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Trujillo, Peru

A Guide to the Colonial City of Trujillo on Peru’s North Coast

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Trujillo Cathedral

Trujillo Cathedral

Photo © Tony Dunnell

On December 6, 1534, the Spanish conquistador Diego de Almagro founded the settlement of Trujillo de Nueva Castilla in a region previously ruled by two powerful pre-Inca civilizations. The Moche and then the Chimú once flourished in this part of northern Peru, dominating large swathes of the coast from their heartlands in present-day Trujillo.

The remains of these once great cultures surround the modern-day city of Trujillo, capital of the La Libertad region, while the city center is blessed with some of the most attractive colonial architecture in Peru.

Why Visit Trujillo, Peru?

The main attraction within Trujillo is the city’s historic center. The focal point is the elegant Plaza de Armas, but the surrounding streets are also home to a wealth of colonial- and republican-era casonas (mansions) and numerous churches. It’s easy to spend an entire day strolling through the streets within the old city walls, camera at the ready for an almost endless stream of photo opportunities.

There are also three museums of note in the city center: the Archaeology Museum (Junín 682), the Museo del Juguete (Toy Museum; Independencia 705) and the worth-a-visit-because-it’s-weird Zoological Museum (San Martín 368).

Trujillo’s main tourist attractions lie beyond the city limits. The sprawling former Chimú capital of Chan Chan -- one of 11 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Peru -- is a short trip beyond the city center. It’s certainly worth a visit, but most of the adobe-brick site has been heavily eroded over the years. The scale of the city is impressive, but only a small part has been restored (some would say over-restored).

The Huacas del Sol y de la Luna complex, meanwhile, should not be missed by any travelers venturing along the north coast of Peru. The Moche site consists of two massive pyramid-like structures, one of which (the Huaca de la Luna) has been lovingly excavated and preserved, with beautiful murals along many of its walls.

Other archaeological sites near Trujillo include the Huaca Arco Iris (also known as the Huaca del Dragón), Huaca Esmerelda and the Huaca el Brujo, the latter requiring a lengthier trip (about 37 miles / 60 km) from the city.

If you need a break from colonial churches and pre-Inca ruins, head to the nearby beach resort town of Huanchaco. Located just a few miles from Trujillo, this popular seaside destination has a good selection of hotels and restaurants, all of which help cater to the summertime influx of local and foreign tourists. Despite the “resort town” tag, Huanchaco is also a cultural destination. The town is especially famous for its caballitos de totora, reed boats that have been used by Peruvian fisherman for more than 3,000 years.

Eating in Trujillo

Trujillo is one of Peru’s culinary hotspots. The coastal location gives access to plenty of fresh seafood, while duck and goat dishes, as well as a plethora of hearty soups, are often on the menu in the city’s traditional eateries.

Some recommended restaurants include:

  • El Rincon de Vallejo (Orbegoso 303) -- A good option for traditional lunchtime menus, located in an historic setting just a block from the Plaza de Armas.
  • Sal y Pimienta (Colón 201) -- A family orientated restaurant with local dishes and good ceviche at reasonable prices.
  • La Casona (San Martín 677) -- Cheap and cheerful, this family-run restaurant is a good option for budget travelers.
  • Los Luise’s (Bolivar 526 and San Agustín 120) -- These two diner-style restaurants behind the central market serve big chunks of pork and other quick eats. This is also a good place for a reasonably priced beer.
  • Cevicheria Don Rulo (Las Gemas 181, Santa Ines) -- Located outside the historic center but definitely worth a visit, this place serves giant plates of ceviche and other seafood dishes.
  • El Cuatrero Parrillada (Francisco Borja 187, La Merced) -- Also outside the historic center, but worth the trip if you’re craving slabs of meat.

Hostels and Hotels in Trujillo

Surprisingly, Trujillo seems to have a shortage of respectable accommodation options for budget backpackers, especially in the historic center. Many of the cheaper options are best avoided due to a lack of cleanliness, service and security. One of the better options I came across was Hostal El Virrey (Jr. Grau 727), but I’d recommend spending a little more for one of the following hotels:

  • Hotel Colonial (Jr. Independencia 618) -- The Hotel Colonial is an excellent option right in the center of Trujillo, with rooms to suit all travel budgets.
  • La Hacienda (Jr. San Martín 780) -- Another central option in a colonial setting, La Hacienda is a comfortable mix of old and new. Oh, and guests are allowed to use the hotel’s attached saunas.

Of course, you might want to splurge for something extra special, in which case it’s hard to beat the Hotel Libertador (Jr. Independencia 485). Located right on the Plaza de Armas, the Libertador has few rivals in terms of quality, comfort and location.

When to Visit

Trujillo has a pleasant climate all year round, a fact that has given the city its poetic nickname: La Ciudad de la Eterna Primavera (The City of Eternal Spring).

It’s also known as one of Peru’s cultural capitals and one of the nation’s main centers for marinera dancing and the Peruvian Paso horse, both of which are sometimes on display in the Plaza de Armas on Sundays. Major annual events include the Festival Internacional de la Primavera (Spring Festival, normally in late September and early October) and the multiday Festival de la Marinera in January.

Safety in Trujillo

Trujillo is widely considered one of the most unsafe cities in Peru, but you should certainly not avoid it due to its less than perfect reputation. For more information about potential risks in Trujillo, read Safety in Trujillo, Peru.

How to Get to Trujillo

By air: Trujillo’s Carlos Martínez de Pinillos International Airport is about 7 miles (11 km) from the city center. Daily flights connect Trujillo with Lima’s Jorge Chávez International Airport. At time of writing, both LAN and TACA airlines also had flights connecting Trujillo with Chiclayo and Piura.

By land: Trujillo is an easy city to get to if you’re traveling in Peru by bus. The Pan-American Highway runs along Peru’s entire coastal strip from north to south, offering easy overland connections from Trujillo north to Chiclayo, Piura and on to the Peru-Ecuador border. The same highway heads south to Lima and all the way to the border with Chile. Many of Peru’s major bus companies -- including Cruz del Sur and Ormeño -- run between Trujillo and other major cities along the highway. Movil Tours is one of the best bus companies for trips east and inland toward Chachapoyas, Moyobamba and Tarapoto.

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