Hey you – wanna know a secret?

Can you keep a secret? Promise not to tell?

Here it is, ready? The password for the WIFI at the Hotel El Gran Marques in Trujillo is “moche”.

I know this because I stayed at the Gran Marques on my last overnight stop during a trip from the US to Peru last week. I don’t know if the friendly people at the Gran Marques intended for me to publish their little secret but then again I can’t really see a lot of this blog’s readers heading to the parking lot of the Gran Marques just to take advantage of free WIFI.

There is a point to the story – and the point is that they chose “moche”. Not “Inca-this” or “Inca-that”, “Machu Picchu” or “Wayna Picchu”, but “moche”. The people at the Gran Marques are proud of their Moche heritage and for that reason alone I will stay at the Gran Marques again on my next trip!

Moche was a pre-Inca culture in Northern Peru and today the people in Northern Peru remain proud of their Moche ancestors. Today the Moche culture is perhaps best known for their elaborate paintings such as this one at the Huacas del Sol y de la Luna.

moche painting

Moche painting in Northern Peru

Trouble is, unless you’ve had a chance to spend a good bit of time in Peru outside of the typical tourist circuit you may have never heard of Moche or any of the other the great cultural diversity that exists in Peru.

Take a look at this screenshot, I typed “Peru” in Google and searched for images only:


Screenshot of Google image search for Peru

You can only see part of the results in the picture above but try it for yourself, type “Peru” in Google’s image search and see what you get. Other than a few pictures of maps and flags, my search results returned:

  • 1 picture of a blond girl at Lake Titicaca,
  • 1 picture of the beach near Miraflores,
  • 8 pictures of Machu Picchu, and,
  • Nothing else!

Now Machu Picchu is a fabulous place to visit and the touch-stone location for Peru or maybe all of Latin America, but I regularly hear the same sentiment from Peruvians and expats here alike that the image of Peru – and what little bit the typical tourist visits – is incredibly one-dimensional and not at all representative of the diversity that exists in Peru.

There is so much more to Peru than just Pizza Street in Miraflores, the Inca Trail and Machu Picchu. Unfortunately you have to sort of seek out the path less traveled to get to know the rest of Peru.

Traditionally Peru has been said to consist of 3 regions: the coast, the Andes mountains and the jungle, but even that is too simplistic. Lima as a modern-day metropolis is a distinct area, the North of Peru has its Moche heritage, there is an Afro-Peruvian culture, Asian influence, and regions like Arequipa and Puno have a very distinct feel to them unlike the rest of Peru.

If you have a chance to visit Peru and want to see what the country is like away from the typical tourist circuit, sneak away from your tour group and just hop on any bus – don’t even ask where it’s going. There are many great things to be discovered!

Some pictures of the North of Peru:

trujillo cathedral

Trujillo Cathedral


Algarrobina, a drink more typical of the North of Peru

moche paintings

Moche paintings


Huanchaco, Peru


A picture I took on takeoff from Trujillo, the beach town/resort of Huanchaco

Huacas del Sol y de la Luna

We visited the Huacas del Sol y de la Luna while we were in Trujillo last week. The Huacas del Sol y de la Luna are an archeological complex of the Moche, a pre-Inca civilization in Northern Peru. The complex consists of 2 temples, which resemble the Mexican Pyramids of the Sun and the Moon in Teotihuacan.

Significant archeological research has only been done at the complex since the early 1990s, the larger of the 2 pyramids, Huaca del Sol, has not been excavated so far. The Huaca de la Luna is the only one open to the public at this time.

Huaca del Sol near Trujillo, Peru

Huaca del Sol near Trujillo, Peru

Unlike the archeological sites near Cusco, the Huacas del Sol y de la Luna are adorned with colorful paintings, typical of the Moche culture. Each of these paintings is about 1.7 meter (nearly 6 feet) tall. The typical Moche paintings are found both on the interior walls and on the exterior of the temples.

Moche paintings inside the Huaca de la Luna

Moche paintings inside the Huaca de la Luna

Moche painting representing the main Moche god

Moche painting representing the main Moche god

Paintings of Moche warriors

Paintings of Moche warriors

The Huaca de la Luna consists of 5 separate buildings, built over the top of each other to form the pyramid-like structure. The Huaca del Sol is estimated to consist of 11 buildings. It is believed with each new generation of priests or rulers the old temple was covered with clay brick (adobe) and a new temple was constructed on top of the former temple.

Note that on the exterior walls, the paintings don’t correspond with the levels of the building on the inside.

Exterior of the temple, with a ramp leading to the top

Exterior of the temple, with a ramp leading to the top

Huaca de la Luna near Trujillo, Peru

Huaca de la Luna near Trujillo, Peru