Chan Chan – The largest pre-colombian existing city


(Approximate reading time: 7 minutes)

Who of you people thought about Buena Vista Social Club when you read the headline? I had exactly the same reasoning and thought about the most famous song of the Cuban band when I had the option to visit Chan Chan?

“How can I visit a song from Buena Vista Social Club”?

You can. And you should as well. Chan Chan is the largest still existing pre-colombian city in South America. To save myself some time I will quote Wikipedia here to give the basic infos:

“The name is probabilly derived from the Quingnam “Jiang” or “Chang” which means Sun, from which Chan-Chan would be literally: Sun-Sun. Chan Chan is believed to have been constructed around 850 AD by the Chimú. It was the Chimor empire capital city with an estimated population of 40,000-60,000 people. After the Inca conquered the Chimú around 1470 AD, Chan Chan fell into decline. In 1535 AD, Francisco Pizarro founded the Spanish city of Trujillo which pushed Chan Chan further into the shadows. While no longer a teeming capital city, Chan Chan was still well known for its great riches and was consequently looted by the Spaniards. An indication of the great Chimú wealth is seen in a sixteenth century list of items looted from a burial tomb in Chan Chan; a treasure equivalent to 80,000 pesos of gold was recovered (nearly $5,000,000 US dollars in gold).

In 1969, Michael Moseley and Carol J. Mackey began excavations of Chan Chan; today these excavations continue under the Peruvian Instituto Nacional de Cultura.”

Can you believe how big the areal might have been, if they are busy since more than 50 years with the excavations? Although these figures of 40,000 – 60,000 habitants might seem to our nowadays time a quite small amount for a city you should not forget to imagine how difficult it must have been these days for the Chimu to control and lead the life of their people. In our times, architects and construction workers build skyscrapers to solve the problem of missing living space and use modern techniques and the aid of machines. But the Chimu hadn’t had these possibilities and needed to build everything from hand and maybe smaller primitive mechanical facilities.

And this is the next big thing, that stunned me. How could it happen, that such a huge city was forgotten for such a long time? People think when they hear about Peru always about the Inca and Machu Picchu. Probably because they were in charge of the reign when the Spaniards arrived. But the Inca were only in charge for 62 years (below in yellow color on the graph). That’s not quite long, is it?

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Timeline of ancient high civilizations in today’s Peru

But for me as well the people of the Chimu were complete unknown and I’ve never heard about them before. Apparently they had 570 reigning years in what we call now Peru. Neither do I know anything about the people of the Moche. Looks like there is much more to learn for me!

Anyway, let me now after this far too long introduction talk a little bit about the day itself. I was in a very bad shape and upset my stomach two days before. In the overnight bus ride from Cajamarca to Trujillo (The next bigger city) I didn’t sleep at all and haven’t eaten much. So all in all my energy and motivation level was at this day of the travel the lowest and I needed some external motivation help from my travel companion Dimixtrix.


I traveled with no one else as much with the bus as with Dimixtrix

He convinced me to stay for one more day in Trujillo and visit Chan Chan and Playa Huanchaco. Without his help, I would’ve probably taken the next bus back to Lima and would’ve missed a wonderful tourism destination.

From Trujillo you can take busses who drive to Huanchaco. On half way there is the entrance of Chan Chan. We didn’t inform us upfront and haven’t planned enough money and time for a full visit at Chan Chan. But as a recommendation to everyone I would say, that you can plan 4 – 5 hours time, if you use the service of a tour guide and transportation service. And this you should definitely do, because the areal is too spacious to walk and the opening times of the archaeologic site of Chan Chan are limited from 9AM to 4PM. Cheap tour guides can be found at the entrance, one operator requested 40 Soles from us, what are not even 10 Euro for four hours of work. A good deal, but we didn’t use it, because we had different plans for the afternoon. 


Chan Chan is placed at a huge areal and we had to walk for 3 kilometers under the hot sun from the street to the entrance. It was definitely worth it and I wished that I would have been in a better shape to do the full tour. So we could only see two of the four possible sights (Plaza Ceremonial and the museum). But still what we saw was impressive. It didn’t happen often in my life that I visited archaeological sites, but this time I somehow could imagine how difficult it was to live as a civilian 1,000 years ago in Chan Chan. As distinguished from the pyramids in Egypt – Which are a good comparison because they were built as well in a desertic area – the stone ruins of Chan Chan were not in a good condition.

After the temple area, Dimixtrix and I walked the way back to the road and took a visit to the museum. In front of the entrance was a friendly desert dog sitting and enjoying the sunshine:

Chimu were proud people and carried their kings on a palanquin:

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All in all I wasn’t really feeling it this day because of the sickness I carried around. But still not sick enough to pose for a few pictures:

Yes, it is definitely worth to visit Chan Chan. It’s more than just a song from a Cuban band.

TraPhil features… Χωρις Γλυκανισο

TraPhil features...

(Approximate reading time: 12 minutes)

Shit – What has happened to the headline? There are some alien signs you never saw before in your life. But don’t worry: Neither do you need to read the text from the right to the left, nor to download the latest version of the Adobe Flash Player.

Maybe it is better, if I let the person I want to introduce to you people hidden and dangerous in the dark. I think, that this would be exactly how he wanted it to be. Let’s just say, that these strange signs in the headline are luckily not Arabic, but from the Greek alphabet. And let us call this man Dimixtrix, following how some Peruvians tried to pronounce his name and made us both laugh. People from South America had enough problems to pronounce his name correctly and thought all the time that he would be Russian. But he does not have a lot in common with a Vodka drinking and Russian Roulette playing psychopath. Far from it! I am talking now about one of the finest and sharpest personalities I met so far during my time in South America. And if Don Felipe compliments people (what usually doesn’t happen too often) AND writes a dedicated blog article about this person, there must be something true inside of his words!

I had the chance to meet Dimixtrix for the first time in October 2017 when I was new in Quito. Everything was new for me in that time: New country, new city, new apartment, new people, new daily rhythm, new everything. I lived in a very huge house with about 35 living quarters. My time in Ecuador was not very successful: I had heavy problems with my health, completely incompetent doctors to deal with and a job that was not corresponding and matching my talents and skills AT ALL. Besides that I couldn’t fix my Visa problems, because I was dependent of my official documentation from UCAM, the worst university of Europe. Without that kind of documentation I couldn’t apply for a working visa.

All in all not the very best arguments to look finally back and say: “Yes, that was a great time”. But luckily I met one person, that was really worth it and will be always a precious friend and contact. Dimixtrix was my neighbor in that huge house, that was more suitable for exchange students and social volunteers from Europe and the U.S.A.
When I met him for the first time, I was highly surprised: He was Greek. And during all my years abroad I barely met any Greek students, tourists, etc. They mostly stick to their country due to different reasons. Dimixtrix luckily received a scholarship, which made his time in Quito possible. So it was just luck, that we met each other at the right time at the wrong place. I write wrong place not only because of me, Dimixtrix prefers as well living closer to the beach area to listen to the waves than living up in the mountains.
We had directly a click, because he is from Thessaloniki, the second biggest city of Greece. It is a really beautiful city and worth to visit. My uncle migrated 30 years ago to Greece to a little fisher village maybe 50 kilometer away from Thessaloniki. So I was surprised, that he knew this little fisher village and he was surprised, that I had already visited his hometown and could tell him a few stories about his city. A good conversation and a good start for a buddyship!

During that time I already had the luck to perceive him as a very energetic and active personality, without any fear of strange or unknown things and with the willingness to first eat something and then later ask: ‘What is that?’. So exactly this ‘I’ll do it, come hell or high water’-attitude also represents me. How many people don’t want to exit their own comfort zone and prefer to stay safe and secure in their rhythm and routine? Dimixtrix is so far away from his own comfort zone, if he turns around and tries to look for it he would probably need binoculars to find it. A real explorer and curious adventurer.

After three months of a lot of trouble for me I finally decided to leave Ecuador and headed to Peru. In the week when I was leaving town, he asked me: “Will you be in Lima in March/April? I’m planning to travel to and through Peru.” I told him, that probably I will be but can’t promise anything to him. He answered me, that he will visit me for sure. Okay, nice words. But how many people have already told me, that they would visit me and have never shown up?

Dimixtrix also says these words, but what is indeed more important about him: He realizes them and make them happen. There are not many people in the world who let nice words consequently nice actions follow. Mostly it remains BlaBla. Well, I found a very nice Greek specimen it seems. And I am very grateful to that!

So Dimixtrix contacted me again in February and told me, that he will travel to Peru and if I would like to join him for one week. I didn’t need to think for long and agreed to his idea. We met in Mancora, what is in the north of Peru, very close to the border of Ecuador. He came from the north, I came from the south and we met almost in the middle. And it was probably one of the most exhausting bus rides I ever made: 20 hours in a normal travel bus, without the comfort of a sleeping bus.

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Bus from Lima to Mancora: 21 hours

So we started together in Mancora for two nights, went from there to Piura to catch a bus to Chiclayo. In Chiclayo we have visited ‘El mercado de las brujas’ what means something like ‘The Witch Market’ and which has to offer a lot of weird voodoo things to interested people.

So from these seven days we were unfortunately most of the time in a bus. Maybe 2.5 days from these seven days were wasted/spent on the roads of Peru. But it was nonetheless worth it!

When we arrived at the hot springs in Yumagual I was very disappointed about the site: An indigenous tramp requested 5 Soles charge at the entrance of this free place from us and indigenous people were washing their clothes at the hot springs. So all in all that day was a little bit disappointing. But Dimixtrix was still in a positive mood and did not show any displeasure about our situation.

All in all I am very thankful to have made this trip with him, because I saw a lot of things which I probably never would see so easily again or on my own. But Dimixtrix is very energetic and could motivate me several times to continue although my inner energy reserves were running low. I like to remember the last day in Trujillo, when I was after an upset stomach and no sleep in an overnight bus close to book a ticket back to Lima. But he convinced me to stay for one day longer and thanks to this decision I had for example the joy to see the oldest Pre-Colombian city Chan Chan in South America.

After returning to Lima, we also had a couple of good days together, e.g. at the evening with Coline and Lea (Two old housemates from Quito) or at ‘La casa de Nico’.

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And Dimixtrix loves ice cream! Whenever he had a good meal and his tiny stomach is already full, he is still looking for an ice cream:

Ice cream with Susan and Dimixtrix

Although it’s quite stupid and wasteful what the Peruvians did here: Installing a motorized gas compressor to operate an ice cream machine including its cooling system. But Dimixtrix wanted to have an ice cream.

Not all about Dimixtrix is perfect of course. He has the typical Greek “I love to be late” mentality. In South America it didn’t really matter, because these people here love the same mentality. when he made an appointment, the other person was late as well. So if both people are 30-60 minutes late, at the end they were punctual. Another little careless thing is to travel to South America without a smartphone. The only advantage is, that none South American criminal can steal his phone. The disadvantages are the missing GPS, the missing clock, the missing possibility to contact him, etc.. It’s not very easy to travel without a cellphone through South America in our modern times, where everyone relies on the internet. My deepest respect, but it also complicated our trip sometimes 🙂

Dimixtrix and his friend Thanassis – Who joined for a South America trip as well – continued traveling to Ica, a city in the south of Lima. He took another bus of four hours and wanted to see the desert and the oasis of Huacachina. I didn’t go with him, because I already saw these places before. He has some more big travel plans: Go to Santiago de Chile, after that back to Cuzco and then to Buenos Aires. Of course everything in bus.

I wish him all the best, a safe and secure trip and a successful finish of his studies. One more semester and he is done with his shite. If destiny wants it, we will sit one day together in Thessaloniki and eat Bougatsa, a traditional Greek breakfast and drink Frappé, a traditional Greek coffee.