Better Stop for the Captivating Museums in Lambayeque
We meet so many overlanders who drive the Pan-American Highway, and pass straight through Lambayeque, unaware of what this region has to offer. On the other hand, we purposely returned to Lambayeque because we remembered (from our last trip ) the captivating museums and archaeological sites this northern part of Peru has to offer.
With this post I would like to encourage all travellers to stop in Lambayeque and visit some of the highlights. The region was part of the extensive Moche (or Mochica) culture, a sophisticated society that dominated the coastal area in northern Peru between 100 and 700AD. Almost all museums in Peru (and many all over the world) feature extensive collections of the Moche’s finely worked pottery and gold adornments – yet their original homeland in the Lambayeque province is sadly neglected by too many travellers.
Most of their social and religious centres were constructed from adobe bricks, layer upon layer. These mud structures suffered from wind and water erosion, hence there are not as many well preserved sights to see as in other regions where people built with rocks. But they also kept the Moche treasures well hidden.
Yet, the richest burial tomb of all the Americas was discovered not far from Lambayeque. This incredibly untouched tomb was discovered in 1987; the main excavations took 20 years to complete! To display the treasures from this burial site, a special museum was built in Lambayeque.
Royal Tombs of Sipán Museum
This is a very unique and captivating museum. It’s built in the shape of a pyramid, similar to the tomb. You enter from the top and follow the stairs down into the base of the pyramid. This design emulates the layers in which the original tomb was unearthed, and displays many of the well-preserved artefacts in the order they were discovered.
Apart from the outstanding finely crafted jewellery, the most interesting displays are those which show photographs from the original dig next to each other; life-size reconstructions of the tomb layers; and glass vitrines filled with the discovered artefacts. For example, some side chambers have been filled with hundreds of pottery vessels.
The importance of the Lord of Sipán can easily be imagined by the sheer number of treasures and companions he was buried with. The archaeologists found layer upon layer of gold adornments and jewellery above the body, and many more layers below – truly fascinating!
All of this makes the Royal Tombs of Sipán museum is well worth a visit, even though you are not allowed to take photos inside.
More about the Moche culture on Wikipedia .
Museo Regional Arqueológico Enrique Brüning de Lambayeque
If you like to take photos of pre-columbian treasures, then visit the Brüning Museum in Lambayeque. This museum houses the private collection of the German born ethnologist Hans Heinrich Brüning, which was acquired by the Peruvian government in 1924.
The collection contains over 12,000 pre-Hispanic artefacts. Of course, not all are on display, but you will find over 500 pieces in the gold room alone. I could imagine that you’ll be so captivated by the quality of the collection that you will find plenty to photograph.
More about Brüning Museum on Wikipedia .
You can easily visit both museums in one day. They are only a few blocks apart. After our last visit we came to the conclusion that it feels like a far better progression to visit the Royal Tombs of Sipán Museum after the Brüning Museum!
We would recommend that you also choose accommodation in Lambayeque; we found nearby Chiclayo a noisy, dirty, smelly city – not an inviting place to stay.
Lambayeque makes a good base to visit other sights around the town, among them:
- Túcume to the north: the largest complex of pyramids in the world. These were all constructed from adobe bricks, so nowadays they don’t look quite as pretty as stone pyramids elsewhere. More information.
- Huaca Rajada is located to the south-east: this is where the original tomb of the lord of Sipán was discovered. It has another new on-site museum, which looks very interesting.
iPeru, the country’s official tourist information, has a stall outside the Royal Tombs of Sipán museum. Their information is usually thorough and correct, and each office tends to have one person who speaks English. This could be a good place to ask questions about visiting the surrounding sites.