Salaverry and Trujillo, Peru - South America Port of Call

Chan Chan, the ancient capital of the Chimu people of Peru
Linda Garrison

Salaverry is the port closest to Trujillo, the second-largest city in Peru. It is located north of the capital city of Lima on the Pacific Ocean in northwestern Peru. Some cruise ships embark or stopover in Lima before sailing north along the western coast of Peru and Ecuador towards or from the Panama Canal. Other ships include Salaverry as a port of call on cruises headed south from California or the Panama Canal to Valparaiso and Santiago, Chile.

Since most visitors to Peru choose to travel south of Lima to Cusco, Machu Picchu, and Lake Titicaca, the northern coast of Peru is not as developed for tourism. However, like much of Peru, it has numerous interesting archaeological sites and has managed to retain much of its colonial flavor. Like Lima, Trujillo was founded by the Spanish conquistador Pizarro.

For those who want to spend more time in Peru, cruise lovers also can sail on the Upper Amazon River in northeast Peru. Small ships take guests from Iquitos to see unique wildlife like the pink river dolphin and meet some interesting local people who live on the Amazon and its tributaries. One of these cruises could easily be combined with a visit to Salaverry and Trujillo, Peru.

Most of the cruise ship shore excursion options in Trujillo revolve around exploring some of the 2,000 archaeological sites in the river valley nearby. That's enough to keep even the most avid amateur archaeologist busy for a few decades! Visitors usually are not in Peru very long before they discover the huge number of ancient sites to explore. The country has many more archaeological sites than just Machu Picchu. The ancient Chimu capital of Chan Chan is near Trujillo and is the most famous site in the area. The Chimu, who preceded the Incas and were later conquered by them, built Chan Chan about 850 A.D. At 28 square kilometers, it is the largest pre-Columbian city in the Americas and the largest mud city in the world. At one time, Chan Chan had over 60,000 inhabitants and was a very rich city with a vast wealth of gold, silver, and ceramics.

After the Incas conquered the Chimu, the city remained untouched until the Spanish came. Within a few decades of the conquistadors, most of the treasures of Chan Chan were gone, either taken by the Spanish or by looters. Visitors today are amazed primary by the size of Chan Chan and by what it must have once looked like. As seen in the photo above, this mud city was quite extensive in size.

Other fascinating archaeological sites are the Temples to the Sun and Moon (Huaca del Sol and Huaca de la Luna). The Mochicas built them during the Moche period, over 700 years before the Chimu civilization and Chan Chan. These two temples are pyramidal and only about 500 meters apart, so they can be visited on the same visit. The Huaca de la Luna has over 50 million adobe bricks, and the Huaca del Sol is the largest mud structure on the South American continent. The desert climate has enabled these mud structures to last for hundreds of years. The Mochicas abandoned Huaca del Sol after a large flood in 560 AD but continued to occupy the space at Huaca de La Luna until about 800 AD. Although the two temples have been looted and are somewhat eroded, they are still fascinating.

For those who love colonial architecture and design, the city of Trujillo is an interesting place to spend the day. Trujillo sits on the edge of the Andean foothills and has a beautiful setting among the vast greenery and brown hills. Like most Peruvian cities, the Plaza de Armas is surrounded by the cathedral and city hall. Numerous colonial mansions have been preserved in the old city and are open to visitors. The fronts of many of these buildings have distinctive wrought-iron grill work and are painted in pastel colors. Those who enjoy exploring in colonial cities will love a day in Trujillo when their cruise ship is in the port of Salaverry.