5 Things to Know Before You Go: Huanchaco

March 1, 2019
Emma StiefelExplore

This article is part of a series exploring the locations Year On fellows venture to during the Explore phase of the program. Lydia Chehade, the Year On community coordinator in Huanchaco, shared tips for how fellows and other visitors can best prepare for their time in Peru.


Photo: stu_spivack, Creative Commons 2.0 license

1. Food

Huanchaco is a coastal town, so there’s plenty of fresh fish. The best dish made from all this seafood, at least according to Peruvians, is ceviche, raw fish cured in citrus and paired with assorted spices and vegetables. “Peruvians love it, they could eat it twice a day,” Kahlia said. “But some Americans are quite hesitant to try it.” Many meals contain seafood in some form, but if you don’t like seafood the Year On chef can also prepare chicken or other alternatives. If you’re vegetarian, however, you may find it hard to meet your dietary needs in Huanchaco. Most meals contain some sort of animal protein, but there are some restaurants that serve vegetarian food.


Photo: Warren Talbot, Creative Commons 2.0 license

2. Weather

One of the biggest surprises for many visitors to Huanchaco is the temperate weather. Huanchaco is bordered by the ocean on one side and the desert on the other, so instead of being hot and humid like many tropical beach towns it is dry and sometimes chilly. If you’re looking for blazing-hot beaches, you might want to head to Bali instead, but Huanchaco weather will prepare you for life in San Francisco, another temperate coastal town!


Photo: Diane Strasbaugh, Creative Commons 2.0 license

3. What to Pack

Because Huanchaco can get chilly, you should bring a jacket and some warmer clothes. Surfing and other water activities are huge, so if you own beach gear or wetsuits you may want to bring those as well. Most necessities are available for purchase in Huanchaco or the nearest city, Trajillo. English isn’t widely spoken in Huanchaco, so you could also benefit from “bringing” a desire to learn Spanish and dictionaries or other resources.


Photo: Pedro Szekely, Creative Commons 2.0 license

4. What to do for Fun

The Year On residence is only five minutes from the ocean, so you’ll have plenty of opportunities to enjoy the beach or learn to surf. There are also many beautiful hiking trails surrounding Huanchaco, so you can go on weekend excursions into nature and around the country. There are plenty of amazing things to see throughout Peru, including the famous Machu Picchu ruins. For even more fun ideas, Kahlia wrote this article describing five things to do in Huanchaco.


Photo: Jorge Gobbi, Creative Commons 2.0 license

5. What to be Mindful of

One of the biggest challenge for foreigners in Huanchaco may be the prevalence of Spanish. While English is spoken at local hostels, some knowledge of the language would help you engage with many aspects of life in Huanchaco. Kahlia also mentioned some cultural differences that fellows initially found frustrating, like the acceptance of 15-30 minute delays rather than meetings happening exactly on time. Huanchaco is also a cash-based economy, so you will have to withdraw money from ATMs. Local businesses, however, may not have change for the large bills dispensed by ATMs, so it can be difficult to actually use cash to make purchases. But, Kahlia said, “it’s kind of fun to find a special store that you know will take that bill or strategically plan to buy a certain amount of items so that you can break the bill.”

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