Seldom Visited Places Series 2: Pikillacta


Lyle Walkers

In this series of Seldom Visited Places, find out Lyle Walker’s next best kept secret of the Sacred Valley. Can you believe that it is pre-Inkan?


Pikillacta is another of the seldom visited sites, and like our previous site Tipon, it is also located in the Southern Valley. And at 32 km from Cusco, it is only 6 km past Tipon, which really makes it surprising that more people do not visit it. I would expect that anyone visiting Tipon would take the time to travel just a little further, but for some reason they do not, so 90% of the times that we have visited with our guests, we have been the only ones at the site. So if you really want a break from the crowds, this is a good site to consider because you will likely be the only people there (unless we are visiting with guests at the same time).

One of the things that makes this site stand out from others for me, aside from its emptiness, is the fact that it is a Wari site, which makes it pre-Inka and different than 99% of the sites that most everyone sees when visiting the Cusco region. The Wari culture is believed to have existed from about 500 to 1000 AD, so there is no likely overlap between the Wari and Inka cultures, but the name of the site 'œPikillacta' is actually a Quechua word that translates to 'œCity of fleas' and is believed to be an Inka reference to previous culture being insignificant, like a flea.

While the Inka and Wari did not likely have any direct interactions, the Inka did occasionally make use of pre-Inka structures, and this is one location where you can see this. Along the main road and just past the entrance to the main site of Pikillacta you will see Rumicolca, this was originally a Wari aqueduct that the Inka had re-purposed to be one of the control points to the Cusco region from points to the East. The bulk of the structure was Wari and you can see here where the Inka engineers were working to cover, or encase the Wari wall in more refined Inka stone work.

Pikillacta (Photo: Lyle Walker)

Rumicolca (Photo: Lyle Walker)

Pikillacta is one of the larger Wari sites discovered and there have been a variety of thoughts as to its purpose. Some of the purposes it is believed to have served were a city, a religious center or maybe a government center, but no matter which purpose it served, it was likely an important place as they had a series of defensive walls that protected the city.

This site covers over 34 square kilometers, which makes it one of the largest sites in the region, covering over twice the area that Machu Picchu does. Because of this, it is easy to spend 1-1/2 to 2 hours here exploring the site and its many pathways, and buildings, many of which were 2 or even 3 stories tall. One of my favorite walks is through the walled section that runs along the NE side of the site, above the large plaza area. You can enter from the plaza then turn either right or left and follow the wall around the city center. My impression of them is they are kind of like a miniature version of the Great Wall of China.

Walls_(Photo: Lyle Walker)_

One of the things that I find really interesting is that in the few structures that have been excavated, they have uncovered original Wari plaster on the floors and the walls, which if you consider that the plaster is over 1,000 years old, it is really incredible.

Up next, 3 locations in the heavily traveled Sacred Valley that few people visit.

Lyle Walker was born in California, served in the Marines and has spent much of his career working as an industrial engineer. In 2006 he met and married his Peruvian wife, Lily, and in 2012 they moved to the Cusco region to open and run GringoWasi bed and breakfast, where they not only host guests, but also help them with their planning. Lyle can be contacted by e-mail at