Our first stop on our trip north was Chiclayo, the “city of friendship.” While we did find the taxi drivers, hotel staff, and waiters to be friendly, we had a hard time understanding their Spanish! It’s definitely more lilting with words smooshed together than the clear Spanish spoken in the Andes. The bustling city is a few miles inland from the coast and is home to both the Museum of the Royal Tombs of Sipán and the King Kong!
The Moche (or Mochica) people lived in this area of the world and built large pyramids around 100 AD that housed tombs of the royal members of the society. One such pyramid was “rediscovered” in Sipán (just a few miles from Chiclayo) in 1987 after several curious items turned up on the black market and tipped off scholars that a new sight must have been found. The scholars managed to find the sight and unearthed an amazing amount of artifacts from the tombs in the pyramid, including the tomb of El Señor de Sipán (The Lord of Sipán).
The Museum of the Royal Tombs of Sipán opened in 2002 and is located about 20 minutes outside of Chiclayo in Lambayeque. The museum is built to mimic the pyramid found at Sipán. The tour starts on the top floor and you slowly wind your way down the floors as if you were going deeper into the pyramid and unearthing more and more tombs and artifacts.
A reproduction of the tomb of El Señor de Sipán displays him resting bedecked in intricate gold, silver, copper, and turquoise jewelry and accompanied by other remains, including three women (one likely his wife), two males (most likely warriors), a young child, and a dog (probably El Señor’s favorite pet). Additional tombs were discovered lower in the pyramid, likely the father and grandfather of El Señor.
There were many ceramic pots found in the tombs, which are either shaped into different half-animal/half-human gods (like crabs, owls, and fish) or painted with similar motifs. The amount of jewelry also found at the sight is astonishing. Most of it has been restored at the museum, but some pieces were left in the state that they were discovered in to show visitors the restoration that was required.
The museum itself is well done, with a variety of displays and videos throughout. We went through without a guide, but we did pass a group that had an English-speaking guide who seemed very knowledgeable about the displays. The entrance fee is s. / 10 ($3.50) per adult. They do not allow photos inside the museum, but I managed to snag a couple of postcards that show some of the exhibits. You can also visit a couple of photos galleries online (here and here) to see examples of the jewelry and ceramics found at the sight.
Before we traveled there, we had been told that a trip to Chiclayo would not be complete without a King Kong! What on earth is a King Kong you might ask…it’s a dessert! It’s two cookies with manjar blanco (milk caramel) in the middle. Why it’s called the King Kong is still a mystery to us. They come in a few different fruit flavors like pineapple and passion fruit, but we opted for a bar of the traditional pure manjar blanco. We each tried and little piece and, to be honest, it wasn’t the most amazing dessert we’ve ever had. The cookies were a little dry and the manjar blanco wasn’t particularly flavorful. If we ever had one again, we’d definitely try one of the fruit-flavored ones… probably the passion fruit flavor!
For others traveling to Chiclayo, we took a quick, 1 hour 15 minute flight from Lima and stayed at Hostal Hikari. It was conveniently located a block from the main plaza. The rooms are tiny, though well appointed and have hot water. Warning that it is noisy at night from the traffic on the street (though I bet any hotel in the city would be busy since the taxi drivers and other drivers do not shy from using their horns often!). Breakfast is included and very good! It’s served on the covered rooftop and you can choose from 5 different options ranging from bread and jam, to fried eggs, to a cheese sandwich, and all come with juice and coffee.
Next stop on our journey… Gocta Falls!