10 Reasons You Should Visit the Mysterious Tiwanaku Ruins in Bolivia

Central Tiwankau courtyard
Central Tiwankau courtyard | © Jose Luis Hidalgo R. / Flickr
Harry Stewart

When it comes to South American ruins, Machu Picchu steals the limelight every time. And while Peru’s world wonder is undeniably stunning, the lesser known Bolivian site of Tiwanaku is a must as well due to its historical importance to the region. Here are 10 reasons why you should visit this enigmatic archeological site.

Loved by over 40s

It’s way older than Machu Picchu

Despite their exotic perception, the Inca were a relatively recent civilization who built their famous citadel in around 1450 AD. The Tiwanaku, on the other hand, are considerably more archaic, first settling in the region way back in 200 BC. Struggling with the math? That’s a difference of about 1,650 years.

Stone faces at Tiwanaku

The people were super resilient

The Inca were also a remarkably short-lived civilization, lasting a mere century before being overrun by the Spanish. The Tiwanaku, however, thrived for over a millennium.

Tiwanaku statue

It’s cheap

The entry fee recently went up to 100 BOB (US$14.50) per person, which is still a pittance compared to Machu Picchu’s US$70. Furthermore, thrifty travelers can get there on a 20 BOB (US$3) bus rather than forking out hundreds of dollars for that outrageous Inca rail.

Tiwanaku stones

The history is fascinating

Over the centuries, a small primitive settlement eventually evolved into a stone-clad megacity of epic proportions. At its peak towards the turn of the first millennium, some 70,000 inhabitants were estimated to have lived in Tiwanaku, while the entire empire may have encompassed up to a million or more.

Monolith statue

But also tragic

After centuries of steady growth, the empire suddenly collapsed around 1000 AD. Most historians now agree this was due to a severe and prolonged drought that ravaged the region, causing crops to wilt and the waters of Lake Titicaca to recede. Inhabitants were thought to have either migrated or starved to death.

Much has been immaculately preserved

Plenty of original artwork remains proudly on display, including carvings and statues of exotic faces, animals, and geometric shapes. Of particular interest is the Sun Gate, a monolithic stone doorway inscribed with numerous extrinsic carvings.

Tiwanaku carvings

It is shrouded in mystery

As the Tiwanaku had no written language, archeologists have been forced to make various assumptions about their societal structure and religious beliefs. Some theorize they were the first to worship Viracocha, the creator God who plays a central role in Inca mythology.

Carvings on the Sun Gate

Their building methods were astounding

Architects will find the site particularly interesting due to the unique construction methods the Tiwanaku employed. Rather than use a masonry method, they laid mammoth ashlar blocks on top of each other, shifting them into place by way of pulleys and ropes.

Tiwanaku building blocks with face carving

Plenty of intrigue remains

Something that continues to dumbfound researchers is how they managed to move such mammoth stones. One building block, a giant piece of sandstone which weighs 131 tonnes (288,806 pounds), has been determined to have come from a quarry an astonishing 10 km (6.2 miles) away.

Central Tiwankau courtyard

There’s an excellent on-site museum

For a more in-depth analysis of Tiwanaku history and the chance to see some interesting artisanal artifacts, check out the adjacent Tiwanaku Museum. Entry is included on the same ticket, so you’ve got nothing to lose.

Tiwanaku Museum
culture trip left arrow
 culture trip brand logo

Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip

meet our Local Insider


women sitting on iceberg


2 years.


It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.


I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!

culture trip logo letter c
group posing for picture on iceberg
group posing for picture on iceberg

Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.

map of volcanic iceland trip destination points
culture trip brand logo
culture trip right arrow
landscape with balloons floating in the air


Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world

Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.

Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.

Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.

Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.

We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.