How to Spend One Day in Chiclayo, Peru
Chiclayo will not win the prize for the most beautiful city anytime soon, but for many travelers, it is the first destination they visit in Peru, so it is worth to know how to spend a day here, what are the best things to see and do in Chiclayo, where to stay and how to get around, so you won't waste your time.
We cannot even express how excited we were to cross borders from Ecuador to Peru. It does not mean we did not enjoy our time in Ecuador, rather the contrary.
We absolutely adored the small South American country and its rough landscape, colonial cities, volcano craters, and of course, the magical Galapagos Islands. But we simply could not hide anymore how thrilled we are to finally see the land of Incas, ancient ruins shrouded in mist high in the mountains, deep canyons and crystal clear lakes.
As we were crossing the borders from Cuenca in Ecuador, we decided that our first destination will be Chiclayo, a city we had never heard of, but our math was simple.
We did not want to travel to the coast to Mancora as it was not exactly the season at the moment, Trujillo seemed to be quite far away, and we knew that more than twelve hours on the bus between Cuenca and Chiclayo would be enough, and last but not least, the next destination on our itinerary was Chachapoyas to where we were able to catch a direct bus from Chiclayo.
When we were getting nearer to Chiclayo, we quickly realized this part of Peru probably won't be like we thought it would be. Ditches along the road were full of garbage, strayed dogs were running around as anywhere else in South America and everything seemed to be covered with dust.
We do not know why, but we imagined our first moments in the country of Machu Picchu completely differently.
Later we found out that many travelers have a very similar first impression of Chiclayo, which is quite a shame because despite its reputation there are quite many things to see and do in the city.
After the whole night spent on a bus, we decided to rest one day, discover how's Peruvian cuisine (very similar to every cuisine on the continent), sleep one night in Chiclayo, explore the best the city has to offer the next day and take an overnight bus to Chachapoyas.
In this post, we will share tips on what to see in Chiclayo in only one day, and we will also quickly cover the best things you can do and top attractions you can see in case you will decide to give the city a chance and spend here more of your precious time.
THE BEST THINGS TO SEE AND DO IN CHICLAYO
In the morning, after a very lame breakfast, we headed to Chiclayo's Plaza de Armas, which is actually a pretty main square with several notable buildings. After a bit of sightseeing we many times tried to unsuccessfully withdraw money from the ATM until we finally found a bank machine that gave us more than $50.
Then, we were ready to visit the first attraction we had on our itinerary that day, Museo Tumbas Reales de Sipan alias Royal Tombs of Sipan Museum.
Royal Tombs of Sipan Museum
The fascinating museum contains original artifacts found in the tombs at Huaca Rajada, an archeological site close to Chiclayo, which was famous for Moche culture and especially for the tomb of Lord of Sipan.
The museum is really worth to visit as you will find here many original pieces from Huaca Rajada archeological site including precious necklaces, jewelry, tombs, clothes, weapons and much more.
It is quite unfortunate that most of the informational boards are not translated to English and are strictly in Spanish, but we did not find it somehow disturbing, as the objects alone were wonderful, and we used a mobile app when we felt we do not understand what was the object used for.
In case you are more into history, it is possible to book a guided tour in your language. It is not possible to take photos inside the object, and remember you will be obliged to leave your camera and phone in a locker, so in case you do not feel comfortable with this rule, leave your electronics in the room.
The museum is located in a city an only a short drive from Chiclayo, in Lambayeque, and although you can take a taxi, it is not hard to get there by colectivo. You can catch the colectivo almost anywhere on the road between Chiclayo and Lambayeque.
You can, for example, wait on Eufemio Lora y Lora street, or near Oltursa bus terminal on the corner of Vicente de la Vega and Avenida Jose Leonardo Ortiz.
One ride by colectivo cost S/.1.25 and the entrance to the museum was S/.10.
Once we explored the museum thoroughly, after approximately two hours, we went back to the main road where we almost immediately caught a colectivo back to Chiclayo. The driver dropped us off at different bus terminal, so we had to walk for a while along a dirty and dusty road, where we did not feel particularly safe.
As we wanted to visit Huaca Rajada archeological site and museum as well right after, we headed to Terminal Epsel on Castaneda y Parraguierre street near a large roundabout from where we took another colectivo heading to Huaca Rajada in Sipan.
One ride cost S/.3 and the entrance ticket cost S/.8 per person.
The ancient city of Sipan is approximately one hour drive from Chiclayo, and you will find here the archeological complex and museum.
We headed first to the museum, where are objects which had been left here, as the more important and valuable artifacts are in the Museo Tumbas Reales de Sipan. Nevertheless, we quite liked the museum, and then we went to the open-air site, where we could see excavated tombs of Moche culture.
People in this period built their pyramids with adobe (there are also no rocks in this area), so most of the structures have been destroyed or severely damaged by the rough weather during the centuries.
The Moche culture was powerful in today's Peru between 50 - 700 AD, so it was very interesting to get to know another pre-Inca civilization better and see what was left.
After we walked around the complex, we went back to the road, where we waited approximately 15 minutes for the colectivo which took us back to Chiclayo.
We quickly went to a hotel, picked up our luggage, and continued to a bus terminal as we had booked an overnight bus to Chachapoyas.
In case you are not sure you would be able to visit both sites in one day independently (although it is totally doable, but you have to navigate yourself around the city), there is an option to take a one-day tour combining both sites and one additional archeological complex.
As we decided to stay in Chiclayo only one day, we did not have enough time to explore completely everything this destination has to offer, but here is a short list of other top things to see and do in case you have more time on your Peru itinerary than we had.
Playa Pimentel | Only a short drive by colectivo from Chiclayo is a pretty beach, Playa Pimentel. In case you want to relax, there is even an option to stay there so you won't need to travel back to the city. The beach is quite crowded during the summer.
Mercado de Brujos | Chiclayo's witches market is a place where you can see and buy quite unbelievable stuff, and it is really worth to have a look, especially if you've never been to witches market before. In case you are looking for a regular market with clothes, go to Mercado Modelo.
Paseos | In case you have more time to spend in the city, head to two worthwhile paseos alias streets - Paseo Yortuque and Paseo de las Musas. Both are scenic passageways with several statues along the path.
Tucume | If you do not have enough of archeological sites, another interesting place is Tucume, another pre-Hispanic site in the area.
WHERE TO STAY IN CHICLAYO
Although Chiclayo is not the most beautiful city in Peru, it still has quite many interesting things to see and do, and you can easily spend here one or two nights.
Thankfully, it is possible to find quite a good selection of hotels in Chiclayo for every type of traveler.
We've handpicked three best hotels for every budget category.
Budget | Hostal Florida - Cheap but spotlessly clean hostel is close to the central plaza, you can enjoy a sun terrace and even luggage storage if like us you are leaving Chiclayo late in the evening.
Mid-range | Costa del Sol Wyndham Chiclayo - The value for the price in this hotel is great. Spacious rooms, outdoor pool, sauna, and complimentary breakfast are only a few reasons to stay here.
Luxury | Casa Andina Select Chiclayo - Very comfortable hotel, knowledgeable staff, rooms are cozy, with air-con, and guests can use a swimming pool, fitness center, and sauna.
WHAT TO PACK FOR VISITING CHICLAYO
What to pack for visiting Chiclayo depends on what you plan on doing in the area.
You can visit the museum and ruins which were quite dusty as the rest of the city, but you can even decide to travel to the coast and enjoy swimming in the sea.
We've chosen five essential things you should remember to pack for spending the time in Chiclayo.
Travel Pouch | The area around Chiclayo and the city itself does not have the best reputation when it comes to safety, so having a travel pouch is a great way how to keep your valuables safe.
Bandana | Multifunctional bandana is a great thing to protect you against sun and dust.
Ultralight Packable Daypack | You do not need a large backpack which attracts attention, bring along a small, foldable backpack.
Sunscreen | If you plan on visiting ruins or the coast, be prepared for the harsh weather.
SAFETY IN CHICLAYO
Chiclayo is not the safest city in Peru for sure.
Keep an eye on your valuables all the time, and try not to wander off too far from the main streets. It is not adviced to flag down a taxi on the street, rather ask a receptionist in your hotel to call you one. Some areas are considered dangerous for travelers, and even when the hostels there are cheaper, it is worth it to stay closer in the center and pay a little bit more.
Do not show off your valuables.
Once we were looking for directions on a phone and a lady approached us saying we should not hold the phone that publicly as we will be an easy target for pickpockets.
That's being said, we walked around Chiclayo freely without any issues, we even traveled by colectivos to the top attractions and did not experience any problems, but if you do not feel confident, take a taxi instead.
We've written a detailed post on How to Stay Safe When Traveling in South America, so check it out and stay safe!
HOW TO GET TO CHICLAYO
Chiclayo is well-connected with other destinations in Peru such as Trujillo, Chachapoyas, Mancora or the capital Lima.
We even arrived in Chiclayo from Cuenca in Ecuador, so you can make the city your base before crossing borders.
We found traveling in Peru by public bus quite comfortable (we usually used MovilBus company), and although the roads are not often in good conditions, buses ran on time most of the time.
Chiclayo has an airport (it is Peru's fourth-largest city) which usually serves flights to and from Lima. It takes about 11 hours to get to Lima, so traveling by air is an option for all of you who travel on a strict schedule.
TRAVEL INSURANCE - SIMPLE & FLEXIBLE
We never leave our home without travel insurance which is designed to help cover your expenses if something goes wrong on your trip. World Nomads Travel Insurance has been designed by travelers for travelers, to cover your trip essentials.
Travel smarter and safer!