I was invited to spend a weekend with a local family in the town of Chiclayo, located about a six-hour car-drive away from Chimbote where I am currently living. The town whose nicknames are “The Capital of Friendship” or the “Pearl of the North” with its many lovely parks, shopping centres, prestigious universities and clean beaches (where recycling is normal, hurray) will make you want to stay longer than you planned…
Once your car enters the Lambayeque region in northern Peru, of which Chiclayo is the capital, you might feel a difference in the temperature and humidity, which gradually become higher. In fact, Chiclayo is located on the way to the jungle of e.g. Iquitos (where you eventually need to go by boat, unless you take a flight from Lima) and the beautiful beaches of Máncora where the sand becomes white and the ocean warmer, influenced by the warmer waters of nearby Ecuador.
Peru´s fourth-largest city, after Lima, Arequipa, and Trujillo, Chiclayo is one of the towns where you feel absolutely at ease, even as a gringa, roaming the streets of the well-lit up city centre at night. This important Peruvian city is the financial and commercial capital of Northern Peru with eminent banking chains, warehouses, hospitals, clinics, and – even galleries!
Thanks to its cool vibes, great gastronomy and so much to see around – unless you decide to dally your days away on the beaches of Pimental (which resembles the beaches of Miami), the more private Las Rocas and many others – the city will easily win your heart over.
In many places of the town you notice inscriptions claiming that Chiclayo is a “Heroic City”. This is connected with the history, obviously, so for those of you who love some facts: Chiclayo was declared a city on 15 April 1835 by president Felipe Santiago Salaverry who named it “the Heroic City” to recognize the courage of its citizens in the fight for independence.
One of my favourite spots in the city is the Cathedral of Chiclayo, located in the main square and built in neoclassical style (starting in 1869, finished in 1945) by design and drawings of Gustave Eiffel.
Chiclayo is renowned for its many amazing restaurants where people stand in a line to get in. One of my favourite ones is Marakos grill, but of course, if you do not eat meat, it might not be the best option. I love the smiling, welcoming and polite staff in the place, their César salad with grilled chicken breasts and their amazing home-made sangria.
Another restaurant I could recommend to all lovers of cevicherias is La Brisa del Mar, where, among other dishes, they offer an amazing dish of grilled sea food!
When in Chiclayo, don’t forget to taste the following plates that are typical of the region.
- Seco de Cabrito: goat meat stew
- Arroz con Pato: rice with duck
- Espesado: beef chest meat with green veggies served with rice
- Chirimpico: bird of goat liver stew scrambled with cooked blood served with yucca and yam slices
- Pepian de Pavo: turkey stew with corn
- Causanorteña (Chiclayana): smashed potatoes and veggies spiced with lime and salt – yes, finally a vegan option
Among the sea food specialities, there would be Chinguirito (a variety of fish – salted and sundried – cut into small pieces and cooked with lemon, served with chopped onion, yucca and fried corn) or Tortilla de Raya (omelette made from stingray).
If you have the sweet tooth, you might want to try out a traditional dessert of the area – King Kong, made of cookie layers, filled with blancmange, pineapple sweet and in some cases peanuts.
The traditional drink in the area is Chicha de Jora, a corn beer prepared by germinating maize, extracting the malt sugars, boiling the wort, and fermenting it in large containers for several days. It is traditionally prepared from a specific kind of yellow maize (jora), has a very low amount of alcohol (about 2%) and a slightly milky appearance.
What to see around
Pimentel is a beach resort area with a long sandy beach and a lots of activities happening in the summer. The area is well-suited for surfers. As the place used to be a fishermen´s village, you can see the famous caballitos de totora (reed boats) along the beach. Another cool beach is Santa Rosa, located 5 km south of Pimentel.
If you prefer towns, pay a visit to Monsefú, an artisans´ town located 20 km southwest of Chiclayo, which is known for its straw weaving (hats, baskets, purses, and saddle bags) as well as works of cotton and thread. It is also famous for embroidery with gold and silver threads. There, you can find delicate napkins, table cloths, blouses, skirts, ponchos, and embroidered cloaks. Among their people there are many artisans also making ceramic objects.
The third Eucharistic City of the World, Eten, (25 minutes by car from Chiclayo) celebrates with intense religious fervor the Fair of the Divine Child of the Miracle (22nd July). It is the artisan capital of macora straw weaving and delicate embroidery. Puerto Eten and the beach of Eten is located 2 Km from the Eten town.
Ferreñafe (20 minutes by car) is an agricultural town dedicated to growing rice. This area is known as the Land of two faiths for maintaining the beliefs of Catholicism and shamanism at the same time. The Santa Lucia Church is the main dominant here, a Baroque construction built in 1552, which exhibits unique Baroque wood carvings and marble altars.
Santuario Histórico Bosque de Pómac (1 hour by car) is a dry forest, a refuge for carob trees, birds, and at the same time for Sicán archeological remains.
Salas, the capital of folkloric medicine, as it is sometimes called, is a town of sorcerers, healers and shamans that are part of the spirit of the north coast of Peru. Located circa 50 km north of Chiclayo, this place is a must-see for all those interested in traditional forms of healing. There are nights cure sessions organized by the healers almost every night of the week, but especially Tuesdays and Fridays, which are based on the indigestion of san pedro plant and other herbal medicine.
Motupe is a tranquil town with a plaza where you can see turtles and iguanas. It is famed by the celebration of the festivities of the Cruz de Chalpón – a sacred wooden cross located on the hill of Chalpoń. The place is closed for visitors currently due to reconstructions in the terrain. There are beautiful hills and mountains around the town, except for the already mentioned hill of Chalpón, there is e.g. also Cerro Rajado. If you have time, go up to the hills to enjoy some splendid nature sceneries and the local agricultural life.