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Huanchaco: A Hidden Gem of Peru

Many tourists flock to Peru’s most popular wonder, Machu Picchu. This is for good reason, as Machu Picchu is one of the most inspiring and beautiful sites in the world as well as one of the 7 Wonders of the World. However, much of the Northern regions of Peru go unexplored. If travelers only knew the many amazing sites left unseen, I’m sure they would want to add a week or two on to their Peru Expedition. One of my favorite cites is Huanchaco, a beach town that provides epic surfing, fresh seafood, and nearby archeological sites.



It has been argued that Huanchaco is the true birthplace of surfing. Surfing has been tied directly to the local environment and fishing community for more than 2,500 years. Fishermen create reed boats, “Caballitos de Totora” or little reed horses, from the California bulrush plant.  The fishermen paddle out in these boats, place fishing nets, haul in the catch, and store it on the boat for the ride back. The boats are made so they are able to ride the waves back to shore from both a kneeling or standing position. These traditional boats are still used today for fishing and occasional surfing, along with modern surfboards. There are surf competitions held throughout the year, and there are plenty of businesses along the boardwalk offering surf gear for rent. A national surf protection law, as well as being honored as a World Surfing Reserve by Save The Waves Coalition helps to protect Haunchaco’s surf breaks. 

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Huancahco, and Peru in general, has a cold-water ecosystem that is maintained by year round nutrient-rich water upwelling that supports large fisheries. This ecological system has allowed the communities of coastal Peru to thrive as fishermen. What does that mean to travelers? The seafood is to die for! One specific dish is Peruvian ceviche. If you visit, try to book a cooking class where you can learn the different dishes of the region

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There are many stunning archeological sites in the Northern regions of Peru. A simple day trip can allow you see both Chan Chan Archeological Zone and Huacas del Sol y de la Luna (Temple of the Sun and Moon). 

Chan Chan is a UNESCO World Heritage Site within the District of Huanchaco. Chan Chan was the capital of the Chimu Kingdom in the 15th century. It is located in the once fertile river valley of Moche or Santa Catalina, and was the largest earthen architecture city in pre-Columbian America. The Moche and Chicama rivers once supplied  a surplus of water, which sustained the region around Chan Chan during the height of the Chimu civilisation.

The Huacas del Sol y de la Luna (Temples of the Sun and Moon) are adobe brick temples built by the Moche civilization between 100 CE to 800 CE. Archeologists have estimated that the Huaca del Sol was composed of over 130 million adobe bricks and was the largest pre-Columbian adobe structure built in the Americas. Located at the center of the Moche capital city, the temples appear to have been used for ritual, ceremonial activities and as a royal residence and burial chambers. 


Huanchaco has amazing surf, food, sites, but most of all kindest and most interesting people. They care deeply for their Peruvian culture and the environment, and they share that passion with everyone who travels there. While the list of things to do and see in Peru is long, visiting Huanchaco is definitely worth including.

Post written by Kelly Salamone