There aren’t many cities in South America that can say they have archaeological sites within the city limits. However, the capital of Peru has city-block-sized sites that aren’t even open to the public, notable excavated sites that are tourist attractions in the middle of modern neighborhoods, and there’s an enormous pre-Hispanic ceremonial center just outside the city. It all adds up to a cultural bounty for travelers looking to visit archaeological sites in Lima, Peru.
Where to find archaeological sites in Lima, Peru
The 14-acre (5.5 hectare) Huaca Pucllana archaeological site (15 soles or about US$4) rises up in a residential area of the Miraflores neighborhood of Lima.The highlight of this site, which is believed to have been built by the Lima culture around 600 AD, is the flat-topped pyramid where religious ceremonies and sacrifices were likely conducted. Guided one-hour tours are offered and there’s a small museum. Feeling peckish? Cocktails and typical Peruvian cuisine–from snacks to full meals–are available at the onsite Huaca Pucllana Restaurant. Sit on the patio for views over the archaeological site. The main attraction at the Huaca Huallamarca archaeological site (5 soles or about US$1.30), located in the San Isidro neighborhood of Lima, is its pre-Columbian mud-brick pyramid. The on-site museum exhibits items found at the site since excavation began in 1958 including mummies, pottery, weaving, and musical instruments. Bonus: One of the most unusual Incan archaeological sites in Peru is an intricately carved boulder called Piedra Sayhuite which archaeologists believe marked the site of an Incan temple. The original is near the city of Cuzco, but an exact replica can be seen on Avenida Camino Real in the San Isidro neighborhood of Lima. The Pachacamac archaeological site, about 25 miles (40 km) outside of Lima (allow an hour because of city traffic), covers about 1,480 acres (600 hectares). Created by the Lima culture as far back as 200 AD, the site was named for that society’s “Earth Maker” creator god Pacha Kamaq.
Spread out over sandy, hilly ground that runs almost right up to the Pacific, this coastal pre-Hispanic site has been explored since the late 1800s and is home to pyramids, houses, frescoes, burial sites (including a 1,000-year-old cemetery), and more.
Experts believe that Pachacamac was an important religious and ceremonial center that was expanded and changed over time as control of the site moved from the Lima culture to the Wari Culture and then to the Inca.Highlights of the Pachacamac archaeological site (15 soles or about US$4) include three pyramids. Templo del Sol (Temple of the Sun), overlooking the Pacific, is the oldest and largest at 323,000 square feet (30,000 square meters). Experts believe it may have been the site of human sacrifices.
The smaller Templo Pintado (Painted Temple) is just 165 feet (50 meters) by 330 feet (100 meters). It’s believed to have been built by the Wari people and may have been largely covered in red frescoes. You can still see a bit of the color, but the frescoes are mostly eroded or destroyed.And at the Templo Viejo (Old Temple), aka the Pachacamac Temple, you can still see some of the structure’s stone base and adobe brick walls which mark the construction style of the Lima people.
The Pachacamac site flourished for about 1,300 years until Spanish conquistadors invaded it looking for silver and gold. They found none, but, threatened by the society, they destroyed the place and tried to turn everyone into Catholics.
You can drive or walk through the Pachacamac archaeological site. The roads are dusty and the sun is strong, so wear walking shoes, a hat, and sunscreen and have plenty of water. Allow at least an hour if you’re walking, depending on your speed and level of interest. Some areas of the site are off-limits and some seem to have been fairly crudely rebuilt. Sadly, when we were there, some of the red plasterwork had been carved into and scrawled over by vandals.A strikingly modern-looking building is home to the on-site museum which displays ceramics, textiles, and religious items found at the Pachacamac. Standouts include an idol of Pacha Kamaq that’s 7.6 feet (2.34 meters) high and 5 inches (13 centimeters) wide and pieces adorned with spondylys shells both of which were found in the Painted Temple.
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