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Travel Guide to the Valley of the Pyramids in Tucume

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Travel Guide to the Valley of the Pyramids in Tucume

Túcume is an archaeological site located 33 km north of the city of Chiclayo, in the lower part of the La Leche Valley, in northwestern Peru. It is made up of the remains of numerous adobe pyramids or huacas, around a rocky structure known as Cerro La Raya. It was one of the administrative and ceremonial centers of the Sicán or Lambayeque culture, and dates from the 11th century AD. It was successively annexed to the Chimú kingdom and the Inca empire, and remained in force until the time of the Spanish conquest.



The archaeological site is located 1 km east of the small city of Túcume (which gives it its name), in the central part of the province of Lambayeque, in the department of the same name. It rises at the foot of and surrounding part of the El Purgatorio or La Raya hill, a rocky promontory that was an ancient place of worship.


The district of Túcume was created in 1894, around the town, which was entrusted to the Spanish Juan Roldán Dávila in 1536 by Francisco Pizarro. In 1622, a flood of the La Leche River made the city move to its current location. The district, flat and 43 m above sea level, has 89.74 km2, and is part of the Lambayeque valley, the longest on the north coast of Peru.



It has an area of 67 km², which represents 2.7% of the territory of the Lambayeque province and 1.8% of the Lambayeque Region.


The main activity is agriculture with 10,412.22 ha, planted in the big or summer campaign with seasonal crops such as rice (3,379.53 ha), hard yellow corn (1,203.3 ha), cotton (647.36 ha) , sweet potato (26 ha) and starchy corn (25 ha). And in the small or winter campaign with a total of 478 ha, they are dedicated to the cultivation of grain legumes as a rotation of the rice crop.


Likewise, Túcume is part of this fragile ecosystem that is the dry forests of the north coast of Peru. Life zones characterized by the extreme fragility of the species of flora and fauna that inhabit them, as well as the existence of a unique biodiversity on the Peruvian coast, adapted to arid and semi-arid zones, as well as highly fragile soils, in special of the few agricultural soils that exist in the district, which are pressured by intensive agriculture that demand high amounts of fertilizers.



It is believed that the place was first occupied by the Lambayeque culture, between the years 1000 and 1370 AD, then by the Chimú, between 1370 and 1470, and finally by the Incas, between 1470 and 1532, when the Spanish arrived.


The founding of the city, between the years 1000 and 1100, coincides with the fall of Batán Grande, on the banks of the Chancay River, which was burned and abandoned at that time.


Legend has it that the place was founded by Naymlap, a mythical hero who came from the sea and built the city with the help of the local peasants around La Raya hill, a rocky elevation that stands out in the middle of the plain. This legend was collected by the Spanish chronicler Miguel Cabello Valboa in 1586.


Scientific research began in the 20th century. In 1930 Alfred Kroeber illustrated his description of Túcume with a map. In 1939, Wendell C. Bennett gave excavation reports by him at the site. In 1951, Richard P. Schaedel published a plan, prepared by Antonio Rodríguez Suy Suy based on aerial photographs. In 1979 Hermann Trimborn made the first detailed historical and archaeological analysis, which covered the entire area adjacent to Cerro La Raya up to Huaca Grande, on the eastern outskirts of the town.


In the 1990s, the famous explorer Thor Heyerdahl, after visiting the town of Túcume, began a research project (in which archaeologists Daniel Sandweiss and Alfredo Narváez participated), which has culminated in the creation of a site museum, next to Huaca 1, which houses the most important remains found in the ruins. The result of these investigations is the book entitled Pirámides de Túcume: the search for the forgotten city of Peru (Peruvian edition in 1996).


The Archaeological Site

The archaeological center, which the local population calls El Purgatorio or Huaca La Raya, is made up of dozens of pre-Hispanic pyramids of considerable size, which make it one of the largest archaeological sites in the Americas.


The largest pyramid (Huaca Larga) is 700 m long, 270 m wide and 30 m high. Others reach 10 to 15 m in height. Unlike the Egyptian pyramids, the American pyramids form large superimposed platforms and do not end in a point, but instead the temples are located on top (truncated pyramid). Currently, the Túcume pyramids, like other similar ones on the northern Peruvian coast, look amorphous, and simulate being large promontories or natural hills, when in reality they originally had geometric shapes; This is due to the ravages of torrential rains, which periodically hit the region as a result of the El Niño phenomenon.


These pyramids were accessed by ramps. At the foot are walled remains and cemeteries. On some pyramidal platforms there are Inca-style constructions, evidence of the Inca conquest of the 15th century.


The basic construction material is small rectangular adobe. The walls were plastered and in some sectors painted with rows of birds and other motifs.


Among these numerous pyramids or huacas, the following stand out:

  • Huaca del Pueblo or Huaca Grande (located on the eastern edge of the town of Túcume).
  • Huaca Mirador (so called because from its top you have a panoramic view of the valley)
  • Huaca Larga
  • Huaca of the Stakes
  • Huaca Painted

Main attractions of the Túcume Archaeological Complex:

The Long Huaca

It is a construction of colossal dimensions, it grew over five hundred years, from the Lambayeque period (the earliest, year 1,000 BC), beginning with the Chimú period (1375-1470 AD) and finally the Inca period. Throughout generations and new rulers, Huaca Larga grew in height, length and width, filling in old rooms, thus forming new platforms on which new rooms, passageways or ramps were built.


In the central and highest part of Huaca Larga, a construction from the Inca period (1470-1532) stands out, called the Temple of the Sacred Stone. Archaeological excavations allowed us to discover the funeral bundle of a Tucuman ruler, dressed in his characteristic insignia. The archaeologist Narváez (his researcher) believes that he was the main curaca of that city a few years before the arrival of the Spanish (1532). He was buried under the temple floor, flanked by two men and 19 women in an adjoining enclosure. All of them were of tender age and show signs of having been sacrificed. Due to the trousseau that accompanies them, it is believed that they were expert craftsmen. The large number of offerings in this temple, such as miniature silver figurines, camelids, snails and sacred shells (mullu - spondylus sp. -), the latter brought from the seas of Ecuador, tell us about the great importance of the Huaca Long, pyramid that even in Inca times, five centuries after its foundation, remained as one of the most important shrines of the Tawantinsuyu (Empire of the Incas).


The Temple of the Sacred Stone

It was used and respected by the Inca Empire. It is an enclosure with a very small access through which only one person can enter. Inside, figures of feathers bathed in gold and silver have been found. Although the Incas only made offerings to the temples they considered most important, such as Coricancha in Cusco, the Temple of the Sacred Stone would also have been highly revered by them.


Temple of the Mythical Bird

This temple is just inside Huaca Larga and dates from the time of the Chimú Culture. It is so called because it is decorated with figures and designs of birds of all colors. It is recognized for being the place where an elite character was buried: the Lord of Túcume, along with 19 weaver women and two men, probably as part of a sacrifice at the time of his burial.


Huaca Las Rafts

It is so named because it is filled with decorations with images of rafts and seabirds, nets, and other ocean-related designs


The Valley of the Pyramids

The Valley of the Pyramids, also called the Túcume Archaeological Complex, extends over 220 hectares. In the area you can find 26 pyramid-shaped buildings made of adobe (clay and sand). The buildings, many of them temples, are around 40 meters high and were built from the years 700 to 1,000 AD. approximately, by the Lambayeque Culture. However, it is known that the Chimú and Inca cultures also made some changes to them.



  • Admission to the Túcume Archaeological Complex costs 8 soles for adults, 3 soles for students and 1 sol for children. The payment includes the entrance to the Valley and also to the site museum.
  • A local tour guide can be hired to provide information and guidance on every historical and cultural aspect of the Valley of the Pyramids.
  • To hire a guide service, the approximate cost is 30 soles for groups of 15 people maximum for route A and 50 soles for route B. We will explain both later.

How to get to the Valley of the Pyramids in Túcume?

To start your journey to the Pyramids of Túcume we recommend you first travel to Chiclayo. The price of the ticket from Lima to Chiclayo varies from 30 to 125 soles depending on the transport company and the service chosen. The journey time is 13 hours on average. If you are already in the Department, it is also possible that you arrive from Ferreñafe or Lambayeque.



  • The climate in Chiclayo is hot and desert. The average annual temperature is a minimum of 20°C and a maximum of 26°C. You can travel at any time of the year, but it is best to wear light clothing and avoid synthetic clothing.
  • You can get to Túcume from Chiclayo for two soles. A bus, which costs 2 soles per person, departs from the city to the district every so often. Once in Túcume, you must take a motorcycle taxi, which charges between 3 to 5 soles, to reach the entrance to the Valley in 15 minutes.
  • It can also be reached via a taxi service from Chiclayo, whose price is around 10 soles. The journey takes 30 to 40 minutes maximum.

Route A and Route B to the Valley of the Pyramids

There are two routes to explore this impressive archaeological complex. Route A takes 45 minutes and begins at Huaca Las Balsas, from where you can walk and visit the other attractions of the Valley of the Pyramids.


Route B is marked by the desert plain. It is a path that leads to Cerro Purgatorio, a place where there are several viewpoints to take the best panoramic photographs of all the pyramids.


From the point of Purgatory you can see all the temples of the complex, the main angles of the pyramids and the Huaca Larga in all its splendor. On the way to the hill there are other trails that do not lead anywhere exactly, but have beautiful landscapes and an incomparable state of tranquility, full of forests and carob trees.



Very close to the Valley of the Pyramids there is a hotel called Los Horcones de Túcume, which has won many awards thanks to its good service and its traditional architecture. It is not cheap, but it is an excellent option to enjoy the partial view of the Archaeological Complex before the full tour.


The Tucume Museum

In 2014, the Túcume Museum was inaugurated, which works together with the Archaeological Complex of the same name and is part of most tourist packages. There, about 1,262 pieces found in the excavations of the pyramids and in the surroundings are exhibited.


The museum has an entertainment system that helps you learn about the place in a didactic way. Every year at the museum, at least 30 shamans meet in the fortnight of September with the aim of invoking their gods.


The Tucume Experience

The tour to the Valley of the Pyramids and the Túcume Museum is added to a short walk through the nearby desert passages. The guides give the option of taking a javelin throw test, just as the ancient inhabitants of Túcume did to hunt animals and get food. Tours include tours of reserve dyeing workshops, pottery and ceramics to appreciate and learn about the activities of the local artisan association.



The Túcume Museum was awarded as the Best World Tourism Project, by the British Association of Travel Writers. An important fact is that admission is free on the first Sunday of each month.


Some tips to enjoy your trip with peace of mind

  • Bring sunscreen and repellent. It is preferable to visit the pyramids in the afternoon, when the intensity of sunlight decreases (it is a desert climate). There are many mosquitoes so to avoid any problems it is ideal to go with light clothing but with pants and long sleeves.
  • The guide service for routes A and B have a cost, but you can travel both on your own. So, in order to save money, it is recommended to hire a guide for route A and then go to Cerro Purgatorio and the viewpoints without the need for a guide, since what is striking there is the panoramic view.
  • Photos are allowed at the Túcume Museum. A camera with a well-charged battery is the perfect companion.
  • The opening hours of the Archaeological Complex and the Museum are from 8 in the morning until 7 in the afternoon.
  • Although there are 26 pyramids, most are not open to the public. Many are still in the process of being investigated and excavated. The travel experience will improve by following the indications that they provide at the entrance of this historical site.

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