The Lambayeque department, located on the north coast of Peru, is a region of great archaeological importance. Ancient ruins dot the landscape, built by pre-Inca civilizations such as the Moche, Sicán and Chimú cultures.
These sites have been a battleground throughout the last century, their buried treasures sought by both tomb raiders (huaqueros) and archaeologists. Those artifacts that have been saved -- an almost innumerable amount of stunning items -- have been careful housed in Lambayeque’s modern museums.
The four main museums are spread across the department’s principal cities: Chiclayo, Lambayeque and Ferreñafe. It’s easy to visit all four museums independently from Chiclayo (the standard base for tourists); the hard part is deciding which of the four museums to visit if you’re short on time...
Museo Tumbas Reales de Sípan
The Museo Tumbas Reales de Sípan (Royal Tombs of Sípan Museum) has become the principal museum in the department of Lambayeque and one of the main museums in Peru. Inaugurated on November 8, 2002, the impressive building was designed to reflect the pyramid-like sanctuaries of the Moche culture.
The multi-level interior, meanwhile, is a world-class showcase for the region’s many pre-Columbian artifacts. The centerpiece is the Señor de Sipán collection (from the site of the same name, also known as Huaca Rajada, outside Chiclayo), featuring exquisite items taken from the tomb of the Lord of Sipán.
Visitors enter the museum on the top floor before descending to the second and first levels. Tour guides are available for an extra fee -- if you are unfamiliar with the cultures of the north coast, a guide will help you get the most from the museum. Photography is not permitted within the museum.
- Website: www.museotumbasrealessipan.pe
- Address: Av. Juan Pablo Vizcardo y Guzmán N. 895, Lambayeque.
- Opening hours: 9.00 am to 5.00 pm Tuesday to Sunday.
- Entrance fee: S/.10.00 (US$3.70); S/.20 with guide (US$7.40)
The Brüning Museum is also located in Lambayeque, just a few blocks from the Museo Tumbas Reales de Sípan. It’s smaller and less glamorous than its more modern neighbor, but is well worth a visit even if you’ve already seen the Tumbas Reales collection.
Like Tumbas Reales, the Brüning Museum collection features metal, ceramic and textile artifacts from the ancient civilizations of Peru, including the Moche, Chimú and Lambayeque cultures. The museum’s “Gold Room” is the real highlight -- the artistry and wealth of the precious objects is truly, and quite literally, dazzling.
The Brüning Museum has one distinct advantage over the Museo Tumbas Reales: you can take photos of all the artifacts on display.
- Address: Avenida Huamachuco, Lambayeque
- Opening hours: 9 am to 5 pm every day
- Entrance fee: S/.8 (US$3.00); S/.20 with guide (US$7.40)
Museo Nacional Sicán
The Museo Nacional Sicán is located in the town of Ferreñafe, about 12.5 miles north of Chiclayo. The museum is both a center of study and collection of artifacts from the Sicán (or Lambayeque) culture, a civilization that existed in the area between 750 and 1,375 AD.
The modern building was opened to the public in 2001, the result of more than two decades of archaeological excavation and study by the Sicán Archaeological Project. Many of the ceramic and gold objects were found at the Bosque de Pómac Historical Sanctuary, a vast complex of adobe pyramids and treasure-laden tombs.
The museum offers visitors an excellent insight into Sicán society, culture and religion, with many life-sized figures providing a clear image of Sicán ritual and dress. You’ll also see reconstructions of various tombs and scale models of important Lambayeque archaeological sites. As with the region’s other museums, the Museo Nacional Sicán collection includes exquisite gold artifacts such as ceremonial masks, earplugs and headdresses.
- Address: Av. Batán Grande, Ferreñafe
- Opening hours: 9:00 am to 6:00 pm Tuesday to Sunday
- Entrance fee: S/.15 (US$5.50)
Museo de Sitio de Huaca Rajada-Sipán
The small Museo de Sitio de Huaca Rajada-Sipán is located at the archaeological site of Huaca Rajada (Señor de Sipán). Opened in 2009, the museum is worth a quick peek before or after seeing the site itself. However, if you’ve already been to Brüning or Tumbas Reales in Lambayeque (where most of the prime artifacts end up), the onsite museum won’t offer many surprises.
- Address: Huaca Rajada, Sipán, Chiclayo
- Opening hours: 9.00 am to 5.00 pm Monday to Friday
- Entrance fee: S/.8 (US$3.00)
Which Lambayeque Museum Should You Visit?
If you’re short on time -- or if visiting four museums in a few days seems like academic overkill -- then the Museo Tumbas Reales de Sípan should be your first choice. It has an excellent collection, a well-conceived layout and top-quality guides.
It’s also worth visiting the Brüning Museum while you’re in the town of Lambayeque. It’s only a few blocks from Tumbas Reales, the Gold Room is spectacular and you can take photos.
If you’re especially interested in the Sicán culture, or if you’re planning a visit to the Bosque de Pómac Historical Sanctuary, then a trip to the Museo Nacional Sicán is a good idea. Otherwise, you’ll see a number of Sicán artifacts in the Brüning and Tumbas Reales museums, making the trip to Ferreñafe unnecessary.
If you’re going to the Huaca Rajada (Señor de Sipán) archaeological site, you might as well have a quick walk around the Museo de Sitio de Huaca Rajada-Sipán. It’s interesting enough and has a decent collection, but it’s no substitute for Brüning or Tumbas Reales.