ancient ruins in peru

Many times, the titanic Machu Picchu tends to overshadow some other attractions within Peru. But, we want to know you that this majestic archaeological site is not the only one available within Peru. Before the great expansion of the Inca Empire, there were numerous other cultures within the Peruvian territory. Many of these alternative cultures have left their traces in different constructions, temples, and citadels that have survived the passage of time. For this reason, together with the travel experts of Machu Travel Peru, we would like to tell you a little about those awesome ancient ruins in Peru. Unfortunately, these are usually underestimated and have fascinating stories behind them.

The greatest ancient Peruvian ruins to explore in a parallel tour

1. Kuelap

ancient ruins in peru kuelap

The Chachapoyas culture in an Amazonian region built the wonderful and incomparable fortress of Kuelap. Moreover, the cloud forests of the area covered the ruins up to its discovery in 1843. This wonderful walled city could be considered one of the most incredible points to visit on some vacations in Peru. The unsurpassed landscapes of the north Peruvian Amazon surrounded and blend organically with the architecture of the place. These ancient ruins can be comparable to the magical Machu Picchu in terms of their size and scale. More than 500 circular structures form the fortress. These were built six centuries before the arrival of the Incas.

2. Chan Chan

ancient ruins in peru chan chan

Considered one of the most ancient ruins in Peru, Chan Chan was one of the largest and oldest adobe cities in all of South America. This citadel can be located in the coastal region of northern Peru, very close to the no less surprising city of Trujillo. This adobe city covers an area of ​​more than 20,000 square kilometers. Also, nine other walled subdivisions as warehouses, houses, and religious and administrative sectors, among others. Also, the ancient Chimú civilization built this awesome mud city, between 850 AD and 1470 AD. For this reason, UNESCO declared to Chan Chan Archaeological Zone one of the many World Heritage Sites that can be found in Peru.

3. Chavin

ancient ruins in peru chavin

These ancient ruins were one of the most popular pilgrimage destinations for the different Andean communities. These different cultures came to Chavín to share their ideologies, customs, and traditions among other things. Inside the site, you can still see different monoliths of carved heads representing different deities. Its intricate architecture and the tunnel system it houses are one of the greatest attractions of the place. Today Sacsayhuaman is on the list of the best things to do in Peru, where to enjoy alternative tours.

4. Sacsayhuaman

ancient ruins in peru sacsayhuaman

The Sacsayhuaman is one of the main attractions around the Imperial City. These ancient ruins are very easy to explore on a day trip. The fortress shows the great skill of the Inca Empire in terms of its construction of bastions and walls. It is believed that the Inca Empire, during the reign of Pachacutec in the 15th century, built this great ceremonial fortress. And, definitely, Sacsayhuaman ruins are bigger than Machu Picchu. However, it was Huayna Capac who finished this architectural wonder. The ruins are located about 3,700 meters above sea level and cover a territory of more than 3,000 hectares. It is without a doubt, one of the most surprising archaeological sites to visit.

5. Pisac

ancient ruins in peru pisac

The beautiful traditional town of Pisac is just an hour’s drive from the city of Cusco, and above it, you can see the amazing Pisac ruins. You can reach it by a short but no less surprising hiking route, although certain taxis also usually drop you at the entrance of the ruins. The amazing agricultural terraces will lead you to a ceremonial center, some irrigation canals, Inca baths, and other incredible attractions. These ancient ruins in the Sacred Valley are usually part of a tour through the Sacred Valley that explores numerous other archaeological sites.

6. Maras & Moray

ancient ruins in peru maras-moray

Both attractions are within the confines of the Sacred Valley map. Maras is a small city that hides one of the most peculiar ancient ruins of the Inca Empire. To the north of the city of Maras are a surprising series of Inca salt flats. And, believe it or not, the current Maras population continues to use them to this day. While Moray is located about 9 kilometers from the salt mines, making it a great destination to complement your visit. Several unique circular terraces jutting into the land make up the ancient ruins of Moray. They have been used for agricultural experimentation purposes to compare different crops.

7. Choquequirao

ancient ruins in peru choquequirao

This incredible fortress is located about 10,010 feet above sea level, between the regions of Cusco and the Amazon jungle. It is very similar in scale and scope to the citadel of Machu Picchu, with some even considering Choquequirao as the brother city of the anticipated wonder. Due to its difficult access, it is not usually as crowded as the Wonder of the World. But if you have the good fortune to explore this site on one of the many tours in Peru, you will not regret it.

8. Ollantaytambo

ancient ruins in peru ollantaytambo

Ollantaytambo is an awesome Inca fortress situated at the northwest end of the Sacred Valley, region of Cusco. The Incas built it in 1400 under the orders of Inca Pachacutec, as a fortress, religious and agricultural center. This was the last Inca refuge against the Spanish, who persecuted them. In 1536, the Incas achieved a victory over the Europeans in this fortress. But, one year later, the Spanish counterattacked obtaining a final victory. Of course, the Incas ended up going into the jungle. Either way, the warehouses, quarries, terraces, and important temples remain intact. Furthermore, the aqueducts, canals, and water sources still work! Even, the Andean masons had to move the 6 giant monoliths of the Temple of the Sun (located on top of the fortress) from the quarries of Cachicata (3.7 miles from Ollantaytambo, on the other side of the Urubamba River) Amazin!

9. Caral

ancient ruins in peru caral

If you are asking What is the oldest ruin in Peru? Well, the answer could be Caral. Indeed, the Norte Chico civilization built Caral 5,000 years ago. This culture was contemporary of great primitive cultures such as China, India, and even Egypt and it is still being studied. Wood and stone were the main material for its construction, unlike their contemporaries made of mud. For this reason, Caral resisted time. It is located 182 km north of Lima and is one of the most complex urban plans of its time. Proof of that is an awesome pyramid with high platforms, ceremonial rooms, altars, and a circular amphitheater. Also, in recent years, Peruvian archaeologists found 4 pyramids more surround a ceremonial square.

Simply amazing! Despite its age, the city is one of the most recent to be discovered, only 27 years ago. If you want to visit it, we recommend you hire a tour guide. Visit a place with so much history alone, could be boring.

10. Huaca Pucllana

ancient ruins in peru huaca pucllana

The Huaca Pucllana is an amazing mud brick pyramid situated in the middle of a current mid-class Lima neighborhood, Miraflores. According to research, the pre-Inca culture Lima, on the central coast of Peru, built the ceremonial complex (400 – 500 A.C. After, the Huari, a central Sierra culture, invaded it around 700 A.C. And they turned it into a gigantic metropolis. Already in Inca times, they used it as a ceremonial center. Furthermore, nowadays Peruvian archaeologists are still excavating it! Therefore, if you visit the archeological site, you will be able to see tombs embedded in the walls of the Huaca. These belonged to elite Huari women sacrificed to the gods along with their children. Also, you’ll enjoy a site museum and a 5-forks restaurant there.

11. Huayna Picchu

ancient ruins in peru huayna picchu

In addition to Machu Picchu, there are the ruins of Huayna Picchu. Huayna Picchu Mountain is located 2 km northwest of Machu Picchu, very close to Aguas Calientes town. You will find minor Inca constructions such as Tambos, and surveillance enclosures. However, what stands out on the mountain is the temple of the Moon. This temple is built by false portals and trapezoidal niches, of high quality, in a cave for the worship of Inca gods. Hiram Bingham, the Machu Picchu discover, also found these ruins. Even, some scholars even affirm that the ruins of Huayna Picchu and Machu Picchu could not be considered ruins, since they are 90% complete. That is why Machu Picchu and its surrounding ruins are truly intact Inca wonders.


As you can see, there is much more to visit than Machu Picchu. We hope together with the travel experts of Machu Travel Peru to have been helpful in your search for ancient ruins. If you are looking to satisfy your craving to feel like an explorer, do not hesitate to consult with our qualified advisors.

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!