Chan Chan, Trujillo, Peru
Chan Chan was the ancient capital of the Chimu empire and is one of the most important pre-Inca archaeological sites in Peru. This crumbling imperial city, located in the Moche Valley about 5km from Trujillo, is the largest pre-Columbian city in the Americas and the largest adobe city in the world.
It was built around 1300AD and the city walls enclose an area of about 28 sq km comprising a maze of palaces, temples, thick defensive walls, streets, houses, gardens, a huge reservoir and canals. It is believed to have been home to as many as 60,000 inhabitants.
Chan Chan consisted of nine sectors known as Royal Compounds. Each was built be a succeeding king. Each compound included a platform mound where each king was buried together with his women and his treasures. The Chimu kingdom began around 1000AD. At its peak in the 15th century the empire stretched nearly 1000km along the northern coast of Peru from Lima to the Ecuadorian border. In 1471, after nearly a decade of resistance, the Chimu finally surrendered to the Incas. After the conquest by the Incas the city and its treasures remained pretty much intact, the Incas were far more interested in expanding their empire rather than accumulating riches. It wasn't until the Spanish arrived that the temples and palaces were ransacked and within a short period there was little left of the treasures.
Today only the adobe walls and a few moulded decorations remain. There are fours main sites at Chan Chan, all of which are spread over a large area and are best visited as part of an organized tour or by taking a couple of taxi rides. Due to recent robberies it is not recommended to walk the large distances between the sites unless in a large group and accompanied by a guide. The Royal Compound known as the Tschudi Palace has been partially restored and is open to visitors. The most interesting part of this large complex is known as the Sanctuary whose walls are textured like fishing nets. Many other walls are decorated with friezes of fishes and seabirds. The other eight Royal Compounds are still awaiting restoration, many of which have been severely damaged by heavy rainfall and flooding.
The Chan Chan Museum has a small collection of pottery and some exhibits relating to the history of the city. The two other places of interest are the Huaca Esmeralda which consists of a couple of platforms and some friezes that have yet to be restored, and the Huaca Arco Iris (Rainbow Temple). This partially restored temple is in much better condition than the Huaca Esmeralda and is named after the rainbow-shaped friezes which decorate it.
A site ticket covers the entrance fees to the four places mentioned above. It is valid for 2 days and costs US$3. A guide can be hired at the ruins for about US$5 per hour which works out more economical if you have a small group. However by far the easiest (and safest) way to visit the sites is by taking an organised tour from Trujillo which cost about US$10 per person (not including the entrance fee). Tours take about 3 or 4 hours. Recommended companies include Chacon Tours and Guia Tours.
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