Lake Titicaca and Puno are some of the most visited destinations by tourists after the incredible Machu Picchu. And it is certainly worth visiting the folk capital of the Andean country, as it is surrounded by wonders and cultural gems to appreciate. Among its great attractions, you can find the archaeological site of the Sillustani Tombs. It is one of the best experiences around Puno, with a half-day excursion to these intriguing tombs. You will be able to experience exceptional views of the nearby Lake and the different tombs casting shadows on the beautiful landscape. For this reason, together with the travel experts of Machu Travel Peru, we want to tell you everything about this incredible archaeological site.
Everything you need to know about the Sillustani tombs near Puno
- Explore Puno, the closest city to Sillustani
- History of Sillustani
- Getting to Sillustani
- What are the Chullpas?
- Visit the nearby Lake Umayo
- What to expect on a Sillustani Tour
EXPLORE PUNO, THE CLOSEST CITY TO SILLUSTANI
The Sillustani site is located approximately 40 kilometers from the city of Puno, but you can still take advantage of and enjoy the city before embarking on your adventure. The beautiful city of Puno is usually a start for adventurers looking to explore Lake Titicaca, but the truth is that you can find many things to do in Puno. This incredible city is a tourist center in itself, with amazing colonial architecture in many of its churches. Puno is an accumulation of cultures and folklore in each of its corners and streets. Despite being at a high altitude, this beautiful city welcomes tourists seeking to enjoy the various attractions with great friendliness and quality.
If you are looking to enjoy more than Lake Titicaca, the Sillustani funeral complex is a great alternative. It is here where you can enjoy the view of surprising tombs belonging to the ancient Kolla culture, which had its development in the peninsula of Lake Umayo. Don’t miss out on this wonderful archaeological site on your next visit.
HISTORY OF SILLUSTANI
Some believe that Sillustani was an ancient cemetery. It was dedicated to the most important Peruvian high priests or “magicians” of civilization. Even though the different archaeologists have not yet come up with an explanation of why these funeral towers are around, a few theories are surrounding the place. One of these theories suggests that they were once used as grain silos at some point. However, what is known about them is that they contain ashes from ancient cultures.
The Chullpas towers are perfectly cylindrical and were built during the rise of pre-Inca civilizations. But they continued to be built during the Inca Empire. They functioned for the burial of the elite, like different kings, high priests, nobles, and their respective families. Unfortunately, many of these burial chambers suffered several looting, while others were simply not completed. And together with the Uros floating islands, it is one of the most important attractions within the Puno region.
The Sillustani towers were constructions belonging to the pre-Inca period. They were built by the Colla culture, an Aymara-speaking indigenous tribe. The Collas dominated the Titicaca region before being dominated by the Incas. The site is composed of different Chullpas. And although these towers exist throughout the southern Peruvian Andes, the Sillustani towers are the best preserved.
The characteristics of the different towers can indicate when they were built. The towers built by the Collas were made up of rectangular blocks. While the towers built by the Incas had blocks of different shapes. It is known that the Colla culture built the funerary towers to bury their ancestors. Some are known to have been buried with treasures, fine jewelry, and abundant food. The height and grandeur of the tombs served as a symbol and representation of status. The tombs are believed to have been reserved for noble families. Today many of these tombs were looted, leaving only the structures to appreciate.
GETTING TO SILLUSTANI
The Sillustani tombs are located about 40 kilometers from Puno. So any private service can take you there for a small fee. It is very easy to take a taxi to this wonderful archaeological site. You will find that many taxis visit Sillustani before arriving in Puno. Some even choose to do this magical tour when they return to Juliaca airport. As for public services, buses are not the best option. Since they do not usually leave you very close to the site and they are not that frequent. The best option is to organize a half-day tour with transportation included. You will find numerous travel agencies offering this service.
If you are wondering where is Lake Titicaca, you also have to ask yourself how to get to the Sillustani tombs. To get to this archaeological site you can choose to take a tour from Puno or simply go on your own by taking a bus or taxi. For this, you can choose the bus that goes from Juliaca to Puno or vice versa. They warn the driver that they want to get off at the detour that leads to Sillustani and from there they take a taxi that will take them to the archaeological site. The entrance is super accessible, with an approximate cost of 6 soles, so you have no excuses to miss this wonderful place.
WHAT ARE THE CHULLPAS?
The Chullpas are the tombs or burial towers found in Sillustani. The Chullpas are circular stone funerary towers. The entire Sillustani archaeological site is made up of approximately 90 Chullpas. The Chullpas can measure from two meters to twelve meters in height, making it a formidable sight to appreciate. They were designed so that the door was directed towards the east. This way the deceased could communicate directly with the Sun God. The entrance is quite small, so it is believed that the mummy was first introduced and then closed the entrance. In the same way, these tombs were selected for the nobles, priests, and different rulers. In the Inca period, the Chullpas method was also used. And these can be distinguished from the rest. Because they are adorned with large cornices and some of their stones have high reliefs.
These resemble in shape the trunk of a giant tree or an inverted cone. But much smaller Chullpas can also be found elsewhere in the Andes. These served to house funerary remains of different people of importance. The most notorious towers reach heights of up to 12 meters, that is, about 40 feet high. The largest towers are characterized by resembling an inverted cone. Because its base is usually smaller in diameter than the top. One of the most attractive and famous Chullpas is the “Chullpa del Lagarto”. This is the tallest funeral tower in the entire complex. This particular tower was built during the Inca Empire. After enjoying a boat tour on Lake Titicaca, Las Chullpas de Sillustani is the next best attraction to experience.
VISIT THE NEARBY LAKE UMAYO
The Sillustani cemetery is located right on the shores of Lake Umayo. So it will be a sight that, along with the distant towers, will make a great memory. Lake Umayo is a great place that you should not miss. It offers some stunning views of the reflected sky. The Lake is located not far from the tower complex. It’s a wonderful lake that reflects both the wonderful sky and its clouds. Inside the lake, you will see an island that works as a nature reserve for local vicuñas. Lake Umayo tends to be a lagoon rather than a lake, with an extension of about 8 kilometers long and only 3 kilometers wide.
Together with the Sillustani site, they form an excellent destination where you can enjoy the landscapes and views. It is also located quite high, at about 3,844 meters above sea level, so it can be a difficult walk for those who did not take the time to acclimatize. It is even said that it was once part of the great Lake Titicaca. This lake is a great alternative to understand even more about the Lake Titicaca mystery.
WHAT TO EXPECT ON A SILLUSTANI TOUR
The easiest option to enjoy the archaeological site is to opt for a tour inside the city of Puno. These tours are not at all difficult to get or locate, as it is usually a very important attraction in the surroundings of the city. You can accompany this beautiful destination along with a tour in Puno and kill two birds with one stone. From the city of Puno, you will find numerous tours that offer half-day excursions to Sillustani. Some tours usually leave early in the afternoon, around 02:00 pm. Please note that the round trip can take anywhere from 4 hours to 3 and a half hours. You will have an hour and a half to explore the site on your own or with a guide.
Some private taxis often offer two-hour tours in a much more private way. And budget-minded travelers can choose to take the bus followed by a short ride to the ruins. We believe that the best time to visit Sillustani is during the afternoon. Since you will have better photography possibilities due to the sunlight. In addition, it is when most tour operators are present. There are also tours in the morning, where you can appreciate the place from a different perspective and light. Do not miss this magical and charming destination destined to surprise you. If you wish, you can even organize with us a private and customized tour for your enjoyment.
“I WANDERED EVERYWHERE, THROUGH CITIES AND COUNTRIES WIDE. AND EVERYWHERE I WENT, THE WORLD WAS ON MY SIDE ”
In conclusion, a visit to this wonderful funeral complex is a sight that you will not want to miss. This wonderful tour can be combined with your itinerary in various ways. If you plan to visit Puno and Lake Titicaca, a tour of the Sillustani towers will be a wonderful option. We hope together with Machu Travel Peru to have answered your questions about this incredible archaeological site. If you want more information about our private tours through the tombs of Sillustani, you can consult our distinguished advisers. They will discuss all the steps to start organizing your trip!