Difficult to get to and explore without a private guide, the remote Moche complex of El Brujo nonetheless makes a very worthwhile visit for those intrigued by what they've seen at Chan Chan and the huacas near Trujillo. Because it is so little explored -- until recently, it was closed to the public -- many visitors enjoy El Brujo even more than those other sites. (Because of ongoing excavations, some groups are reportedly still occasionally turned away.)
El Brujo lies in the Chicama Valley, about 60km (37 miles) north of Trujillo along the coast, or 1 1/2 hours by car. A number of cultures developed in the Chicama Valley region since the pre-ceramic period, and at least one of the three temples here, Huaca Prieta, is about 5,000 years old. Oddly enough, it's essentially a giant, prehistoric garbage dump -- not much to see for nonspecialists, but containing a wealth of nonbiodegradable information for archaeologists researching the ancient people of the same name. (The Huaca Prieta civilization inhabited the area from around 3500-2200 B.C.) The main temple of interest at El Brujo is Huaca Cao, a leveled-off pyramid with terrific and huge multicolored friezes -- some of the finest in northern Peru. They depict figures of warriors, priests, and sacrificial victims. Nearby, Huaca Cortada has some cool and menacing figures in high relief brandishing a knife in one hand and a recently decapitated head in the other.