By Catriona Spence

Located almost 900km from Lima, Piura is by comparison a small city.  Founded by Francisco Pizarro in the 16th century, the city’s original cobblestone streets remain, transporting you back to its colonial times. Although many tourists purely use Piura as a stopover destination on their way to the north of Peru or into Ecuador, the city enjoys a rich history and offers a few interesting places to visit.

 Guide to Piura - Plaza de Armas in central Piura

Today the city has a diverse mix of ethnic backgrounds, brought about by the arrival of the Francisco Pizarro and his conquistadores.

This mix of Spanish and native cultures has lead to the variety in local gastronomy.  Aside from ceviche: seco de chavelo and majudo de yucca are popular local dishes.

Food aside, Piura is also known for being the hometown of Miguel Grau, a naval war hero. His old house, located at 622 Calle Tacna, is now a museum and home to various naval history collections.  In addition, those interested in history can visit the Museo de Oro Vicus at 893 Calle Huanuco.

It houses various gold objects from the Vicus sites within the area.  Museum guides are free, although they only offer tours in Spanish.

Furthrmore, Piura is also rich in crafts and pottery, best found in the nearby towns of Chulucanas and Catacaos.

Chulucanas, located almost 70km from Piura is well known for its pottery.  Made from the local mud, the pottery on offer is of high quality.  However, the town is hard to reach.  CIVA buses operate a service dropping passengers off at the junction to Chulucanas from the main highway.

From there a moto-taxi will take you to the town for a few soles.  Alternatively, for those unfazed by long combi journeys, take a combi from the town centre. Hiring a taxi for the day is the recommended option if your party is three or more.

Catacaos however is a small town located just 9km from Piura and is easily accessed by micro or taxi.  Known for its local artisan crafts made from straw, leather, wood and silver, the market is an ideal place to pick up a bargain.  Nevertheless, for the sustainably conscious consumer, the municipal building sells crafts made by Project Ñari Walac.

The company works with local crafts women, providing them with a fair wage for their products.

Piura is well connected to many cities in Peru.  From Lima numerous buses leave daily as well as flights with LAN and Star Peru.  There are also numerous bus companies operating to Trujillo, Chiclayo, the north of Peru and Ecuador.

Piura and the rest of Peru’s northern coast are one of the least-visited parts of the country, and are perfect places to escape the crowds. It’s handy location makes is an ideal destination to include during a Galapagos and Machu Picchu tour.