Trujillo was our first stop in Peru and my co-traveler was so excited about it that I assumed Trujillo was a well-known Peru destination. As the days went on and we met more travelers in other parts of Peru, I realized many of them had never even heard of Trujillo. Many of them asked the same question when we told them about Trujillo: was it worth a visit?
While the four of us had different levels of enthusiasm, we all shared the same general answer: yes.
A lot of travelers in Peru cringe when they hear the word ruins. It seems every other street is home to a set of ruins and after a few weeks in Peru, you are pretty much ruined-out. But there is a key qualification to the ruins in Trujillo: they aren't Incan.
Unlike the stone Inca structures that cover the country, the Trujillo ruins came years before and feature incredible sandstone temples and tombs. The intricacy is breathtaking and the history is fascinating.
While in Trujillo we visited the Huaca del Sol y la Luna, the museum, and Chan Chan. When you buy a ticket to Chan Chan, you also get entrance to the museum and a few nearby temples. Honestly, the museum was tiny and practically empty and not at all worth the time it took to get there. I would suggest taking that time to visit the other temples instead. We didn't get a chance to see them, but I can't imagine them being less interesting than the museum.
Chan Chan (meaning sun sun) was the capitol of the Chimor Empire between AD 900-1470. These desert ruins have been impeccably preserved and you can walk through the capital sans-guide and take in this massive site. Because this area of Peru is less popular, you'll probably get the ruins practically to your selves (as we did). If you are really looking for an adventure, it's pretty easy to hop the white rope and explore the restricted part of the ruins... just don't tell anyone I said that. ;)
Huaca del Sol y Luna is not as accessible. You have to enter with the (free) tour guide. But this is actually pretty great because they teach you so much about this old temple and city. In fact, I highly recommend going here first if you aren't planning to get a guide in Chan Chan so that you can get your lesson about the area before you explore solo.
The Plaza de Armas in Trujillo is really beautiful. There's not a ton to do in the area, but it's definitely worth staying near the plaza and spending a few hours walking the streets and exploring the markets.
All in all, I wouldn't suggest Trujillo if you only have a week or two in Peru, but if you have a lot of time to explore, it's definitely taking a trip to this Northern destination.