’m convinced- definitely would love to try the Conchas negras! thanks for sharing!

  50. I’m here, in Piura, now. This place is shit. No good affordable place to stay, so I opted for an expensive hotel and after walking and walking, could not find decent food anywhere….not sure what you are talking about…..been in Peru for weeks, went to Bolivia, down to Chile and back to Peru and now in Norther Peru. I’m soooo disappointed! Can’t even find a tourist office anywhere….the hotel was barely helpful.

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      Well I don’t think anyone would tell you it’s a beautiful city, it is definitely not. But it is home to the best ceviche in Peru so I’d have some ceviche and then move up onto Cajamarca which is stunning.

  51. Northen Peru is awesome. The two most spectacular places in the north of Peru (in my opinion) are Huaraz and Chachapoyas..

    Chachapoyas is one of the undiscovered tourist attractions of South America. All the attractions of the region are pretty far from the city. There are awesome places without tourists as “The Giant waterfalls forest” in Cuispes or Sarcophagi of “Cerro El Tigre” and others more visited by tourists as, Kuelap, Karajía, Condors lagoon or Gocta.

    Huaraz, however, is one of the towns with the best views on the planet. On a sunny day you can appreciate, the Chopilcalqui (6,354 m.), the Copa (6,188 meters), the Ranrapalca (6,162 meters), the Ocshapalca (5,888 meters), the Vallunaraju (5,686 m.), The Ishinca (5.530 mts), and a little further away, Huascaran (6,768 meters) besides the four summits of Huandoy (6,395 meters). A nature spectacle difficult to equalize.
    In Amazonas region are

  52. This is awesome! I love Peru, and I can’t wait to check out some of these cool spots when I go back in April! Thanks so much for all the info!

  53. Ana Panizo says:

    Excellent article! I loved to visit Peru, especially the north of the country. I loved Mancora and Trujillo because of the delicious food and nice people. Also Trujillo is very nice because of its culture, I really liked Chan Chan, it is amazing! I recommend to travel by bus to Trujillo because is cheap and near to several interesting cities.

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