Archaeology in Peru offers never-ending ancient experiences and sites to explore on your Peru vacation. Peru is fortunate enough to have tons of archaeological sites throughout the whole country, and the country is worldwide recognised not only for Machu Picchu but other impressive and lesser-visited archaeological sites. Here is our pick of the best archaeological sites for your trip to Peru.
Let’s talk about the elephant in the room first, Machu Picchu. The Historic Sanctuary of Machu Picchu is a cultural and ecological site that was once an ancient Andean Inca Citadel. It was built before the fifteenth century on the rocky outcrop that connects the Machu Picchu and Huayna Picchu mountains on the eastern slope of the Central Cordillera. It is widely regarded as a masterpiece of architecture and engineering due to its magnificent stone buildings that consist of steps, terraces, and pathways and today receives thousands of visitors per day, that come and marvel at this wonder of the world.
The archaeological site of Choquequirao is still under excavation and is thought to be as big as or even bigger than Machu Picchu! The size of this site is huge and it’s known as Machu Picchu’s little sister. You can only get to the site on foot, which adds to the remoteness of Choquequirao making it at least a 4-day trek to get there and back. Or for the more adventurous, continue along the trail and you will eventually end up at Choquequirao´s bigger sister Machu Picchu on the 8-day trek! A large part of the archaeological site is still uncovered and it boasts some incredible Incan architecture. Either the 4-day or the 8-day option is perfect for learning all about the ruins and other interesting facts along the way. Choquequirao is the perfect place to visit if you don’t want to be surrounded by other visitors and want to see one of the greatest examples of Incan constructions in The Andes!
Pachacamac, which means "Soul of the Earth." Can be found South of Lima, in the Lurín valley. This archaeological complex was the most important religious-ceremonial center of the central coast of Peru for more than 1500 years, during the pre-Inca and Inca periods. Its prestige was mainly due to its oracle, as ancient settlers on long pilgrimages from all over the country took part in a great Andean ritual. The Pachacamac ruins are further proof that the Peruvian coast was inhabited by different advanced civilizations during the pre-Hispanic period, such as the Lima culture (200 AD), then the Wari Empire, and finally, the arrival of the Incas in 1470 AD, led by the 10th Inca Tupaq Inca Yupanqui. The Pachacamac ruins are yet another one of the incredible archaeological sites Peru has on offer.
Chan Chan which means "Resplendent Sun”, is located on the northern coast of Peru, northwest of Trujillo. Chan Chan Peru, is the largest adobe-built city in the Americas and the second largest in the world. It is formed by nine citadels and the whole complex was the capital of the Chimor Kingdom and the Chimú culture. Although archaeologists still cannot answer the question of how many people lived in Chan Chan, they estimate it was between 30,000 and 100,000 people, in its heyday.
Sacsayhuaman means "The place where the falcon is satiated.” This Inca "ceremonial fortress" with its megalithic walls is the greatest architectonic work of the Incas during their rule. According to the Inca chronicler Garcilaso de la Vega, the fortress had a singular panoramic view of the surroundings, including the city of Cusco. This magnificent archaeological site in Peru still remains in an excellent state of preservation and be easily visited on a day trip from Cusco.
Found on the northern coast of Peru, in La Libertad, Huaca de la Luna is located near the Huaca del Sol, near Trujillo. Built by the Moche culture, the city is constructed of platforms and plazas surrounded by large adobe walls. The walls serve as interconnected areas that are superimposed and built in different periods. The most outstanding components of the building are the reliefs in their mural paintings. The murals use five colors that represent the characteristics and attributes of the Moche divinity called Ai Apaec.
Located Northeast of Peru, in the Province of Luya, Amazonas. Kuelap is a pre-Inca site that was built by the Chachapoyas culture. Kuelap is part of a group of large stone structures characterized by its monumental scale, with a large artificial platform seated on the crest of calcareous rock on the top of the hill. Kuelap´s colossal walls and its intricate interior architecture are evidence of its function as a well-organized society, which includes administrative, religious, ceremonial, and permanent residential areas. The remoteness of this site near Chachapoyas cloud forest receives national visitors yet is still relatively undiscovered by tourists from other countries, making it all the more mysterious.
If you want to see an impressive Pre-Inca archaeological site then one of the best ancient sites, Peru has to offer is just a short trip from Cusco. Pikillacta can be found just to the south of Cusco and extends over a large area. It was built by the Wari culture and means the “place of the fleas”, perhaps because the people were so small. The stones used to construct this site were very different from the ones the Incas used, but the setup and way of forming rooms are a little similar. The archaeological site itself is large, but if you continue to drive around the area, you’ll see the ancient walls all around the region, suggesting the site had a bigger radius. Many people visit this impressive Wari complex on their way to Lake Titicaca and it is certainly worth the stop-off here.
Historians still don’t quite understand why the deep depressions plunge into the ground at Moray. Archaeologists have found out one interesting thing, however, that the circular formations create different microclimates, which would have been productive for growing crops at high altitudes. Moray is thought to be an Inca Agricultural site and it has been proven that the site was also used for ceremonial purposes. Moray is 50 km from the city of Cusco and can be easily visited on a day trip from Cusco. Moray is one of the most fascinating archaeological sites Peru has on offer and we recommend a trip to Moray as part of your Sacred Valley Tour.
These are just a few of the mind-blowing ancient sites Peru has to visit. There are many, many more impressive archaeological sites to visit on your Peru vacation, so if archaeology is your thing, contact us here to find out more!