Courtyards and colonial architecture in Trujillo

After a week spent high up in Peru’s central mountains, I took an overnight bus to Trujillo, back down on the coast. My ears popped during the journey, so extreme was the drop in altitude.

My bus arrived at 4am but I woke up enough to register the swanky bus station. I said to myself “YES I’m back in a big town!” but noticed with sadness the differences between this bus terminal and those of the small towns I had just come from. For example, there were turnstiles at the entrance the toilets. You had to go to the lady by the till and pay her your 50 centavos in exchange for a receipt with a bar code. You held the bar code to the scanner and the turnstile opened. It was all thoroughly modern and unnecessary. I thought that the money required to purchase and install such a system would have been better spent on something more important, such as resources in remote villages.

In my experience, Peru’s large, touristy towns are developed and have all the features of a Western metropolis. Yet the money does not seem to filter out to the remote areas and quality of life varies significantly according to where you find yourself in the country.

I was relieved I had reserved accommodation in advance and I gave the address to a taxi driver outside the bus station. The only people on the streets were sleeping tramps and what looked like prostitutes, so I was glad that he was kind enough to wait with me outside the door of El Mochilero until the bleary-eyed owner opened it and let me in.

Despite the fact that I was checking in about 8 hours early, the owner showed me straight to a bed and left me to it. (My praise for El Mochilero hostel ends there. Go elsewhere if you are planning to stay in Trujillo.) I had been hoping that a bed was empty and I was in luck. In fact I had the whole 7 bed dorm to myself for the 3 nights I was there. Bliss!

So I went to straight back to sleep and woke up at a more reasonable time to start my exploring. At about 11am, I stepped out of the front door feeling overjoyed to be back in the heat, and quickly realised that Trujillo is beautiful. If you like walking down wide roads, past brightly coloured colonial architecture

Trujillo
Calle Almagro
trujillo
Calle Independencia

under bright sunshine, it is the place for you. The first thing I did was to get my hands on a map, before heading to sparkling, sun-drenched Plaza de Armas plaza de armas trujillo Home to the eye-catching cathedral:

trujillo cathedral
Basilica Menor Catedral

with a huge frescos and a bright interior that looked recently renovated. On the eastern flank of the Plaza de Armas sits colonial mansion Casa de Urquiaga. It is home to a bank and the high levels of security seem to discourage visitors. Two guards stand at the main entrance on the street, one more mans the huge locked gate that opens onto the internal courtyard, and a handful more mill about not doing much. Not one to be deterred by a few security guards, I walked confidently up to the gate, which was dutifully opened with a smile. A guard at a desk in the courtyard took my passport number (always carry a photocopy!) and I was in, with the place to myself. A guard followed me around, presumably for security reasons, however his typical questions “where are you from?” “How old are you?” were surely not a security requirement and were irritating. I made a point of ignoring him. The rooms, however, were beautiful Casa de Urquiaga Trujillo

Casa de Urquiaga Trujillo

and the courtyards were charming

Casa de Urquiaga Trujillo
Courtyards in Casa de Urquiaga

Casa de Urquiaga Trujillo

Best of all, it was free. Two beautiful mansions are located on the pedestrianised section of Calle PizzaroCasa de la Emancipación:

Casa de la Emancipación Trujillo

Casa de la Emancipación and Palacio de Iturregui.

Palacio de Iturregui Trujillo

Palacio de Iturregui is some sort of private members´club and the rooms are only open to the public between 8am and 10am. Sadly in three days in Trujillo, I never managed to get there early enough to check them out, but it is worth going to the Palacio for the main patio alone. Casa Ganoza Chopitea, another beautifully preserved colonial mansion (with you’ve guessed it -courtyards)

Casa Ganoza Chopitea

is home to Casona Deza cafe

Casa Ganoza Chopitea

where I had a great sandwich and fresh lemonade for lunch one day. Trujillo is also home to some distinctive churches, such as Iglesia del Carmen

 Iglesia del Carmen Trujillo
Iglesia del Carmen

and Iglesia de la Compañía.

 Iglesia de la Compañía Trujillo
Iglesia de la Compañía

Trujillo has all the benefits of a large town, yet is small enough to walk around without getting lost and I thought it was charming.

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