Chiclayo is a part of Peru where the tropical sun, desert oases and fresh sea breeze come together. Legend has it that the god Naylamp sailed here with a vast retinue thousands of years ago to find his empire. In fact, many ancient civilizations saw the strategic advantage of controlling this region. Today, it is a major business hub in northern Peru, where routes come together from the coast, highlands and jungle. Chiclayo is the capital of the department of Lambayeque, which gave rise to the Mochica culture from the first to the seventh century AD.
Near the town of Sipán, 35 km (22 miles) from Chiclayo, lies Huaca Rajada, a complex where archaeologists discovered the tomb of the Lord of Sipán, a high-ranking leader whose body was accompanied by gold relics and jewelry. The treasure trove is on exhibition at the brand new museum: Museo Tumbas Reales de Sipan.
Another major complex is that of Túcume, also known as the Valley of the pyramids, because there are 26 of them. Visitors can take in archaeological sites and the natural landscape, as well as experience folk healing and a culture interchange in general, thanks to the active participation of the community in the preservation of their natural and cultural heritage.
Chiclayo also boasts of the finest cooking in northern Peru, serving dishes such as arroz con pato (duck served with rice) and the local variation of cebiche (raw fish marinated in lemon juice). The city celebrates the festival of Santisima Cruz de Chalpón in February. This is a good time to visit nearby Pimentel, a modern beach resort which provides opportunities for water sports such as surfing. One can also watch how the local fishermen still breast the waves with the caballitos de totora, the reed rafts that have been used along the north coast for thousands of years.
:: THE ROYAL TOMBS OF SIPAN
In 1987, a small group of Peruvian archaeologists led by Dr Walter Alva discovered the tomb of an important Moche governor, at Huaca Rajada (at 21 miles southeast of the city of Chiclayo), complete with all his attire, riches and his symbols of power. The discovery was world news and is considered as important as the discovery of the tomb of the Pharaoh Tutankhamon in 1922.
The Lord of Sipan died some 1770 years ago. As sovereign, he was considered a semigod. He lived for about 40 years and was 5.5 feet tall.
His rich robes and accessories included necklaces, breastplates, ear spools, nose rings, helmets, bracelets and sceptres, mostly in a combination of gold and silver.
Of exceptional beauty are the three pairs of turquoise and gold ear ornaments showing ducks, deers and the Lord of Sipan himself, as well as the breastplates of delicately threaded shell beads. The necklace contains gold spheres and another of huge peanut shells - ten of which were in silver, ten in gold. The scepter is decorated with an inverted gold pyramid with scenes of human sacrifice.
There are also objects in copper, spondyllus shells and semiprecious stones. Most of the pieces are decorated with symbols.
Shortly after the discovery of the Lord of Sipan's tomb, Alva and his team found two more tombs, of a Priest and the Old Lord of Sipan.
The importance of this discovery and the need to provide an appropriate place to house the finds, led to the construction of the Royal Tombs of Sipan Museum, which opened in 2002 in the city of Lambayeque (9 miles from Chiclayo).
• Cebiche. Raw fish marinated in lemon juice, onion and aji chilli pepper.
• Tortilla de raya. An omelette with salt-dried ray.
• Chinguirito.Cebiche made from from shredded salt-dried fish.
• Seco de cabrito con frijoles. Stew of tender kid marinated in maize beer.
• Arroz con pato a la chiclayana. Duck in dark beer and cilantro.
• Chirimpico. A stew made from marinated goast offal.