Machu Picchu Travel

Chan Chan Citadel

Chan Chan Citadel

Trujillo is definitely one of the most important cities of Peru, not only now in modern time but also in ancient Peru since it was the birthplace to distinctive societies that once ruled the Peruvian coast. That is also the case of the Chimú culture, a civilization known for their political and urban organization in northern Peru.

The so-called City of Eternal Spring was built in the surroundings of two impressive archeological sites such as the Huaca of the Sun and the Moon, and the Chan Chan Citadel, also known as the largest clay citadel of the Americas, which will be covered on this blog.

The Chimu kingdom developed between 1000 and 1470, it was the most prosperous and powerful coastal empire of pre-Columbian Andean America. They developed a great hierarchical system and had extensive engineering knowledge, praised by many archeologists and often compared to the ones in Europe.

The citadel of Chan Chan was their main capital, it is astonishingly distributed and covers an extension of 20 square kilometers. The famous clay citadel is one of the main attractions within Trujillo, a place full of history and culture that you can’t miss during your trip.

About the Chan Chan Citadel

According to some Spanish chroniclers, the name Chan Chan finds its origin in the extinct language of the Chimu people, called ‘Quingnam,’ and can be translated as Sol Sol or even interpreted as Great Sun, Shining Sun, Splendorous Sun or even Blazing Sun, as a reference to the solar exposition the citadel had.

The Chan Chan citadel was strategically situated 5 kilometers away from the actual city of Trujillo and was connected by a trail network that allowed transition to the administrative centers of the nearby valleys.

As the ancient cultures developed new skills and acquired more knowledge, the citadels’ structure and distribution changed drastically between the years 600 and 700 A.D. Likewise, new citadel molds originated paving the way to enclosured cities.

The Chan Chan citadel is famous for its large extension and distribution, with administrative, ceremonial, residential and work areas were precisely designated. The architectural style varies depending on the zone, allowing the Chimu to differentiate their social-economic classes.

The entire citadel is enclosed by a large adobe wall with beautiful engravings of animals and geometrical figures, integrating their symbolism and sacred belief into the architecture of the entire capital.

About the Structure

As we mentioned earlier, the Chan Chan citadel was built with a great stratification, with buildings constructed according to the population’s economic condition. Chan Chan is also distributed in three sectors:

- North Sector
It is a large plaza or courtyard composed of low walls and easy access to the South part of the citadel. The north sector leads to several storehouses and administrative centers called ‘audiences.’

- Central Sector
It is composed of many constructions intended to store products and a burial platform that housed the tombs of the most important lords of the citadels. Unfortunately, these tombs were looted by the Spanish conquerors.

The central area also holds about 10 enclosed precincts (citadels) and other pyramids. This sector covers an extension of 6 square kilometers. The rest of the area is occupied by smaller structures, streets, water channels, walls and cemeteries.

- South Sector
Although at first look it may seem just a big esplanade, the site had a few construction made of perishable materials, hinting to the use of the space as a residential area, where they located the kitchen and bedrooms.

Although the citadel had plenty of space, the Chimu elite didn’t live there. They had their royal precincts built outside of the citadel but shared a few characteristics such as courtyards, storehouses, wells and audiences.

How to Get There?

The Chan Chan Citadel is located 8 hours away from Lima, but only 25 minutes away from Trujillo. You can combine the visit to this archeological site with a visit to Huaca Arcoiris, the Huaca of the Sun and the Moon, and the Tschudi Palace.

Luckily for you, we have structured the best trujillo itinerary so you can experience everything at its fullest. If you’d like to add this attraction to your travel itinerary, make sure to contact our team while you’re here!

Would you like to uncover the mysteries of Peru? Check our travel packages and start planning the trip of your life while you’re here. Our travel specialists can help you organize the best trip itinerary while optimizing your time and experience according to your interests!