It wasn’t on our original list. Having planned to stay in Trujillo instead, we decided to take a detour after our new-found friend explained its potential. “It’s a fishing village with a long beach and Inca ruins,” she had said, excitedly. We were sold.
Huanchaco is a popular beach town in Peru and a good alternative to Trujillo, the nearby city, twenty minutes away. It’s quieter than the city and definitely more relaxed with locals walking along the beachfront and shopping in the colourful market. If you only have a couple of days, here are my recommended things to do in Huanchaco.
1. Surf (Or Watch The Surfers)
The coastline of Peru attracts the surfer dudes and dudettes, which was very evident whilst staying at the Frogs Chillhouse, (where I suddenly felt very old). We were surrounded by surfers and partiers in a place which seemed perfect for those wanting to surf. You can hire surf boards here and take lessons too. If you don’t like surfing just head down to the beach and watch others taking surf lessons instead.
2. Admire The Fishing Boats
What makes this place nice to visit is not just its long coastline or fab pisco sours but its quirky little boats, traditional reed boats that are lined up along the beach. Huanchaco used to be a fishing hamlet and if you are lucky you may spot a fisherman battling along the waves with his daily catch. Called caballitos de tortora, seeing one of these was worth the overnight bus ride from Mancora in itself. Plus you can watch the surfers at the same time, whilst enjoying one of the sweet snacks from the street sellers.
3. Visit the Chan Chan Ruins
I love the name of these honey-coloured ruins, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Close to the sea, you can walk through the pathways of this 700 year old site. The largest pre-Colombian city in the Americas.
It was once the capital of the Chimu people, abandoned in the fifteenth-century by the Incas. Detailed drawings of birds and fish adorn the maze of pathways which inch out to the sea. Because the walls are delicately made from a combination of sand, soil, and water, the ruins are now protected with a roof and scaffolding.
There are three sites in total which aren’t in the same area so we hired a driver to take us around all three. The entrance ticket costs 10 Soles and admits you into all the sites. Chan Chan was by far our favourite. We took a bus from Huanchaco along the beach to Chan Chan, the first ruins we visited.
* Check price, dates and availability: Trujillo City Tour with Visit to Chan Chan
4. Explore The Town
If you love decorative jewellery, head to the promenade where you’ll find stalls selling trinkets and souvenirs (including a mini reed boat to take home). You can also get your photo taken with the very approachable local man who is dressed in a traditional costume.
Although this town is all about the beachfront and its cute little pier, if you walk inland you’ll come across colourful fruit markets. Here you can mingle with the locals and not just the surfers and tourists. Take your camera at dusk to take a picture of the church which is lit up at night.
5. Eat Ceviche and Drink Pisco Sours
Turning down invitations to have a drink on the roof with people old enough to be my daughter (was I really getting that old!) we spent our evenings at one of the restaurants in town and enjoying the sunset with a pisco sour in hand.
There is no shortage of fresh ceviche along the Peruvian coast; the famous seafood fish which Peru is famous for. Just walk along the main road and you’ll find lots of restaurants offering set meals with ceviche and an Inca Cola. We had a fabulous sea view to accompany ours (along with a pisco sour or two).
Traditional reed fishing boats, ruins, and a cute little pier – what more could you need from a Peruvian beach town? I definitely recommend staying here instead of Trujillo. The only place which is worth seeing in the city is the Plaza de Armas. You can also visit Hilo Rojo, a non-profit organisation which provides education to children in poverty.
Getting to Huanchaco
We took the night bus from Mancora then a taxi from Trujillo in the early hours. The overnight bus cost 65 Peruvian Soles for a semi-cama seat and was really comfortable. There are buses and collectivos which run from Trujillo to Huanchaco regularly. Buses also leave Trujillo to Lima. These take 10 hours and cost from 50 Peruvian Soles for a semi-cama seat.
Staying in Huanchaco
We stayed at Frogs Chillhouse which was £6 a night for a dorm bed. It was a slight walk from the pier but is a good place if you want to socialise and surf. There is a range of other accommodation here from 2 stars to 5 stars. I used Booking.com for our reservation.
Is Huanchaco good for solos? Although I was here with 2 other girls I would say yes. You would need to stay in a hostel to meet others as I don’t know how else you could meet people here. If you love surfing, sunbathing and Inca ruins then it is a good place to stop. We stayed for 2 nights which was enough to see the town and the ruins.