If we travel an hour west of the city of Trujillo (La Libertad) in the province of Ascope, we come across Magdalena de Cao, a typical village like those located on Peru’s northern coast. However, this endearing place holds surprises from its past and present. Join us to learn more about Magdalena de Cao, the home of the Lady of Cao.

Magdalena de Cao, the home of the Lady of Cao

Magdalena de Cao is a small town of little more than three thousand people, most of whom tend to their own land, work in artisanal fishing or work in one of the nearby sugar mills. Full of friendly and hospitable people, Magdalena de Cao stands out for its great Moche past and for housing one of the most important destinations on the Moche Route, the El Brujo Archaeological Complex.

Magdalena de Cao Square

Magdalena de Cao was founded as a town on July 12th, 1538, but it was only founded as a district on November 12th, 1923, during the government of President Augusto Leguía.”

Proud of its past and history, the town has a sculpture of the Lady of Cao in its main square, as well as artistic samples from the Moche culture in its streets decorations, tourist restaurants and craft shops.

The first stop on your trip to Magdalena de Cao should be the Casa de la Cultura (House of Culture), which is located half a block from the town square. This cultural area is a kind of museum that playfully tells us the history of the Moche people, the town and its people through images, paintings, art and some interactive samples.

The El Brujo Archaeological Complex

If we drive about ten minutes west of Magdalena de Cao towards the sea, we’ll find the El Brujo Archaeological Complex, an archaeological site along the Moche Route that houses the Museum of Cao, home of the Lady of Cao, pre-Inca ruler.

El Brujo Archaeological Complex, Moche Mural, Huaca Rajada and Cao Museum

This complex is made up of 3 huacas: Huaca Prieta, Huaca Cortada and Huaca Cao Viejo. The tomb of the Lady of Cao was found in the Huaca Cao Viejo. This complex, in addition to its impressive historical value and natural beauty, is one of the key pieces to the Mochica past and, undoubtedly, a tourist and cultural attraction that all Peruvians should visit.

Huaca Cao

In Magdalena de Cao it’s Customary to Toast with “Chicha de Año”

Magdalena de Cao is a town that has always had a close relationship with fishing and agriculture. We could say, without fear of being mistaken, that it is a quiet town, very far from the bustle of the city, and that in addition to its history, this place stands out for a unique product: a typical liquor called chicha de año.

Chicha de año

Chicha de año is a drink prepared from corn and sugar, both ingredients native to this area. In some cases, the drink is made by replacing sugar with “chancaca” (similar to molasses). This chicha is macerated for a year, much longer than other traditional chichas, hence its peculiar name “chicha de año”. The drink is a liqueur that resembles a cherry-flavored sweet wine; its flavor, aroma and perfect quota of alcohol make it the perfect drink to toast with.

Visit Magdalena de Cao

Boulevard of the New Ladies of Cao (Across the street from the Casa de la Cultura)

Although some consider Magdalena de Cao to be just a town to pass through on your way to the El Brujo Archaeological Complex, it is actually worth a stop. The town’s charm and ancient culture is evident in every home and settler in the area. We recommend that you take a few hours to get to know its picturesque streets, enjoy the delicious dishes from the town’s daily fishing haul, experience the warmth of the locals and raise a toast with a glass of chica del año.

The Casa de la Cultura (House of Culture)

How to get to Magdalena de Cao?

From the city of Trujillo there are the following options:

  • A taxi from Trujillo, via the coastal highway (approximately 45 minutes).
  • A bus from Trujillo to the district of Chocope  (approximately 50 minutes) and from there take a shared taxi (colectivo) or smaller bus (micro) to Magdalena de Cao (approximately 20 more minutes).

Extra information

  • There is telephone and internet coverage, especially in and near the main square.
  • Restaurants in Magdalena de Cao:

        El Mochica de Cao: Tel.+51 949 926 217

        El Gordito: Tel.+51 44 632451

        La Ramadita: Tel. +51 44 705007

        El Tumbo: Tel. +51 44 703686

        El Embrujo: Telf: +51 94 863 915

        El brujo

Gastronomy of Magdalena de Cao and aerial photo of the Magdalena de Cao main square

  • Chicha de año can be found in some of the stores around town as well as in the homes of some locals who produce it. Tel. +51 44 675512
  • The town has a police station, which is located in the main square.
  • Hotel in Magdalena de Cao: The town has just one lodging option: “Jobalu”, located one block from the plaza. Address:  Calle Libertad 105.