A region often overshadowed by the grandeur of southern Peru's Machu Picchu and ancient city of Cuzco, northern Peru has much to offer in terms of unique experiences, mystery and intrigue and should not be overlooked.
Flush with archaeological treasures, superior surf spots, distinct gastronomy and diverse geography from coastal towns to desert, northern Peru is rapidly making its mark as the latest Peruvian region to uncover and explore. Here are some top things to do when visiting northern Peru:
Along Peru's northern coast lies the Moche Route, where ancient sites belonging to the pre-Incan Moche culture (A.D. 100-800) await discovery. The route begins in the northern gateway city of Trujillo and continues through the regions of Lambayeque and La Libertad.
Major temples and archaeological sites along the route include the spectacular Huaca del Sol and the adjacent Huaca de la Luna, also known as the Temples of the Sun and the Moon. The latter being a better-preserved but smaller temple, featuring intact murals and structures that tell of ancient stories and mystery.
Further north lies the tomb of the Lord of Sipan, discovered in 1987 intact and untouched by tomb thieves. The most fascinating archaeological finding in this region however is El Brujo and the Lady of Cao - the mummy of a tattooed woman. This discovery is the first of its kind in Peru and often likened to the uncovering of King Tut's tomb in Egypt.
City in the Sky
The northern, ancient city of Kuelap is being hailed as one of the most intriguing and culture ridden sites in Peru. Located at the peak of a mountain higher than Machu Picchu, Kuelap is Peru's City in the Clouds. Home to more than 450 stone houses and one of the largest stone structures in South America, this site dates back to before the Inca Empire.
The fascinating site of Kuelap offers archaeology buffs an off-the-beaten-track experience to explore the stories of the mysterious Chachapoyan people, known as the People of the Clouds, who constructed the impressive fortress between 900 and 1100 AD. Treks are available by foot or horse-back and are up to five days in length.
Adding to north Peru's list of unique coastal attractions is Chicama, a surfing town where budding surfers are said to find one of the world's longest left-hand waves. An absolute mecca in the surfing world, Chicama is a must for Aussies looking for the ultimate surfing challenge. Though the wave itself has never actually been measured, surfers estimate the wave peels for an incredible four kilometres, the ride-able section of the wave extending over 1.5 kilometres and often lasting for more than three minutes.
Huanchaco, a neighbouring surf spot, is the birthplace of the caballito de totora boat - said to be the first known surf craft, also known as reed watercrafts used by Peruvian fishermen for the past 3,000 years. Travellers can still watch the local fisherman hitting the waves on these traditional surf boards as they bring in the day's catch.
Visitors to the north will also encounter unique cuisine in this region with signature dishes cabrito and ceviche taking centre stage. Seafood is a daily delicacy here due to the coastal location and abundance of fresh seafood produce. Another must try dish of the north is arroz con pato (duck with rice) and of course Pisco Sours are always on the menu!
For more information on northern Peru, please visit www.peru.travel