Chan Chan used to be the capital of the pre-Columbian Chimú empire and was located on the Peruvian Pacific coast west of today's city of Trujillo. The complex made of clay was built around 1300 AD and still covers an area of around 28 km². It was probably the largest city of its time on the South American continent and one of the largest in the world. In its heyday, the city was home to about 60,000 inhabitants and had accumulated a considerable fortune in gold, silver and ceramic artifacts.
It was not possible for the Inca to defeat the capital of the Chimú culture with military force. For this reason, the attackers redirected the river that flowed through the oasis, cutting Chan Chan off its water supply. After the conquest by the Incas, the city lost its importance. By the time the Spaniards had arrived in Peru and defeated the Inca civilization, there was not much left of the Chimú culture.
Chan Chan originally consisted of nine autonomous districts, each governed by a successful ruler. They were revered as kings. Each district that was discovered, contained burial places with extensive sets of jewels, ceramic objects, and dozens of skeletons of young women.
In 1986, UNESCO declared Chan Chan a World Cultural Heritage. At the same time, the ruins were recorded on the red list of endangered World Heritages due to the worsening destruction caused by climate change and the effects of the climatic phenomena El Niño.
The site features a museum on the main road leading to the site, about 500m before the turn-off to the Chan Chan complex. The museum presents archaeological exhibits found in the city explaining the function of Chan Chan and giving insights on the Chimú culture. Signs are mostly in Spanish with only some details in English, which is why a guide is useful.
So called Collectivos (bigger sized combis for public transport) leave from Trujillo to the archaeological site every few minutes passing the corners España and Ejército, and España and Industrial. A Combi will cost around 1.50 Soles. If you go by taxi, your ride will cost you around 10 Soles.