A little known town in northern Peru with some big claims to fame. Tom from our Marketing Team gives insight into the why Huanchaco unexpectedly became his favourite place in Latin America.
“Where was your favourite place” is normally the first question people ask when you return from an extended trip away. When I came home after travelling through South America I already knew my answer, and it was slightly unexpected!
Huanchaco is a small fishing town, 12km northwest of Trujillo in the north of Peru. It’s little known, but in fact has some grand claims to fame. It’s credited as the birthplace of ‘Caballito de Totora’, one of the earliest known forms of surfing; It’s the birthplace of ‘Ceviche’, Peru’s famous 2000 year old national dish of raw seafood marinated in lime juice; It was once one of Peru’s most important ports; And is one of only five ‘World Surfing Reserves’ in the world, the only one in Latin America.
I'd travelled there for the same reason most of its tourists do – to surf. Its waves are renowned for being especially smooth and consistent, due in part to the great pier that acts as a break at one end of the bay.
It has to be said Huanchaco isn’t the prettiest of Latin American towns, and neither is its beach. The sand is an earthy colour and there are a few bits of litter kicking around. But its shabbiness is part of its charm, and its inhabitants are genuinely some of the friendliest people I’ve ever met.
Attractively propped up along the beach, and still used by locals to this day, are the town’s famous ‘Caballito de Totora’. These are traditional reed watercrafts that originated in Huanchaco and have been used by fishermen along Peru’s coast for over 3000 years (their age has been determined by ancient pieces of pottery found sculpted in their image). The reeds come from the vast swamps (or wetlands) on the edge of town that are today an ecological reserve and still used by local fisherman for the same purpose. The name translates as ‘little reed horses’ and comes from the way they’re ridden. The fishermen balance on them on their knees and ride them over the waves as they nod up and down like a horse. There’s debate in the surfing world that these constitute the first form of surfing.
The surf vibe reverberates around town and it has a really pleasant laid-back, happy and easy going feel. Lots of surf street-art has been painted on walls and buildings around the town, giving splashes of new life and colour, and white-washed balconies are lined with wetsuits left hanging to dry in the afternoon sun. There’s a buzzing market in the town’s centre that’s open each day selling freshly caught fish, and the seafront is lined with a host of ceviche restaurants, bars, and surf shops.
But by far and away the best part are the beautiful sunsets that descend over the bay each evening. After a hard day’s surfing, it’s really special sitting on the beach wall as the whole town gathers each evening to sit and chat and watch the sun set. Vendors come by selling beers and delicious Papas Rellenas to enjoy as you watch silhouettes of locals riding the last waves of the day.