Not far from the bustling city of Lima, you can find some curious ruins that are not usually so crowded by visitors or tourists, but were an important pilgrimage center in the past. This always seemed a bit ironic to us, because we are talking about one of the most important archaeological sites in the entire Peruvian coast region. With a rich history and numerous attractions to discover, the Pachacamac ruins are one of the most underrated sites in Peru, but well appreciated by scholars and capital inhabitants. And for that reason, together with the travel experts of Machu Travel Peru, we would like to tell you a little more about this awesome archaeological complex. This impressive archaeological site was once an important religious center for the coast surrounding communities, and we would like you to get to know it.
Pachacamac, one of the first Pre-columbian citadels
- Overview of Pachacamac
- Pachacamac location
- Who was Pachacamac?
- Pachacamac history
- Purpose of the site
- Pachacamac complex distribution
- How to get to Pachacamac
- On-site Pachacamac museum
- Entrance and schedule
Overview of Pachacamac
The archaeological site of Pachacamac is a pre-Columbian citadel built around 200 AC to 40 km off southeast Lima that has different adobe and stone palaces, as well as impressive pyramids used as temples by its ancient inhabitants. It was the main pilgrimage center for Lima, Wari, Moche, and Ychma pre-Inca cultures. The complex is home to numerous ancient pyramids, temples, palaces, and many other artifacts that demonstrate the lifestyle of the cultures that occupied it. Despite its great age, most of its structures and constructions can still be distinguished in very good condition. Therefore, today, this site could be considered one of the best famous places in Peru. Consequently, If you plan to spend a few days in Lima, then for nothing in the world can you miss this tour that is located a short distance from Lima.
This archaeological site is located in the current Limenean district of Lurin, 47 kilometers southeast of the Lima historic center, on the right bank of the river of the same name, very close to the Pacific Ocean and in front of a group of islets of the same name. To get there, a car trip lasts 02 hours approx.
Who was Pachacamac?
The word Pachacamac can be translated in various ways, among its meanings are “soul of the Earth, the one that makes the world happy”, “The one who animated the world” or “The one who created the earth and time”. In this sense, this divinity was a god and apparently the most important within the belief of the pre-Inca Peruvian inhabitant of the coast. As his name indicates, he was the creator of everything and was the main deity of this region until the Incas appeared and imposed the worship of their main god, the Sun. But, without erasing him, the opposite happened, the Andean culture adopted him in their Pantheon, as a god; son direct of the Sun.
They even created a legend. This says that the god Pachacamac had created man and woman but that he had forgotten to create food for them, leaving them to his fate and taking care of other chores. Upon returning, the man was dead, and the woman wandered, cursing and crying. The Sun God (Inti) moved by the crying of the woman, bathed her with her rays, and comforted her. From this union, a son was born. Furious Pachacamac upon learning what happened on his return, killed the son of this union, spreading the remains of the corpse around the world, so the murdered son came to create food for the woman and other animals.
The hurt woman returned to the arms of the Sun God, and he told her to bring the placenta and the umbilical cord of her deceased son, the woman obeyed, and thus, the Sun created Vichama, the woman’s second son. This time the mother helped her son escape from his irate father. But years later, Pachacamac managed to kill the woman and Vichama learned of the death of his mother. Apparently, the mother had offered her life for her son to escape. So Vichama, with revenge in tow, looked for his father to kill him, but he only found the bones of his mother and some rumors that his father had taken refuge in the seas. It is in this way that Vichama would watch the coast, ensuring that his father never leaves the sea to back to dry land, again.
Before being one of the most visited tourist attractions in Lima and despite being discovered in 1890 by intrepid archaeologists and since then, the subject of research by recognized scholars like Ernst Middendorf, Adolph Bandelier, Max Uhle, Alberto Giesecke (who discovered in 1939 the main site idol and restored the Templo Pintado – Painted temple) However, the site still kept mysteries and legends that were tried to be revealed, little by little, by the labor of more modern scholars like Julio C. Tello, John Corbett, William Strong, and Dr. Arthur Jimenez Borja.
Even, from 1990, some non-profit foundations began to support, economically, to research project on-site research projects. In this sense, many enclosures were discovered and placed in value as the Sun temple, Adobitos set, and the Ajllawasi (house of the chosen ones). However, to understand better the process of its formation, we’ll divide it by the period of each pre-Inca culture that occupied the complex.
Pachacamac in the Lima pre-Inca culture
Before the arrival of Inca soldiers or the Spanish conquerors, this site was considered a great religious center where large ceremonial pyramids, houses, and other constructions decorated its surroundings. The constructions were carried out by different cultures that inhabited the site, progressively. The site was first established in 200 AD. by the culture of Lima (culture resulting from the disintegration of the great Chavin pre-Inca culture). Proofs of their influence over some site religious buildings are the stone bases, over which it was built walls of small adobe bricks called “Adobitos”. Templo Viejo (Old temple) and the Urpiwachac Temple are other proofs of it.
Pachacamac in the Wari Culture
The ceremonial site was taken over by the Huari culture between 600 AD. to 1100 AD, when it reached its maximum expansion. They rebuilt the city to establish it as an administrative center, besides religious. It was during this period that the site reached its peak and became a religious pilgrimage destination for people who came from surrounding areas. The Huari people only added a few buildings, among them the most important is Templo pintado (Painted temple), besides of refurbish the existing ones. The current excavations found ceramics, beautiful fabrics, and even a complete cemetery that belonged to this culture. After Wari, the complex managed to survive as an independent unit and continued to receive pilgrims until the Ychma culture period.
Pachacamac in the Ychma culture
After 1100 A.D. the Ychma culture took control of the site. Its administration began in the middle of the V century and finished in the middle of the VI century. During this period the complex returned to be considered a great pilgrim center and reached its maximum expression again with amazing buildings like 16-step pyramids with deposits, ramps, and patios of adobe and mortar. Without mentioning another 13 main buildings, 2 main streets, and little roads that connected houses, administrative buildings, temples, and the famous pyramids. Let’s remember that the complex had reached its maximum expansion again and paths were needed to connect each enclosure. Also, they rebuilt Templo Pintado (the Painted Temple).
Pachacamac with the Incas
The complex was invaded in 1470 AD by the Inca’s army Tupac Inca Yupanqui, the son continued the legacy of his father Pachacutec, extending the limits of Tawantinsuyo territory by the north. Once arrived at the site, the young Inca saw the strong cult toward a god unknown to him. In this sense, he respected the cult and the religion of the pilgrims located there. Even, he adopted the unknown god and placed him in the pantheon of Inca gods, in this way, Pachacamac became the son of the main Inca god, the sun.
Also, the Incas modified and expanded the enclosures at their convenience, building some new pyramids. However, its most important legacy was the Sun temple, located over a hill with a perfect view of the Pacific Ocean. Nowadays, this edification is considered one of the most amazing ancient buildings in Lima. In its built, they respected the materials and the style of construction like the use of small bricks made of mud and straw (Adobitos), and little stones, and they painted facades with red and yellow colors.
Another important building was the Acjallawasi (place of the chosen). Actually, when the Incas arrived in the zone, there was already a similar enclosure called Mamacona. Inside there lived priests and experts to see the oracle (The most important object in the entire site). They could predict the future. But, the Incas reused the enclosure as a monastery for young women destined for Sun worship, to be wives of important warriors, or to be sacrificed in honor of the Sun god.
Other important buildings were the pilgrim’s palace and the Taurichumbi palace. In this form, the complex continued under the Inca’s control up to 1533.
Pachacamac with the Spanish invaders
According to some research, the complex and its oracle (who could predict the future) ceased to be esteemed by the Incas when the last sovereign Huascar consulted the Oracle about who would win his battle against his brother Atahualpa by the Tawantinsuyo throne, and he told him that he would be the winner (false because Atahualpa was the real victor). In this sense, when Atahualpa found out about this oracle, he did not appreciate him enough. Anyway, finished the Inca’s civil war and Atahualpa was captured by the Spanish in 1533, so the Inca revealed the exact location of this site to them, as a form of ransom payment. Knowing that these would go to loot it and destroy it. When the Europeans arrived, they looted the few precious metal objects (gold and silver) that were there and then lost interest in it, allowing (ignoring) the pilgrimages that continued to be in the place.
Purpose of the site
This pilgrimage center was one of the most important deities for pre-Hispanic cultures, which is why the site was considered mainly a place of worship.
- Cult center: It is believed that its purpose was specifically religious and ceremonial, as there is evidence of different cultures in the coastal region pilgrimage to the site. There is a reference that there was an oracle in the place who was asked about future harvests, the weather for next year, even about upcoming diseases in the region. A special priest was the only one who could enter a particular enclosure to consult with the Oracle and absolve these types of questions.
- Administrative center: Without leaving aside the other utility, some scholars also affirm that this complex was used as an administrative center. Even, certain pieces of evidence suggest that some constructions were also used as royal palaces for some important rulers of the time. Let’s remember that this complex reached an important expansion (465 hectares) and needed to be managed efficiently. Also, today, the site is considered one of the best day trips from Lima, since it is located just a few kilometers from the Peruvian capital.
Pachacamac complex distribution
The archaeological site can be divided into two main sections. The first area was considered the sacred section and within it, you could find temples of great religious importance, a large cemetery, and the three main pyramids of the site. While within the second region, you could find numerous constructions without ceremonial purposes, including some adobe pyramids. Nowadays, near the site, you can also enjoy the on-site museum, where different artifacts and historical objects found in the area are gathered. Without a doubt, this site is one of the best attractions to experience after knowing all the things to do in Lima. For this reason, lines below, you’ll find the most important buildings on the site.
- Sun temple (Incas culture legacy)
- Templo Viejo (Old temple)
- Templo Pintado (Painted temple)
- Ajllawasi (house of the chosen- refurbished by the Incas)
- Pilgrims square (Incas culture legacy)
- Taurichumbi palace
How to get to Pachacamac
These ruins are located only about 40 kilometers (25 miles) from the capital of Peru, so getting them is not complicated at all. You can enjoy these ancient ruins on a half or full-day tour if you prefer, everything will depend on your interest in the site. Also, if you want to make the most of your tour, it is best to be next to a certified guide who can explain the stories and purposes of different constructions. You can even choose to get to this complex after a tour of Lima, knowing the different attractions, such as the Huaca Pucllana. You will have numerous alternatives to enjoy this incredible historical site.
As we mention again, we’ll always recommend a visit to this site with an expert tour guide, through a travel agency. Saying this, if you have an adventurous spirit and consider having enough previous information about the history and purposes of the complex (visiting an Archaeological site without a person who knows it very well the zone, like a historian or tour guide, must be boring), you can:
- Take a taxi: For this purpose, you can use a taxi app (the most recommendable form) or take a taxi from the street (the less recommendable form) to go to it, in the Lurín district. The taxi service, round trip, costs around 120 Peruvian Soles, add the 2 hours of wait, and 60 soles more. The total cost can reach 180.00 Soles ($ 48)
- Public Bus: But, if you have a real adventure spirit, you can take a public bus from the Miraflores district. Usually, these buses have a giant sign, on one of their sides, that says: “Pachacamac” or simply the letter “S”. Of course before taking one, you have to ask the driver to inform you when you are close to the attractive. Also, keep in mind that Peru’s public transport service is the worst in all of South America; old buses or vans, in poor condition, with small seats, and lack of space (passengers usually travel standing in the aisle), not to mention the crime that exists in the transport units. The only detail will be the return way.
On-site Pachacamac museum
To better understand this millennial city’s history, functions, and importance, the Government of Peru created an on-site museum close to the complex main entrance with the same name in 1965, being one of the first on-site museums entire Peru. Diverse artifacts such as ceramics, beautiful textiles, ceremonial pieces, and other traces of occupation over 1,000 years are shown find between the XIX and XX centuries. Each artifact has a small legend, both in English and Spanish, that explains its function, the date, and the exact location where it was found. Also, the visitor will find a brief history of the general site. In addition, its purpose and the displacements of the different buildings made it up.
Entrances and schedule
The archaeological site receives visitants Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. and Sundays from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. The entrances are sold from Tuesday to Saturday up to 3:45 p.m. and Sundays up to 2:45 p.m.
The entrance prices are general for all people, 0no matter if they are national or foreign:
- $ 4 General Entrance
- $ 1.5 Higher student (accredited)
- $ 0.20 (dollar cents) for Children and/or School
- $ 9 Guide service (depends on availability)
“WHAT’S OLD COLLAPSES, TIMES CHANGE, AND NEW LIFE BLOSSOMS IN THE RUINS”
Peru boasts many attractive archaeological sites throughout the country, some of them within easy reach of just a bus ride away. We hope together with the experts of Machu Travel Peru to have been of help. If you want more information about this incredible destination, you can consult our advisers for free. Make sure to add Pachacamac to your travel list, you won’t regret it!
Peru has so much to offer, it can be hard to know where to start. With many years of experience in the tourism sector, Machu Travel Peru is happy to help with anything regarding your trip to Machu Picchu and any tours around it. Make your Machu Picchu experience an unforgettable one!