Peru is home to many lost cities – some of which were already ancient ruins by the time of the Incas.
Chavin de Huantar In Peru
For history and archeological tourism, the best country in South America to visit is undoubtedly Peru. Peru is home to the ancient alpine Inca site of Machu Picchu, the Inca capital of Cosco, the long-lost Inca capital of Vilcabamba, and many others. But not all the sites in Peru are Inca – there were many civilizations before the Incas – like the desert city of Chan Chan. Another of the many excellent Inca sites to discover is Chavin de Huantar.
Peru is a place that captures the imagination in a way analogous to how the ‘sands of time’ of Egypt capture the imagination. Egypt may be famous for its many mummies, but there are also many mummies in Peru too – like the Lady of Cao. Peru even has pyramids as old as the Egyptian pyramids (although they are smaller).
Chavin De Huantar Is Thousands Of Years Older Than Machu Picchu
Chavin de Huantar was built long before the Inca. It was built as early as 1200 BC and was occupied until around 400 to 500 BC by the major pre-Inca culture, the Chavin.
Chavin de Huantar is located around 270 miles north of Lima and is found at an elevation of 3,180 meters or 10,430 feet. It is situated in between the jungle and the coast on the headwaters of the Maranon River.
- Elevation: 3,180 meters or 10,430 feet
Chavin de Huantar is a UNESCO World Heritage Site with its excavated artifacts on display at the Museo de la Nacion in the capital Lima and other artifacts in the Museo Nacional de Chavin in Chavin.
It is thought to have been a large ceremonial center with a reasonably large population. It was a meeting place for people to come and worship in rituals, consult oracles, or enter a cult. For over 700 years, the site drew worshipers to its temples. It was constructed in many stages, but most of the major construction was completed by 750 BC.
Archeological studies have shown that Chavin de Huantar endured social instability and upheaval between 500 and 300 BC. This coincided with the decline in the overarching Chavin culture. Ceremonial sites, and some were unfinished. This means that while Machu Picchu is only 600 years old (established around 1430 AD), Chavin de Huantar is thousands of years old.
What To Expect At The Chavin de Huantar Archeological Site
Today Chavin de Huantar is the largest ruin from the ancient Chavin culture.
- Designated: UNESCO World Heritage Since 1985
The mid-Andean culture emerged around 1200 BC, and it persisted for a thousand years. The culture is famous for its highly stylized stonework of deities like pumas and jaguars (as well as snakes, condors, and human figures).
Long ago, puma head-shaped keystones gazed out from the temple, but today only one remains on the walls (the rest are broken off and stacked up inside the temple or in museums).
One of the most remarkable features at the site is the Lanzon de Chavin. It is a 4.5-meter or 15-foot-high carved stele. It stands in the midst of underground passageways in the Castillo.
The site had a massive flat-topped pyramid temple and a U-shaped plaza with a sunken circular court. Much of the site was buried in a landslide in 1945, although there have been excavations since then.
Visiting The Chavin de Huantar Site Today
Chavin de Huantar is located on the outskirts of the village of Chavin. To get to Chavin, it’s a 2.5-hour long drive (66 miles) from Huaraz, or people can take a three-day hike across the Cordillera Blanca.
Only half a day is needed to see the ruins, and it can be visited on a day trip from Huaraz. Get there early in the morning, and one can enjoy the place to oneself.
One example, a day tour from Huaraz offered on denomades.com is one great option.
- Price: 62 Peruvian Sol Per Person ($16)
- Times: 8.00 am to 6.30 pm
- Duration: Approx. 10 Hours
The tour leaves Huaraz and visits other places along the way, including Recuay, Ticapampa, and Catac. The tour of the Temple of Chavin lasts two hours. The price includes transport and a tour guide but not lunch or entrance fees.