You most likely associate Peru with Machu Picchu – and rightly so. It is a breathtakingly beautiful place. But while Machu Picchu gets all the headlines, Peru has other ruins scattered throughout the country, both Incan and pre-Incan. You’re sure to find something of incredible archeological significance almost everywhere you go.
Outside of Trujillo lies the pre-Colombian city of Chan Chan. It is the largest adobe city in the world and the largest pre-Columbian city in the Americas. Built by the pre-Incan Chimú culture, the large adobe city was home to an estimated 60,000 inhabitants. The ruins have been damaged by recent flooding but there are still broad plazas and unique architecture to marvel at.
There’s not much to say about the Inca ruins in the sky that hasn’t been said already. They’re simply remarkable. Surrounded by towering peaks, with lush green terraces, the sights at Machu Picchu are unimaginable. Built by the Incas, the site has stood the test of time and is still largely intact.
Huaca de la Luna
Along with Huaca del Sol, these ruins are believed to have served religious, military and administrative functions for the Moche culture. While most of the murals on the building have been lost to time, there are still some on the inside of the building. The murals depict Moche deities and deigns.
Huaca Rajada (Lord Sipan’s Tomb)
Lord’s Sipan’s tomb, an ancient burial ground of the pre-Incan Moche civilization, lies just outside the city of Chiclayo. Archeologists found the remains of priests, warriors, and Moche royalty within the monument-like structure and have built a museum, also outside of Chiclayo, to allow visitors a comprehensive viewing of the artifacts and give information about the archeological site. Visit the museum to see some of the items that were found in the tomb and a replica of the magnificent monument in the desert.
The ruins at Cahuachi used to be a major ceremonial center of the Nasca people. The site is located in the south of Peru, in the Nasca Valley, and the ruins overlook the Nasca lines. The origin and purpose of the lines themselves are a mystery, as is the fact that these ruins overlook the lines.
Surrounded by office buildings and businesses, this ancient ruin is hard to miss. Rising out of Lima’s upscale business district, Huaca Pucllana is a surreal sight. Its location couldn’t be more convenient, and at night, a restaurant opens up on the ruin’s grounds that provides a unique dining experience.
These mysterious drawings carved into the land have baffled experts and resulted in a multitude of possible explanations. You can take a plane ride to see the lines from above, so that you can make out the drawings and then come up with your own theory.
Pachacámac is a pre-Columbian adobe citadel about an hour outside of Lima. It’s not as visually striking as some of the other ruins in Peru, but it carries great historical significance. When the Spanish first arrived in Peru, this site was a hub of cultural activity after being taken over by the Incas. You can walk around the ruins enjoying the sights and the coastal view from the top. You can take either a bus or taxi to the ruins; a great option for a full-day trip from Lima.
Called the “ancient wise men” by the locals, Carajía is a a collection of eight mummies found on a cliffside near Chachapoyas, Peru. While most ruins in Peru have been ravaged by looters in search of buried fortunes, the mummies’ location high above a river gorge has help protect them.
The Chavín culture developed in the Andean highlands between 1500 and 300 BC and was a major pre-Incan civilization. The site has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is about 160 miles (257 kilometres) north of Lima.
Choquequirao is an Incan site similar to Machu Picchu. Only a two-day hike outside Cusco, it offers a fun hiking trip and fewer crowds than Machu Picchu, with just as beautiful a view.
Located just outside of Cajamarca, this is an ancient aqueduct that dates back to pre-Incan societies and is one of the oldest artificial structures in South America. The canals are thought to be about 3,000 years old.
Gran Pajaten are ruins in an Andean cloud forest and were designated a UNESCO World Heritage Natural Site in 1990. Unfortunately, in order to protect the ruins, they are currently closed to visitors.
For those interested in Inca history, this is a famous spot in the story of the Inca resistance against the Spanish. It is believed to have been the last stronghold of the Incas before they eventually fell to the Spanish.
Ollantaytambo was the royal estate of Emperor Pachacuti and is the starting point of the Inca Trail, making it a highly traversed tourist destination.
Find out where you can eat the best ceviche in Peru.