Life in Huanchaco

The town of Huanchaco has about 5000 inhabitants, and at its outskirts there are several shanty towns largely populated by migrants from the highlands. Many of these migrants came to the coastal region due to extensive flooding caused by the natural phenomenon El Niño in 1997/98. This creates a contrast between the wealthier beach town of Huanchaco and the socioeconomically disadvantaged shanty towns. As a volunteer, you live in the town of Huanchaco, but the grand majority of our projects are situated either directly in the shanty towns, or work with individuals largely from these communities in public schools and community centres in the town of Huanchaco.

Culturally, Huanchaco is famous for it’s ancient fishing tradition with reed boats called the Caballitos de Totora. These reed boats have been used by local fishermen for some 3000 years, and it is not unusual to see the fishermen surf the waves to the shore after gathering the catch of the day. This gave birth to the rich surf tradition in Huanchaco, and you can enjoy surfable waves all year around.

Huanchaco is only half an hour away from it’s considerably larger neighbor city, Trujillo. Trujillo is the capital of the region La Libertad and the third biggest city in Peru. It is a beautiful colonial city, established in 1535 with an impressive Plaza de Armas, colonial architecture and nice museums. Trujillo also has it’s own airport, and several bus companies have daily routes to and from Lima and other locations in Peru and South America, which makes it an accessible spot for volunteers and travellers.

Weather wise, December to April are the hottest and sunniest months (summer), but it never gets too cold on the northern part of the Peruvian coast. From June to October it’s more changeable, more cloudy and cooler, and a light drizzle may occur (winter). If you’re coming during the winter months, you probably want to bring a mix of long-sleeved tops and jeans, along with options for slightly warmer days.

We’re often asked how much money one need to cover the monthly living costs. To give an idea, you could get by with basic accommodation and reasonable food at cheaper restaurants for less than S/.1,000 (€256/US$285/£200) per month with not much going out. For S/.1,500 per month (€384/US$428/£300) you can live somewhere nice, eat quite well and go out to the cheaper bars more regularly (but not afford to get drunk every night – remember you do have a project to work on next morning!)  So, you can see that compared with almost all western countries, living is cheap here, once you get here, so longer stays do work out much better value and help the projects you volunteer at more.

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