Even a few years ago, the Pacific Coast North of Lima was skipped by the majority of travelers who chose to jet-line to Lima or Cusco, Machu Picchu and the Sacred Valley instead of stopping off to enjoy the region’s beautiful beaches and wealth of archaeological ruins. These days, many destinations on the northern coast are gaining popularity with travelers in search of sunshine and surfing, but also those interested in the area’s pre-Columbian civilizations. Here you can visit Chan Chan, the largest pre-Colombian city in South America and which some archaeologists believe was the largest adobe city ever, in addition to a host of other interesting ruins that have been discovered within the last decade.
Máncora has gained quite a reputation on the gringo trail for its laid-back vibe and all-night party atmosphere. For a more relaxed time, check out Huanchaco, close to Trujillo, frequented by legendary surfers and those who want to learn how to surf from them. Some other interesting small towns include Huancabamba, where people come to participate in healing ceremonies with the village’s many shamans, and Cabo Blanco, a fishing village visited by famed author Ernest Hemingway. Around Tumbes, visitors can spend some time exploring the surrounding dry forests and mangroves, adding another element of diversity here.
The major cities of the region, including Tumbes, Trujillo, Chiclayo and Piura, provide great bases for exploring the surrounding ruins, beach towns or national parks. The cities themselves collectively contain a mix of colonial and modern architecture, some interesting museums, a bigger selection of lodging and restaurants, and more complete services for longer-term stays. Tumbes is also the gateway to border crossings into Ecuador, making it a popular stop, if only for a night. No matter why you decide to dedicate some time on the northern coast, you will likely enjoy all it has to offer.