Temple of the Dragon (Huaco el Dragon) is an immaculately preserved Chimú temple just outside Trujillo. The pyramid-shaped adobe structure features intricate frieze murals depicting rainbows, dragons, and figures that have valiantly stood the test of time. Less known than other Chimú sites, this anti-seismic temple is an engineering marvel.
With a local guide, learn the history and various theories surrounding the mysterious pre-Inca site, also known as Huaca Arco Iris (Rainbow Temple), built by the Chimú people, who lived in northern Peru from about AD 900 to the 1400s. Inside the temple, the namesake figure carved on the walls takes the form of a two-headed creature like a dragon, but with countless legs like a centipede. Scholars believe the temple’s rainbow carvings, which represent rain—a precious life-giving resource here in the dry coastal desert—are a tribute to fertility. There is also evidence that the walls were once painted, although erosion from rains and centuries of looting have left the walls with only a hint of yellow glow.
Travelers often visit this religious administrative and ceremonial center as part of an archaeological tour out of Trujillo that also includes larger temple complexes such as Chan Chan, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Temple of the Dragon is a must-see for archaeology and culture aficionados.
- The entrance fee to see this site is included within the entrance fee to Chan Chan.
How to Get There
Temple of the Dragon is located about 2.5 miles (4 kilometers) outside of Trujillo in the La Esperanza suburb. You can reach the temple via public bus from Trujillo (there is a drop off in front of the temple), or by taxi or private tour. Inquire at your hotel about the best way to arrive.
When to Get There
The temple is open daily from 9am to 4pm.
Chan Chan, Ancient Capital of the Chimú
Gain a greater understanding of the Chimú civilization by venturing from Temple of the Dragon to the nearby Chan Chan site. As the largest pre-Columbian city in South America, the adobe-walled archeological complex was the center of Chimú culture and politics until 1470, when the Incas arrived and promptly conquered the city. Led by a guide, explore the vast array of shrines, burial grounds, rain reservoirs, and ceremonial plazas flanked by walls adorned with friezes.