The village of Catacaos, a friendly, dusty little town 12 kilometers southwest of Piura, has the best arts and crafts market in northern Peru. The town is famous for a variety of handicrafts sold along four blocks of the old Calle Comercio, including panama hats, place mats, and other finely woven goods made of toquilla straw imported from Ecuador.
Also watch for earrings and other jewelry wrought in gold and silver filigree, an art form that has flourished here since colonial times when gold was imported from the Amazon and Cajamarca. There are also painted ceramics in the shape of rotund campesinos, wood carvings and kitchen utensils made of zapote wood, colorful hammocks, wicker lampshades and baskets, and some leather goods.
As a bonus, this bustling town has some excellent restaurants, or picanterías, for northern cuisine: Here you can find seco de chabelo, tamalitos verdes, majafo de yuca, and other dishes that combine local foods like plantain, and cassava with beef and pork. The market is biggest on the weekends, and stalls are set up around 10 a.m. and taken down as late as 7 p.m.
The town was first inhabited by the Tallán culture, which was eventually conquered by the Moche and later Chimú empires. The Tallán built some early pyramids at Narihualá, about five kilometers south of Catacaos.
Getting to Catacaos
To reach Catacaos, hire a taxi for US$4 or take a US$0.30 colectivo at terminals on the third block of Sánchez Cerro or the intersection of Román Castilla and Tacna.
© Ross Wehner and Renée del Gaudio from Moon Peru, 3rd Edition