Exploring Peru’s Incan History at Pachacamac

April 13, 2016 Genevieve Hathaway

It was early morning as our car moved effortlessly moved through the streets of Lima. Heading through the suburbs, we made our way passed the pueblos jóvenes (shanty towns) on the fringes of the city and out into the countryside. My travel partners and I were following the major highway, driving southeast out of Peru’s capital city. The sun had recently crested the horizon, casting its soft glow across the fields and towns that dotted the Peruvian landscape. The small towns gave way to arid desert, which made it easy to spot the imposing adobe walls of Pachacamac’s magnificent pyramid complex as they started to rise in the distance.

Located 40km (25 mi) from Lima, Pachacamac is a massive pre-Columbian citadel complex. Comprised of stone palaces, adobe-shaped buildings and massive temple pyramids, the religious and government centre was constructed beginning in AD 100. The name “Pachacamac” comes from a Wari god whose name translates to “he who animated the world,” or “he who created land and time.” When the Incas arrived in 1450 AD, they expanded Pachacamac, turning it into a sprawling city of ceremonial buildings, palaces and government buildings.

A palace complex at Pachacamac.

A palace complex at Pachacamac.

Pachacamac is a massive pre-Columbian citadel complex.

Pachacamac is a massive pre-Columbian citadel complex.

As we approached the walkway that led to the entrance, it felt as though we were heading back in time hundreds of years to the height of the Incan empire. Today, many of the buildings have been worn down to rubble, but the sheer size of the scope of the complex conveys the power and impact of Pachacamac. In one courtyard, it was easy to imagine religious ceremonies being held. The well-preserved palace walls spoke of a time of opulence and wealth. While walking by a set of pyramids, we were told that many scholars believe human sacrifice rituals were performed here. It became clear that we were at a very important Incan location.

Human sacrifice rituals were performed at the pyramids of Pachacamac.

Human sacrifice rituals were performed at the pyramids of Pachacamac.

Reaching the centre of the ruins, we climbed up the switchback stairway of the Incan Templo del Sol (Temple of the Sun), gaining enough height to see the spectacular panoramic views of the surrounding countryside and coastline. From this vantage point, we were able to truly appreciate how massive the site is — and how close the small towns and agricultural fields push up against these fragile ancient ruins. Far off in the distance, the outline of Lima could be seen, a reminder of the thriving country that Peru is today.

Walking up to the Templo del Sol, the centre point of the complex.

Walking up to the Templo del Sol, the centre point of the complex.

From this vantage point, the outline of Lima could be seen in the distance.

From this vantage point, the outline of Lima could be seen in the distance.

Only a small fraction of this expansive site has been excavated; as I walked through these fascinating ruins with my travel partners I imagined all that still lay beneath the sand waiting to be discovered. There is so much more to learn about this once vast empire. Exploring Pachacamac provides travellers with a chance to walk in the footsteps of a mighty empire in Peru. It is a unique experience and a meaningful way to get close to Peru’s rich history.

Getting There

G Adventures runs a number of departures in Peru’s encompassing a wide range of departure dates and activities to cater to different tastes. We’re thrilled at the prospect of showing you this big blue planet of ours — check out our small group trips here.

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