Oh, what Batán Grande must have looked like in 1100 AD.
Located 20 miles north of Chiclayo, this sprawling remnant of the Sicán civilization is set amongst a grove of algorrobo trees that form the largest dryland forest on South America’s west coast. Poking out from the field of green, eroded brown pyramids are all that remain of Sicán tombs that, for hundreds of years, were packed to the brim with gold. In fact, archaeologists estimate that over 90 percent of Peru’s gold was sourced from this river valley, and much of the gold in private collections is from looters who pillaged the forest.
Visitors to Batán Grande today will find an interpretive center and small museum that tell the history of the surrounding forest, as well as a viewing platform for gazing above the groves of algorrobo. The tops of the huacas (pyramids) seem to float above the treetops like haunting, dusty relics, and one of the trees in the middle of the forest has been standing for over 1,000 years. Hand dug pits from hundreds of looters are evident as you walk the grounds, and from the top of a huaca gazing out over the forest, it’s a surreal feeling to stand in this complex so many years after its devastating fall.
Batán Grande is 20 miles north of Chiclayo and the trip there takes 1.5 hours by public transport. As there is very little infrastructure, however, most travelers visit as part of a private tour. You can also visit the area by horseback through the nearby Santana Ranch.