I was very excited to add Trujillo to our around the world trip. There were a few interesting things to see in the city that many travelers skip over, bypassing to see the larger, more visited sites.
When we arrived we saw the difference of a city with a heavily tourist base vs. one without. While it was not bad, there was just less in the way for travelers, especially those with horrible Spanish such as ourselves. One really good thing about the city was how walkable everything was. The only time that we took any sort of vehicle to get around is when we arrived and visited the ruins which were several miles outside of the city. This was a good thing since many of the taxis are quite old, some of which look downright dangerous to be on the road.
The local kids often looked at us in extreme interest and practiced their English saying “hello” when they passed on us the street, then giggled hilariously when we said hello back.
The first thing that we did when we arrived was headed down to the historical center of town. We were impressed with how well preserved everything was. All of the buildings around the square maintained their original facade. The first day the blue and white building was getting a fresh coat of paint. When we returned 2 days later, we were able to snap a few great shots in front of the freshly painted, bright building.
The sidewalks in the middle of the square were polished stone which looked much cleaner than the traditional concrete. Since it is not a huge tourist town, the square was not overly crowded, something that we really liked since we wanted to take a few pictures without a bunch of people around.
Finally, there was a great police presence in the area, something that made both of us feel extra secure.
One of the main reasons that I wanted to visit Trujillo was to see the Chan Chan ruins. They looked extremely interesting from the online pictures I saw as they are ruins made out of sand, not the more common rock. They looked massive with lots of great opportunities to take photos, our favorite kind of place.
To save money, we took a shared bus (combi), to the ruins. We just had to flag one down on the street and get off when we got to our destination point. For a mere 1.8 soles or 55 cents each, we took a 30 minute ride out to the ruins. We got dropped off on the road which led to Chan Chan. From there we had to walk 2 kilometers or about 1.2 miles to get to the entry. There were cab drivers that were waiting but I didn’t mind the walk since it was an easy flat walk on a semi-paved road.
We each paid our 10 sol or $3 entry fee and headed in. On the way in, we got a few hard sells to take a guided tour. We declined this not only because it was expensive at 40 sols or $12, but also because while I am sure that the history is fascinating, tours can always be hit or miss depending on the guide – add in a different language and the odds were not in our favor.
Once we entered the ruins, I could tell I was going to be a little disappointed. There were a lot of things roped off, something I understand from a preservation perspective, but from a photo perspective, it kills a site for me. Many of the pictures that I had seen online made it look like there were massive idols and towering walls where you could take your photos. The reality, while interesting, was hardly impressive. Additionally, everything that looked interesting was re-created, not original.
We went on a Friday and it must have been a popular time of the year for field trips. There had to have been about 5 groups of school children wandering the ruins. This was fine for us as they kept moving at a good pace, something that is required to keep their attention. We still had quite a few opportunities to take photos without anyone in our way which is always our goal.
Included in the admission fee was entry to the Chan Chan museum which was down the road. We decided since we had time we would check it out. While we had originally planned to walk, when we realized that the very high speed road didn’t even have a shoulder, we flagged down a combi and paid 1 sol or 30 cents total for a quick trip down the road.
We usually aren’t museum people and this museum didn’t do much to change our minds. It was not overly interesting and there really wasn’t much to see. We were just happy that this was included in our ticket price and we didn’t have to pay more to see it.
If you ever visit Chan Chan, make sure that you apply sunscreen even if it is an overcast day. We barely had any sun and came back with red necks and rosy noses.
Right across from our hostel there were quite a few different massage parlors. One of them had pricing outside which showed a massage for 25 sols or $7.50 for an hour. I decided that after all of our bad beds, sleeping on busses, carrying bags and walking quite a bit that I deserved to splurge. Andy has never really been a fan of massages so he did not join in on the fun.
Once I entered the massage parlor, I realized that it was a blind massage parlor. I had read about these in other countries and always found them fascinating. They train the blind to become masseuses, an occupation which does not require vision. This way, the blind can support themselves and their families by working.
I didn’t know what to expect going into my first blind massage and have to say that it was a little bit odd. The male masseuse told me to keep on my bra and underwear, I later realized this was his way of knowing where certain parts of my body were and where he needed to stop. There were times during the massage where he would reach out and touch my shoulder or foot to see exactly what my positioning was. While this should be expected for someone who can’t see, it was somewhat odd and took away from the relaxation of the massage.
His technique was different and sometimes quite strange. In the end it wasn’t bad since he did work out a lot of tension that I had in my back. While I’m glad that I was able to help the cause, I’m not sure if I would return to a blind massage parlor in the future.
Huaca de la Luna
After our disappointing visit to Chan Chan, we were happy to hear stories of other travelers who had visited both Chan Chan and Huaca de la Luna (the pyramid), raving about the pyramid and saying that they didn’t love Chan Chan.
In keeping with our trend of traveling local, we took shared public transportation there. We were fortunate enough to get the front seat as the rear of the van must have fit about 17 people at its most crowded. The combi was even cheaper than going to Chan Chan, only charging us 1.5 sols or 46 cents each for the 40 minute ride.
Once we arrived, we paid our 30 sol or $9 admission fee. This fee covered the 20 sol admission to the park as well as the 10 sol admission to the museum. While we both considered skipping the museum, we are glad that we didn’t since this one was done extremely well. There were a number of pottery pieces, jewelry and human bones on display. We would have taken pictures of some of these elaborate pieces but photography was not allowed.
Afterwards, we headed over to the pyramid to check it out. The lady that took our tickets told us to meet up with a group. We did as she said and were quickly kicked out as it was a private tour group. After standing around for another minute, we gave up and went to the park on our own. It wasn’t until we came back down and read the rules that we learned that this is strictly prohibited. All groups require a tour guide. Whoops!
We were there on a Saturday and expected it to be extremely busy, especially after all the people that we saw when we were at the Chan Chan ruins the day before. Surprisingly, while it was busy, things weren’t too crazy. I’m sure that the fact everyone else was with a guided tour helped since there would be times where we would be the only ones around, something that was great for photos.
We loved how the pyramid was partially indoors and partially outdoors. It is interesting how this was done as it is a work in progress and is built out to protect the most fragile pieces from the elements. The pyramid is still being excavated, so as the workers continue to find treasures, they will continue to build out coverings accordingly.
In addition to Huaca de la Luna, the pyramid that we saw, there is also Huaca del Sol, another pyramid which has not yet been excavated yet. This was viewed from a distance but didn’t look too impressive, more just like a mound of dirt.
It was extremely interesting to see these ruins which are older than the Incan ruins that we will see when we arrive at Machu Picchu. It is amazing to me how much detail had been preserved in the ruins themselves as well as many of the pottery pieces that were found within the walls.
We were glad that we added Trujillo to our trip. We saw some really cool things and broke up what would have been an excessively long bus ride.
Our only issues with Trujillo are their lack of breakfast options and traffic noise.
Since our hostel didn’t serve breakfast, every morning we had to come up with something to eat. There were not many restaurants open in the morning so our options consisted of food that you would typically eat at lunch (fried chicken, empanadas, etc.) or a more traditional breakfast for around 20 sols or $6, around 4x what a lunch would typically cost. We always ended up going to the grocery store to get rolls, fruit and yogurt.
Before we arrived in Trujillo I read about the traffic noise and how bad it was. There was actually a bill in the Peruvian legal system to remove honking except in cases of emergency. This bill fell by the wayside and horns are used constantly to draw attention. While I was able to convert this into white noise and stopped hearing it, Andy was driven crazy by this.
We saw everything that we needed to see in Trujillo so we have no plans to return. If you plan to see just the sites, you can see everything in 1 jam packed day or a more reasonable 1.5-2 day schedule to allow for a little down time.