Ancient ruins around Huanchaco

Huaca de la Luna y del Sol - Moche ruins

There are some pretty cool and important ancient ruins around Huanchaco. They are particularly special to me, as I read about some of them in 1491 (hope you still remember the book from Charles C. Mann I mentioned before).

One of the coolest ruins and the biggest ancient city in South America is Chan Chan. It is also the largest adobe city of the world and was the capital of the Chimú culture. Chan Chan was built around AD 1300 and spread over 20 sq km. At the height of the Chimú empire, the city gave home to about 60.000 people. (The Chimús were active from about AD 850 to 1470, and subsequently, conquered by the Inkas.) Chan Chan fell victim of the Spanish conquistadors that took away its wealth and later, to erosion.  The place is one of the UNESCO World Heritage sites since 1986.

ancient Chimú capital, Chan Chan
The ruins of the ancient Chimú capital, Chan Chan
Chan Chan with friezes
The most exciting part of Chan Chan with friezes is protected from further erosion.
fish friezes, ruins of Chan Chan.
With my favourite fish friezes, in Chan Chan.


The second site we visited with my friend Joana and a Dutch girl, Ira, whom we met on the way, was the Huacas del Sol y de la Luna (the tombs of the sun and the moon). This site is far less know, although it was more exciting for us. The tombs were part of an ancient city of the Moche culture. (They thrived between AD 100 and 800, and were very famous for their ceramics.)

Moche ceramics
Moche ceramics in the nearby museum (photos were obviously not allowed:) ).

Huaca del Sol, which is the largest single pre-Columbian structure in Peru, (although about a third of it has been eroded), was the administrative centre of the city. It was built with about 140 million adobe bricks and was about 43 meter high.

Huaca del Sol
Huaca del Sol from the distance.

Huaca de la Luna was the spiritual centre, “an architectural complex composed of two sacred temples with the shape of a truncated pyramid”. It has many incredible painted friezes, such as the below altar, where fellow Moches were sacrificed to calm the gods’ anger. Huaca de la Luna was built at the foot of the mountain Cerro Blanco, believed to be a god itself, to be close to the realm of gods.

The "Great Altar" at Huaca de la Luna
The “Great Altar” at Huaca de la Luna now and then.
Huaca de la Luna
Painted frieze of the Moche’s main god, Huaca de la Luna.
Decorated north face of Huaca de la Luna
Decorated north face of Huaca de la Luna.

Between the two huacas (the are about 500 meters apart), there lied the city itself.

We truly loved both tours and the fact that we could walk in the footsteps of ancients Indians who once created amazing architectural sites and lived in very developed civilisations. Until the Spanish came…

Huaca de La Luna


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