North Coast of Peru Attractions
The North Coast of Peru is a little visited region of the country but contains some incredible sights. This area north of Lima is coastal desert, with sand dunes and fishing villages dotting the coast. The fishing industry in Peru is huge and the North Coast is at the heart of the industry. The waters and beaches along the North Coast also attract surfers.This region is known for its pre-Inca archeological sites. While the most visited sites are the Inca ruins in the south of the country, the north is full of some of the oldest sites in Peru, from the Huaca Prieta, Chavín, Moche and Chimú cultures.Despite these treasures found along the North Coast, this area sees very little tourism. Consequently, visitors will often find they have these fantastic sights almost all to themselves.
Piura, the capital of the department of Piura, is a major agricultural center in the north. It is also heavily involved in the petroleum industry, making it a slightly more prosperous town in the north of Peru.However, one of the main draws for tourist is Piura's convenient location as a jumping off point for those looking to discover the north coastal beaches. This far north is the one area of the Peruvian coast with really good beaches. The water is warmer along here, bypassed by the Humboldt Current that runs out into the Pacific before hitting the beaches north of Piura. There are a variety of beaches to entertain surfers or those just looking for a nice swimming area. Although Piura is landlocked, beaches are as close as an hour away.Piura does have some of its own attraction. The town was established in 1588 and maintains some beautiful colonial architecture. There is a cathedral off the Plaza de Armas, which dates to the time of the town founding. In the nearby village of Catacaos is an artisans market with crafts by local artists.
Just 15km / 9mi north of Paita is the small town of Colán. Although there are beautiful beaches all over the far north coast of Peru, the Colán area has some of the best. The beaches of Esmeralda and Palmeras are a great place to soak up the sun and enjoy the warm water that laps the white sand. Homes on stilts from the 1950s line the beach.The Iglesia San Lucas in Colán is the oldest church in Peru. It was built in 1536 by Dominican friars. There is not a lot else in Colán and service for travelers are limited to the resorts.
The historic town of Paita is the main port and chief town in the Department of Paita, and a major fishing center. Located about 50km / 30mi west of Piura, Paita has had an interesting past. This Spanish colonial port, first discovered by Pizarro in 1527, was the frequent target of pirates. Paita has been the victim of aggression by such figures as Francis Drake and George Anson. One famous icon from this era is the wooden statue of Our Lady of Mercy with a slashed neck, housed in the church of La Merced.Paita was also the home of Manuela Sáenz, the mistress of Simón Bolívar, in her later years. Following Bolívars death she settled here in a home, which is now privately owned but marked by a commemorative plaque.
Máncora is a small fishing village and beach area southwest of Tumbes. It has a nice climate with sunny skies year round and low humidity levels. Máncora is a popular beach destination for both Peruvians and Ecuadorians, but almost undiscovered by tourists. Surfing is a major post time here, with large Pacific swells from January to March. The beach here is white sand with rock formations.Máncora has a small nightlife scene, with some local bars. There are also a fair number of restaurants and a range of hotel accommodations. By taxi, the journey from Tumbes to Máncora takes about 1.5 hours.
Huancabamba is a unique destination in northern Peru. Set up in the mountains, a little more than 200km / 120mi east of Piura. Huancabamba is a remote and little visited small town. Just getting to the town is a bit of a journey and involves driving down a rough dirt road, and is approximately 8 hours by bus from Piura.The town is a major center for "brujería", which is somewhere in the realm of witchcraft, and involves spiritual and alternative forms of medicinal healing. Herbs, hallucinogens, and other concoctions combined with spiritual ceremonies are used to heal illnesses, cast spells, lift hexes, induce feels of love on the object of one's affections, bring prosperity, cure infertility, and more. Also incorporated into this practice are the nearby Lagunas de las Huaringas, lakes which are said to have mystical powers.
Located about 420km / 252mi north of Lima, Chimbote is the first significant city along the coast. Chimbote is one of the largest fishing ports in Peru and most of the town is involved in or employed by the fishing industry.The city is a commercial center and not a particularly appealing tourist destination. However, it is the largest community between Lima and Trujillo and has a variety of accommodation choices and some decent restaurants.Of interest in Chimbote are the Plaza de Armas and the church on the north side of the square. There is also an annual celebration on June 29th, the fiesta of San Pedro.
Casma is a small port town along the North Coast. Most visitors to the town come to see the nearby Sechín ruins. The Sechín site dates to about 1600 BC, making it among the oldest in Peru. There are two main buildings at Sechín, one made of adobe and one made of stone. The outside walls contain some grisly bas relief carvings.Also on the site is a small museum with information on Sechín and a model of the ruins. Not much is known about who built these ruins. The site was excavated in 1937 by J. C. Tello, a well known Peruvian archeologist.