The spectacular North of
Peru is rich in archaeology, history
and scenic contrasts. Bounded by the cold waters of the world's
most plentiful fishing grounds and the Amazon
rainforest, lie the
stark deserts, fertile valleys, mountains and cloud forests that
gave birth to several great pre-Inca civilizations.
From the 1st to the 15th Century AD the most prominent of these
cultures - Moche, Lambayeque, Chimu and Chachapoyas - achieved great
sophistication and skill in ceramics, agriculture, architecture,
metallurgy and warfare. Their vast and mysterious citadels, tombs
and temples grace the outskirts of some of the principal cities
of the north - Chiclayo, Trujillo and Chachapoyas.
THE COAST: CHICLAYO AND TRUJILLO
The Northern Coast's civilizations left us astonishing evidence
of their achievements. Tucume, the “Valley of 26 Pyramids”,
was a thriving city of temples and squares built by the Lambayeque
in the 11th Century and conquered by the Chimu in the 14th. The
exquisitely decorated Moche Temples of the Sun and the Moon stand
a few miles from the Pacific Ocean, near the 500-acre complex of
Chan Chan, capital of the Chimu Empire and one of the largest and
most developed cities in the ancient Americas.
In Chiclayo you will visit the tomb of the Lord of Sipan (the richest
tomb discovered in the Americas), the Valley of the 26 pyramids
of Tucume and Bruning Museum where there is an interesting collection
of gold artifacts and ceramics.
The Moche tomb of Sipan -the richest burial site discovered in
the Western Hemisphere (October 1988 - National Geographic) is a
few miles east of the modern city of Chiclayo. Finely crafted gold
artifacts and ceramics recovered from these complexes are on display
at the Museum of the Royal Tombs - one of the finest in South America
as well as at the Museum of Sican.
The region's shamans, direct descendants of these lost civilizations,
are famous throughout Peru for their healing skills and wisdom,
and can be visited by travelers. Nature lovers may explore the unique
dry forest of Chaparri and the Spectacled Bear reintroduction project.
Birdwatchers enjoy spotting the region's 40 unique (endemic) bird
species, including the emblematic Marvelous Spatuletail Hummingbird.
Travelers may also visit Colonial House and traditional haciendas
that breed and show Peru's world famous “Paso Fino”
horses. we have the best
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Just south of Trujillo: The pyramids of the Sun and Moon are the
largest structures ever put up in South America, and are second
in the Western Hemisphere only to the Pyramid of Cholula, Mexico,
in size. They formed the spiritual center of the Moche Empire, a
highly sophisticated yet mysterious culture that pre-dated the Incas
by nearly 1000 years. It is quite certain that the Moche Indians
had contact with other civilizations in the ancient Americas, and
there is good reason to believe they may have been influenced by
Asian ocean- going voyagers as well.
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The Pyramid of the Moon contains a central, vaulted chamber, and
the mountain directly behind, Cerro Blanco, appears to have been
shaped by humans into a pyramid form as well. Despite their achievements
in architecture, metal-working, and ceramics (one can still find
countless pottery shards in the sands surrounding the site), the
Moche were very militaristic, and scenes from their pottery depict
ritual bloodletting and torture. They may have evolved a system
of “black” magic that aided them in their conquests
of neighboring peoples, or they may have taken spiritual teachings
from Asia and twisted their meanings into bizarre new practices
over the centuries.
Huanchaco is a fishing town where “caballitos de totora”
are still used by the local inhabitants, who venture into the cold
currents of the Pacific in these precarious-looking reed boats.
This massive adobe city, really a series of royal compounds built
by the Chimu, was a major source of gold for both the Incas, and
later, for the Spanish. Though well-looted over the centuries, gold
artifacts still occasionally appear in the drifting sands. Contacts
between Chan Chan and the Asian continent have never been proven,
but there are tantalizing hints. Pottery figures depict Asiatic
men with beards and turbans; even the name “Chan Chan”
seems to be Chinese in origin. Don’t miss the famous “honeycombs,”
where strange acoustic effects allow visitors to whisper to each
other over long distances inside the adobe structures.
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