One of the many things about Peru that attract visitors is its cultural legacy, and for an archaeologist or history buff, there are only a handful of places on earth more exciting than Peru. Although Peru’s unique terrain and diverse weather are among its main draws for tourists, it’s the vast collection of ruins that leaves its visitors in awe. It is estimated that there are around 100,000 cultural and ecological sites in Peru. However, only 10,000 of these have been excavated till now.
New discoveries are made almost every day in Peru, and there is still plenty more we have yet to learn about this region’s history. The ruins found in Peru concern both the Incan and pre-Incan civilizations making it a history buff’s dream destination. However, if you are planning a short holiday in Peru, here’s a list of archaeological gems that are worthy of a spot on your itinerary.
If you have heard of Peru, then there is a huge chance that you have heard of the name Machu Picchu as well. Many people will tell you that a vacation in Peru will be incomplete without a visit to the legendary Machu Picchu. This place is so popular that it is part of almost all of our client’s tailor-made travel experiences.
Situated at a high elevation, these Inca ruins in the sky will not leave you disappointed. Surrounded by towering peaks and accompanied by lush green terraces, this Incan citadel overlooks the Urubamba River valley. The citadel was built in the 15th century and was then abandoned. However, this structure has withstood the test of time and is still intact.
If you want to visit archeological ruins with an archaic touch, the city of Caral is a good option. This city is almost 5000 years old and is located in the high desert of the Supe Valley. Categorized as a Unesco World Heritage Site, these ruins even predate the Incas and ceramic pottery.
Surrounded by desert dunes, this site provides an insight into the beginning of Andean culture. This culture also marks the shift from separate tribes to a shared urban community. Guides give you a tour of these ruins while you get to walk around in the mud-brick amphitheaters, circular plazas, ceremonial rooms, and the remains of six pyramids
Huaca De La Luna
Also known as the Temple of the Moon, this site was built by the Moche people of northern Peru. These ruins also make up the remnants of Cerro Blanco, an ancient Moche capital city.
This large adobe brick structure was built somewhere between the first and eighth centuries. The city also underwent a number of construction phases spanning almost 600 years. It is believed that these ruins played vital military, administrative, and religious functions for the Moche culture. Most of the murals of the building have faded over time, but you can still make out some of them inside the building. These murals honor the Moche deities.
Huaca Rajada (Lord Sipan’s Tomb)
Huaca Rajada, also known as Sipán, is an ancient burial ground that predates the Incan Moche civilization. This monument-like structure contains remains of warriors, priests, and Moche royalty. This archaeological site dates back to 50–700 AD, which was around the Moche Period.
At Huaca Rajada you will get the chance to view the tomb of one of the most powerful men in Peruvian history. It also houses a wide range of adornments made from a varying range of materials including gold, silver, and turquoise. Here you will also see some of the most beautiful works of pottery and a ton of other fine objects excavated from the antechamber of the main discovery.
To get a better view of the site, you can climb up the larger pyramid to a viewing platform that overlooks the tomb. A world-class museum has also been built outside Chiclayo to showcase artifacts and give a comprehensive overview to visitors.
The unusually large Sarcophagi of Carajía are a sight to behold! Dated back to the pre-Inca Chachapoyas culture, these giant Sarcophagi are located at Utcubamba Valley, near the city of Chachapoyas.
The Sarcophagi is a collection of eight mummies that stand on a cliffside. Due to their uncanny appearance, locals call these Sarcophagi the ‘ancient wise men’. The location of these mummies works to their advantage as their high elevation has made it impossible for looters to steal any buried fortunes they may hold. The site has also been added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
This pre-Columbian adobe citadel is located outside of Lima. While it may not be as visually striking as some of the other archaeological ruins in Peru, it still carries a great historical significance. The site can be dated back to 200 A.D and was used by the Inca as a hub of cultural activity until the Spanish arrived in Peru. You can either walk around the ruins or enjoy the surrounding coastal views from the top.
If you are in Lima, you must visit Huaca Pucllana! Located in the Miraflores district, this ancient clay pyramid was constructed by members of the Lima pre-Inca culture between 200 and 700 AD. This pyramid was also used as a burial site for the nobility where the first intact tomb was discovered in 2008. Here, the remains of three people were found which included two adults and one child.
These ruins are hard to miss as they are surrounded by businesses and office buildings and provide a surreal sight. A restaurant is also located on the ruins’ grounds where tourists can have a unique dining experience at night.
Kuelap is located in northern Peru near the towns of Tingo and María. This walled settlement was built around the 7th century by the Chachapoyas culture, also known as the Cloud Warriors. Due to its high elevation, Kuelap is also called Machu Picchu of the North. However, this ruin is at least 500 years older than the Inca citadel.
Inside Kuelap, you will come across hundreds of circular structures which make this structure one of the largest stone ruins sites on the continent. You can visit Kuelap by planning a day trip from Chachapoyas. Cable cars are also available that drop off visitors at the top.
Visiting Archaeological Gems On Your Holiday To Peru
Peru has many archaeological gems scattered all over the country. It is home to incredible ruins from both Incan and pre-Incan periods. You can rest assured that a visit to this part of the world will give you the chance to find something of unique archaeological significance almost anywhere you go.