This sprawling pyramid complex, set amid a dry-forest nature reserve, was the first Sicán capital and the source for the majority of the plundered gold that was either sold to private collections or—before collecting became popular in the 1940s—simply melted down.
Batán Grande (57 km northeast of Chiclayo, tel. 074/20-1470, 7 a.m.–6 p.m. daily, free) is about a half hour drive farther along the same road that leads to Museo Sicán . The royal tombs were discovered in front of Huaca de Oro (Pyramid of Gold), one of 34 adobe pyramids in the 300-hectare Reserva Bosque Pómac. The excavated tombs have been covered up to deter grave robbers, and there is little to see except for the pyramids, which look like huge dirt hills.
They were badly eroded by the El Niño rains of 1982 and 1998, which did however boost the surrounding dry forest of algarrobo, ficus, zapote, and vichayo trees (one algarobbo tree, forced to the ground by its own weight, is reputed to be 800 years old and is the center of shamanic rituals). There is interesting wildlife in the reserve: 41 species of birds, numerous reptiles (iguanas, snakes, lizards), as well as foxes, deer, anteaters, and ferrets—though the spectacled bear and puma long ago disappeared from this forest.
More than anything, the reserve is a depressing case study of how Peruvians, driven by necessity, continue to plunder their cultural and natural treasures. Villagers frequently venture into the park at night to cut down trees for lumber or dig around the pyramids, though huaqueros are no longer finding the treasures they used to here. The punishments for these crimes are ridiculously low—US$60 for the first offense and US$120 for the second, with no jail time or confiscation of vehicles.
The four guards in charge of patrolling the 5,800-hectare nature reserve have two motorcycles and one pickup truck between them. Because of the difficult conditions, local groups have taken it upon themselves to develop a volunteer ranger program to protect the trees in the forest as well as general ecotourism infrastructure.
Locals have been trained to give tours of the cultural and natural resources in the park, and park rangers give tours, too. Both appreciate tips.
To reach Batán Grande, take a colectivo from the Terminal de Epsel at the corner of Avenida Oriente and Nicolás de Pierola in Chiclayo . Be sure to designate that you are going to the archaeological site and not the town by the same name. Because the site is large and hard to find, it is best to see it on an organized tour.