Chiclayo itself is a pretty big, busy town. There’s quite a lot to see fairly nearby, but, as with Trujillo, it’s hard to get to the archaeological sites without independent transport or taking a guided tour. We decided to go for the self-guided option and just went to the museums in Lambayeque, a 20-minute colectivo ride from town. This was easier than we’d feared: we were following the vague yet complicated instructions in the Lonely Planet to find the local bus station when I noticed that every couple of minutes we were passed by a white minibus with a sign for Lambayeque in the window. After a bit of arm-waving and a very brief negotiation in Spanish, we were crammed into the back of a van and on our way.
The big local draw is the Moche site of Huaca Rajada, or Sipán. This was discovered by tomb raiders in 1987, but was closed off by police before it could be cleared out completely. The main tombs were entirely untouched, making this one of the most important recent archaeological discoveries in Peru. The Museo de Tumbas Reales has all of the artefacts from Sipán, in a building shaped vaguely like the tombs themselves. Like the Huaca de la Luna in Trujillo, Sipán is a Russian doll of a structure, with many layers (and tombs) added over time. The tombs are presumably of lords or priests, and contain opulent treasures: pottery vessels, spondylus shell jewellery, and enough gold jewellery to smother a donkey. There are also skeletons of dogs, llamas, and humans, some with their feet cut off, presumably so that they would be unable to flee from their guard duty, even in the afterlife. Sadly, though, the museum is also an amazing example of how not to interpret any of the things on display, so it’s very easy to get museum fatigue after endless rooms of treasure and bones.
The nearby Brüning Museum is a lovely contrast. A rather faded, Le Corbusier-inspired, building contains the collection of a nineteenth-century German researcher. Again, it’s not great in terms of explanation, but it does, uniquely among all the museums we went to in Peru, have a complete timeline of what was happening where and when in Peru for the last 12,000 years. Almost all museums have some kind of timeline on display, but they’re irritatingly focussed on the immediate neighbourhood and the Catholic Church, to the exclusion of anything that might actually help you understand regional history. Fascinating though it might be to some, I really don’t care that the First Crusade happened at around the same time that the Chancay were replacing the Wari along The Central coast of Peru.
Taking the colectivo back to town was easy: we walked down the road from where we’d been dropped off until somebody tried to sell us seats. We then waited for a few minutes, until they’d filled the bus. Of course, it then stopped to pick up more passengers along the way, but that’s clearly how things work.
Chiclayo also has a large market, which has a section dedicated to supplying everything a local shaman, or brujo, could want. Nice for a quick wander around, but I don't think I'd want to pay for an actual guided tour.
Logistics: S/1.50 per person each way to Lambayeque and back. A taxi would have been around S/40 each way, which means it would actually be cheaper to pay for every seat in the entire colectivo than to get a taxi. Both museums cost S/10 per person to get in. The Museo de Tumbas Reales has incredible security: you have to leave all bags, cameras, and phones in a locker, and get wanded down before you’re allowed in. Take some kind of photo ID along so that you can leave it in the locker: the attendant checks that it's actually you before letting you have your stuff back.