Modern-day Trujillo has one of Peru’s greatest collections of colonial homes, but it is only the latest city over the last few millennia in the Moche Valley. A few kilometers on the other side of town is the Huaca de la Luna , where archaeologists continue to unearth pristine murals from the Moche civilization (A.D. 1–850).
Then there is Chan Chan , a vast city of elaborately sculpted walls that served as the capital of the Chimú, the largest pre-Inca empire in Peru (A.D. 900–1470). When Inca Pachacútec and his son Túpac Yupanqui conquered the city in the 1470s, they were dazzled by the grandeur of the largest adobe city in the world. At the coastal village of Huanchaco , 14 kilometers west of Trujillo, fishermen launch their reed rafts into the surf as they have for thousands of years.
Trujillo became a center of Peru’s war of independence from Spain. It was the first Peruvian city to declare itself independent of Spain, in December 1820. Liberator Simón Bolívar later established himself here and planned the campaign that culminated in the battle of Ayacucho, where Spanish forces were turned back for good on December 9, 1824.
A century later, a bohemian movement flourished in Trujillo that produced Peru’s best poet, César Vallejo; painter and musician Macedonio de la Torre, and one of Peru’s most controversial political leaders, Victor Raúl Haya de la Torre. Vallejo eventually emigrated to France, but Haya de la Torre launched what would become one of Peru’s most influential political parties: APRA, the Alianza Popular Revolucionaria Americana.
Great effort has been made to preserve Trujillo’s colonial feel, including the burial of electrical and power lines. But at least one well-intentioned effort has backfired. The city government banned buses and micros from entering the city center in 1990, causing an explosion in the taxi pool. These days the air pollution and constant honking of taxistas as they troll for passengers is unbearable.
If you prefer quiet and clean air, we suggest that you consider staying in nearby Huanchaco . Remember, in Trujillo and much of the north, people take their siesta seriously and most sights are closed 1–4 p.m.
LAN (340 Pizarro, tel. 044/20-1859, www.lan.com , 9 a.m.–7 p.m. Mon.–Fri., 9 a.m.–6 p.m. Sat.) has one-hour daily flights between Trujillo and Lima . Star Perú (Lima tel. 01/705-9000, www.starperu.com ) is the budget option for the same route.
All of these bus companies are recommended and have daily service, usually in the evenings, for the eight-hour haul to Lima: Oltursa (Ejército 342, tel. 044/26-3055, www.oltursa.com.pe ), Cruz del Sur (Amazonas 438, tel. 044/26-1801, www.cruzdelsur.com.pe ), Ormeño (Ejército 233, tel. 044/25-9782), Linea (América Sur 2855, tel. 044/28-6538, www.transporteslinea.com.pe ), and ITTSA Sur (Mansiche 145, tel. 044/25-1415).
The recommended Movil Tours (América Sur 3959, tel. 044/286-538) has comfortable buses to Huaraz  and Chachapoyas, and Linea has frequent buses to Chiclayo  (3 hours) and Cajamarca (6 hours). Most of the bus companies head north as well, and Ormeño offers service to Ecuador.
Taxis within the center of the city cost US$0.75; combis and colectivos are US$0.30 but only operate outside the center. The best place to pick up public transport headed north, including Chicama , Chan Chan , and Huanchaco , is Óvalo Grau opposite the Museo Cassinelli .