The northern desert remains one of the least-visited areas of Peru, mainly because of its distance from Lima and Cusco, the traditional hubs of Peru’s tourist trail, but it is still an invaluable destination for its distinctive landscape, wildlife, archeology and history.
Northern Peru has some excellent museums, besides the breathtaking coastal beauty of its desert environment, which itself contains the largest dry forest in the Americas, almost entirely consisting of algarrobo (carob) trees. The main cities of Chiclayo and Piura (the first Spanish settlement in Peru) are lively commercial centres, serving not only the desert coast but large areas of the Andes as well. If, like a lot of travellers, you decide to bus straight through from Trujillo to the Ecuadorian border beyond Tumbes (or vice versa) in a single journey, you’ll be missing out on some unique attractions.
The coastal resorts, such as the very trendy Máncora and Punta Sal, but also Cabo Blanco and, further south La Pimentel, the beach serving Chiclayo’s population, are among the best reasons for stopping: though small, they usually have at least basic facilities for travellers, and, most importantly, the ocean is warmer here than anywhere else in the country. The real jewels of the region, however, are the archeological remains, particularly the Valley of the Pyramids at Túcume and the older pyramid complex of Batán Grande, two immense pre-Inca ceremonial centres within easy reach of Chiclayo. Equally alluring is the Temple of Sipán, where some of Peru’s finest gold and silver grave-goods were found within the last fifteen years.