Often ignored by travellers, Peru?s north coast is possibly the most important archaeological area in the whole of the Americas. Even though the Incas have taken the lion?s share of archaeological attention in Peru, the prior cultures of the north coast were at least as important, and survived for a much longer period of time. The Moche culture developed near Trujillo and spread out over much of the north coast, lasting from 200BC to 800AD. The importance of this culture can be seen in its enormous adobe structures, such as those at Túcume, as well as the stunning treasures that have been discovered, including those of the Señor de Sipán, which can be seen in Lambayeque. The Moche temples have not survived well, as the ravages of time and the greedy hands of fortune hunters have damaged the structures? mud bricks. However, the ruins are still of great interest, especially for the wonderful colour friezes which survive, such as those at the Huaca de la Luna and Huaca El Brujo, both near Trujillo.
The decline of the Moche culture led to the rise of many other cultures on the coast, the most important of which was the Chimú culture, based principally around Trujillo. The most important Chimú site is the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Chan Chán, near Trujillo, the world?s largest adobe city. Here, beautiful mud-brick palaces and temples can be visited, many of which have survived in remarkable condition.
The archaeological importance of the north coast stretches far beyond just Trujillo and Chiclayo. Close to Lima are the important sites of Paramonga and Sechín, and other sites of interest include Pacatnamú. For travellers with an even a passing interest in archaeology, the north coast is an essential destination in Peru.
In addition to the north coast?s archaeological importance, the area is worth visiting for its coastline. Some of the world?s best surfing can be found on these shores, including the world?s longest wave at Puerto Chicama. Additionally, the fishing can also be excellent, and giant marlin can still be caught off Cabo Blanco in the north. The north is also home to Máncora and Punta Sal, Peru?s best beaches. Here, palm-fringed sandy beaches meet a warm, blue sea, making a wonderful resting point. The north coast is also the location of one of Peru?s largest, and oldest, cities, Trujillo, which is worth visiting for its colonial centre of beautiful balconies and churches.
Travellers to Peru who do not visit the north coast, or only see it through the windows of a bus from Ecuador to Lima, are missing out on one of the most fascinating areas of the whole country.
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