Four hours’ drive north of Lima along the dusty coastal plain lies Trujillo, capital of Peru’s La Libertad region, whose attractive colonial centre and fine architecture have long been overlooked by tourists. However, it is in the scruffy outskirts of the city that you find the main attraction and some of the oldest and most fascinating pre-Incan remains in all Peru. Jutting out from the barren landscapes are the huge weather beaten adobe pyramids, the Huaca del Sol and Huaca de la Luna, Temples of the Sun and Moon that date back to the ancient Moche civilisation which flourished between 100 AD and 800 AD. Much of the Huaca del Sol, the largest adobe structure in the Americas, has been painstaking investigated and restored and archaeologists have uncovered a number of impressive colourful friezes and murals.
A short distance away, and unrelated to the Moche, is the vast ruined adobe city of Chan Chan, once largest adobe city on earth. Covering an area of 20km², the city features some 10,000 structures from ceremonial rooms, palaces, burial chambers and temples all ringed with 50 foot high walls into which have etched intricate designs. Home to the Chimu civilisation, the site was occupied for over 600 years before its fall at the hands of the Inca around 1470.
Further north, another 4 hours along the highway, is Chiclayo, founded in 1560 and gateway to Peru’s Chachapoyas kingdom. The centre of the Lambayeque and Mochica cultures, Chiclayo is ringed with fascinating wind eroded adobe temples and pyramids from the ancient city and complex of Túcume to the sites of Batán Grande and Huaca Rajada. However, it was in a 1987 that Peru’s pre-history leapt to the front pages of the world’s press with the discovery of the “Lords of Sipan” Tomb, a remarkable Moche treasure trove of artefacts dubbed the Tutankhamen of the Americas. Much of the treasure is now open to the public housed in the three excellent regional museums, the Royal Tomb of Sipan Museum, the Brunning Museum and the Sicán Museum in Ferrenafe.