You won’t find a lot of expats along the northern coast of Peru, but it’s probably only a matter of time before more people begin to discover the great weather, incredible cuisine, and low cost of living. My wife, Nancy, and I just returned from a whirlwind tour of this part of the world.
Our first stop was Trujillo, the 500-year-old northern coastal city that vies with Arequipa for the country’s second largest population. With year-round spring weather and less than an inch of rainfall all year, the climate is hard to beat. Here you can enjoy some of the country’s best dishes, along with a vibrant art and culture scene.
Cafés and restaurants line the main pedestrian street that leads to the jewel of the city, the central Plaza de Armas. Lunch at a small café set us back $2 each for soup and a main course…the large Peruvian beer we bought next door was $1.50. We rarely spent more than $12 each at most restaurants, including a glass of wine.
This old part of town is dominated by colorful Spanish colonial-era buildings, many in bright blue and yellow hues fronted by lace trellis and wooden-shuttered balconies. The 400-year-old cathedral stands proudly at one end of the Plaza and looks out over the large central green space dotted with towering palms. Spanish viceroyalty era buildings stand elegantly around the rest of the square
You can find rentals to fit any budget here. The sky’s the limit for large, modern villas, but two-bedroom, unfurnished houses and apartments start at about $400 per month. A couple could easily live here on $1,500 to $2,000 per month.
Alison Lilian and her family recently moved to Trujillo from Canada to escape the freezing winters. They pay $950 for their spacious five-bedroom home, complete with a garden, in an upscale part of the city. “Our mantra of ‘warm, near the sea, warm, near the sea’ helped us with the decision to move to this part of South America,” she explains.
The small fishing and surfing village of Huanchaco is located only 20 minutes from the center of the city. Home to traditional fishermen, international surfers, and a mixture of local residents and expats, it has the best of both worlds—Trujillo and all its amenities close by and several miles of beach across the street, it seemed like a win-win situation for us. We’ve decided to take a sabbatical from our current home in Arequipa and try Huanchaco, starting later this year.
A local real estate agent showed me around and pointed out several rental properties near the beach, starting at $350 per month. “I only paid $5,000 for my property when I moved here 15 years ago,” he told us. “Today it is obviously worth much more, but property values are still increasing substantially because there is not a lot of room for the town to grow.”
The area has recently been declared a natural reserve that cannot be developed, thanks to the reeds that are harvested in the marsh at one end of Huanchaco to construct the traditional local fishing boats.
Trujillo and Huanchaco were just the first of many new discoveries I made on this exploratory trip. As I headed further north along the coast, the water became warmer and the sand became whiter. The sunbaked cities of Chiclayo and Piura provided several more beaches…Pimentel, Colan, Yacila, Zorritos, and Los Cangrejos
If you are looking for a low cost of living, great cuisine, vibrant art and culture, a chance to improve your Spanish, and lots of beaches, then northern Peru is worth checking out.
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