What to Know About the Ruins in Pachacamac, Peru

The ruins at Pachacamac
The ruins at Pachacamac | © Gustavo M/ Flickr
Brandon Dupre

You don’t have to go to Cusco to find remarkable Peruvian ruins; you don’t even have to venture too far from Lima. Just an hour from Peru’s capital lie some of the most remarkable and least-frequented ruins in the country. Here’s what you need to know about the ancient ruins of Pachacamac, one of Peru’s oldest sites.

The archaeological complex of Pachacamac is located around 40 kilometers (25 miles) southeast of Lima’s city center. This enormous site is very impressive, with great pyramidal temples, dwellings, remains of frescoes decorating the adobe walls and other fascinating archaeological constructions built by different cultures. The site was the most important religious center of indigenous people on the Peruvian coast in pre-Hispanic times.

Pachacamac ruins

The area was settled around 200 AD, one thousand years before the Incas had anything to do with the area. The region was dedicated to the civilization’s most powerful god and quickly become a sort of pilgrimage for people living along the coast. The culture, known as the Lima Culture, began construction on temples and large squares for worship. Before long, around 600 AD, the Wari Culture came and expanded the growth of the city.

Pachacamac ruins in Peru

The city became such a center for devotion and worship upon the Incas’ arrival that they decided to incorporate the gods into their mythology. The cult gained such popularity, it forced the conquering Incas to let the religious fervor remain. To incorporate their gods into the equation at Pachacamac, the Incas built a remarkable temple overlooking the Pacific Ocean, called the Temple of the Sun. When the Spanish arrived, they had a less than tolerable outlook of the worshipers at Pachacamac and, in typical Spanish fashion, they destroyed buildings, plundered the sacred areas and forced the population to convert to Catholicism.

Pachacamac ruins in Peru

Today Pachacamac is one of Peru’s best-kept archeological sites and a great reminder of the remarkable civilizations that preceded the Incas. In addition to the Temple of the Sun, the site has plenty of ruins to admire. The most popular spots to visit are the Painted Temple and the Old Temple. For museum-lovers, there’s an on-site museum that displays artefacts discovered at Pachacamac, like ceramics, textiles and other religious pieces, and gives an explanation of the history and importance of the sites and temples in the area. There are knowledgeable guides who will greet you, and who offer tours of the entire grounds. Give yourself plenty of time to walk around and bring plenty of water and a hat—sunscreen always helps too.

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