Ancient Peru


Cultures, Cities and Sacred Sites

ancient-peru

From the oldest civilization in America, to the largest and most powerful empire of the southern continent, Ancient Peru conserves the architectural and artistic vestiges of fascinating cultures. Discovering them is a breathtaking experience.

Unique experiences

A single trip is not enough to discover all the wonders of Peru. Here we highlight just a few magical places and experiences that must be lived and appreciated when you visit this country.

Machu Picchu

Inca citadel nestled into the top of the Inca hill is considered one of the seven New Wonders of the World.

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Chavín de Huántar

An impressive archaeological complex from the Chavín culture, with 3000 year old temples and sculptures made from stone.

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Chan Chan

The biggest mud-brick settlement in pre-Hispanic America, with its pyramid-shaped temples, plazas and palaces, it was the Chimú cultural center.

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Caral

The oldest sacred city in America and, at over 5000 years old, is the cradle of one of the world’s first civilizations.

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Nazca Lines

Mysterious figures drawn between 550 and 650 AD by the Nazca settlers in a desert area of around 350 km2 (135 sq. miles).

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Kúelap

An archaeological complex of the Chachapoyas people, exhibiting walls reaching up to 66 meters tall, built where the jungle meets the hills.

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Destinations and activities

 

Cusco city

On a walk through the streets of Cuzco, the great walls and palaces built by the Incas exhibit the colossal architecture of the capital city of Tahuantinsuyo.

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Machu Picchu Historic Sanctuary

Built high on a mountain, Machu Picchu is an Inca city with temples, palaces, paths and water channels, which clearly shows the ability of an ancient civilization to build with huge stone blocks, without any cement, but with great wisdom.

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Chavín Archaeological Complex

Chavín was one of the most important cultures of the pre-Inca era. Its principal temple, located in the department of Áncash, was one of the main oracles of Peru. It was built in 1400 B.C. but was in decline by the year 500 B.C, during the so-called Formative period

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Chan Chan Archaeological Area

Chan Chan is the largest mud city in pre-Columbus America, and is calculated to have housed close to one hundred thousand people, between 850 – 1470 AD.

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Historic Center of Lima

Ever since its Spanish founding and during the Vice-Royalty of Peru, Lima, City of Kings, has been a political and cultural center of the first order on the new continent. The proof is in the Historic Center, where centuries-old churches, convents, and stately homes with elegant balconies have been preserved, representing renaissance, baroque, neoclassical, and other contemporary styles.

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Lines of Nasca and Pampas of Jumana

On the vast pampas of Nazca and Jumana, mysterious lines and geoglyphs form geometric patterns as well the figures of animals, anthropomorphic beings, and plants, among others. But their outlines can only be clearly recognized from the sky aboard small airplanes.

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Historic Center of Arequipa

One of the principal cities in the south of Peru, Arequipa is known as the “White City” because many of the buildings have been built from “sillar”, a white stone that comes from enormous quarries formed by the volcanoes that watch over the city.

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Sacred City of Caral – Supe

More than 5000 years old, Caral is the most ancient civilization of the Americas.

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Kuélap Archaeological Complex

At the crest of the Amazonian Andes of northern Peru, 3000 masl (9,843 fasl), is the imposing Fortress of Kuélap, built by the Chachapoyas, a pre-Inca culture that developed between 800 and 1470 A.D.

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Sipán Archaeological Complex

In 1987 the archaeologist Walter Alva discovered the tomb of one of the most powerful men of ancient Peru: the Lord of Sipán, who was one of the rulers of the Moche, or Mochica, a culture that dominated the northern coast between 100 and 800 A.D. and built adobe pyramids.

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Túcume Archaeological Complex

Known also as the Valley of the Pyramids, Túcume is one of the best representations of the three cultures that occupied the area: Lambayeque, Chimú and Inca. The 26 adobe pyramids can be admired from Purgatory Hill, and viewers can appreciate why they took 500 years to build.

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Sicán Archaeological Complex (Batán Grande)

In the middle of the Historic Forest Sanctuary of Pómac rise tall pyramids of adobe, probably built between the 8th and 12th centuries A.D. They would have served as temples, housing, cemeteries, and workshops.

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Ventanillas de Otuzco (Otuzco Windows)

Through its architecture, Cajamarca summarizes the encounter between two cultures: the Inca and the Spanish. Its archaeological past, however, tells of more ancient times, including the Caxamarca people (until 800 A.D.), through its aqueducts and enigmatic petroglyphs, and other even more remote civilizations.

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Ancient Lima

Lima has been officially designated an Ancient City in recognition of its pre-Hispanic past, having vestiges of buildings more than 4000 years old that were abandoned. Later the Lima and Ichma cultures (1100 to 1450 A.D.) transformed them into enormous temples in addition to channeling the water that flowed through the city in canals known as “acequias”.

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Pachacámac Archaeological Complex

The magnificent palaces, temples, plazas, and high truncated pyramid at the site convey to us the political, cultural, and religious hierarchy of ancient Pachacámac. In the pre-Inca and Inca periods, it was the most important oracle of the Peruvian coast, where thousands of pilgrims travelled from the farthest reaches of ancient Peru.

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Kotosh Archaeological Complex

Part of the magic of travelling through Peru is the surprising number of archaeological discoveries located close by the main cities. A clear example: the Temple of the Crossed Hands of Kotosh, located just 4 km (2.5 miles) from the urban area of Huánuco.

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The Ica Tambos

The Chincha people ruled between 900 – 1450 AD. They were magnificent traders, sailors and road builders. The Chincha survive as a record of the level of development they achieved: the Huaca La Centinela, a series of adobe pyramids with rectangular bases characterized by their high mud walls, and the sacred funeral urns of Tambo de Mora.

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Dead Bull (Toro Muerto) Rock Carvings

Within this arid landscape are some of the greatest examples of cave art in the world. An estimated five thousand pieces of volcanic tuff depict animal, human and geometric figures likely to have been carved between 500 and 1300 B.C.

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The Dinosaurs of Querulpa

Querulpa is a hill located just a few minutes from Toro Muerto (Dead Bull). Both sites have become stops on a tour route that is a must for any visitor to Arequipa.

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Wari Archaeological Complex

In 1550, the chronicler Pedro Cieza de León recounted the discovery of several monumental structures approximately 25 km (16 miles) from the city of Huamanga, whose architecture differed from the Inca structures seen before. He was describing Wari, the capital of the first Pan-Andean state, from the pre-Inca period (between 600 and 1000 A.D.).

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Choquequirao Archaeological Park

Located 3,050 masl (10,007 fasl) at the summit of a leafy green mountain on the border of the districts of Cuzco and Apurímac, the Choquequirao Archaeological Park is sure to impress with the majesty of its Inca architecture with terraces, plazas, chambers, imposing walls with niches, and other structures.

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Koricancha Temple

Koricancha is a prime example of how Inca and Hispanic cultures fused together. The church and convent of Santo Domingo were built upon the ruins of the ancient Peruvian “Templo del Sol” (Temple of the Sun). A symbol of western dominance.
 The site is a living example of the co-existence of Peru’s past with European architecture.

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Sacsayhuamán Archaeological Park

An imposing example of Inca architecture, located 2 km (1.2 mile) from the city of Cuzco, built during the Pachacútec and Huayna Cápac period. The park covers an area of 3,093 hectares (7,643 acres). There is still speculation about the actual use given to this area by the Incas. First it was thought to have been a fort, then a ceremonial center.

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Moray Archaeological Complex

The complex is located 74 km (46 miles) from Cuzco City, at 3,500 masl (11,483 fasl). The archaeological area stands out for exhibiting a series of Andean circular features that appear to be amphitheaters. The largest has 12 paths and has a depth of 100 meters (329 feet).

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Ollantaytambo Fort

A living example of what an Inca town was like. Preserved in time: houses, streets and channel just as they were in the Tahuantinsuyo era. The name of the town and the archaeological area is owed to Cacique Ollanta, who according to legend, fell in love with a princess, daughter of Inca Pachacútec, and was severely punished.

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Places of worship in Qenqo and Tambomachay

Two sites near Cuzco that boast remarkable ritual architecture. Qenqo is an immense, rocky promontory marked by carved steps, wells, and channels, most likely for depositing the “chicha” (traditional corn beverage) consumed during Inca rituals.

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Pisac Archaeological Complex

Traveling through the Urubamba Valley, starting at the town of Pisac, gives tourists the chance to visit an archaeological site in the highest mountain areas. Here there are many different buildings, plazas, temples, pools and other structures, all built between the 10th and 11th centuries AD.

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Cumbemayo Archaeological Complex

Discovered in 1937, this complex is surrounded by an interesting forest of stones that resemble the silhouettes of pious monks, hence the reason they are often referred to more colloquially as “frailones”, meaning friars. Other notable features are the Aqueduct (1000 B.C.).

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