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How to Make a Visit to Caral: One of the World’s Oldest Large Cities

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Despite being the oldest city in the Americas, the ruins of Caral, located 3 hours north of Lima, get very few visitors. If you want to get off of the beaten track to visit a gigantic complex of important ruins, getting to this site is not as hard as you might think.

Why is Caral such an important site?

Photo: Wikimedia

As a place of convergence for people living on the coast, the highlands and jungle, many thousands of years ago it became the center of a large network of exchange and reciprocity, both commercial and cultural. That was why it was the most important society in the Supe Valley.

What we know about the civilization

The Caral people were experts in agriculture, public administration, making calendars, musical instruments. Their main crop was cotton, and their diets were based on fish and other seafood. Despite the fact that it was a very stratified society, there is plenty of evidence to suggest that men and women enjoyed a greater level of equality than most other civilizations. We also know that the people of Caral held great importance to the skies and the stars. On the main site, there is a large geoglyph, called Chupacigaro, which they devoted to the stars.

It was a highly stratified society, divided between what kind of labor you did.

The complex consists of six stone pyramids, amphitheaters, ceremonial rooms, altars, plazas. The city represented a conglomeration of 18 city-states that spread across three different valleys: Supe, Pativilca, and Fortaleza. 

Only recently have archaeologists begun learning about the site

Photo: Wikimedia

It wasn’t until 2001 when the ruins hit world headlines when archaeologists discovered that what they’d found was the oldest city in the Americas. Having been built in 2,627 BC, researchers discovered that it’s actually as old as the ruins of Egypt.

On discovering its age, archaeologists now recognize it as being a mother city for other civilizations that have dominated the Americas during the times since the Caral civilization’s rise and fall. Around the world, these so-called mother cities have been important for all types of researchers who have wondered what influences motivated ancient people to make the transition from living in isolated bands of small families, and into city large city-states. The discovery of Caral helped archaeologists get a glimpse into the nature of human societies.

To learn more about the fascinating discovery of Caral and the implications that its discoveries had on our understanding of humanity, check out this BBC documentary about Caral:

Quick tips for going to Caral

  • There is an informative museum that’s located at the entrance of the ruins. Don’t miss it if you want to delve more into the history and context of the site.
  • If you go to the ruins on weekends, you’ll find that there’s a small handcrafts markets and local food available. Otherwise, expect the ruins to be quiet and empty.
  • Don’t miss out on the chance to climb the staircases leading to the pyramids in order to enjoy a breathtaking view in locations where ceremonies, offerings, and sacrifices are believed to have been carried out.
  • Don’t speak English? No problem. Explanatory plaques at the site are written in both Spanish and English.

How to visit Caral on your own: Public transportation and staying in a hostel.

Photo: Wikimedia

Getting from Lima

In order to get from Lima to the area of Caral, you can catch a bus. You can flag down any bus heading north on the Pan-American highway. The main companies that travel along this route are Tourismo Barranca, and Tourismo Paramongo.

Ask your driver to let you off in at the market in Supe Pueblo, located at kilometer 184. One block away from the market you will find the taxis and colectivos (group taxis) that go to the Centro Poblado or village Caral.

Collectivo shared van from Supe to Caral

If you are heading to the ruins in a collectivo, make sure to ask to be dropped off at “Cuidad Sagrada,” or “el Puente.” The driver will then let you off at the bridge. From there it will be a 15-minute walk to the ruins. To get back to Supe or Barranco from the ruins, return to the bridge, and wait for a car to pick you up. But make sure that you return before 4:00 pm when collectivos stop running for the day.

Taxi from Supe to Caral

If you use the taxi service, which costs approximately S/. 40.00. The cars will take you to the reception area of the archaeological site.  We recommend that you pay your taxi driver a little bit more in order to wait for you at the entrance of the rooms in order to take you back to Supe, or Barranca, after you finish your time at the ruins.

Staying the night nearby

For spending the night, Barranca is the best place to go. If you choose not to go to Barranca, you can also go to Supe, which is about 15 kilometers before Barranca.

To find a place to stay, check out the places along the Antigua Panamericana Norte, Barranca’s main street. There are various places to stay.

Organize a tour to Caral

Photo: Wikimedia

Get help from wings with Lima Tours

Can you imagine seeing this city from the air? LimaTours offers this services in the same comfortable aircrafts that they use in Nasca.

Flying over the city you can see the pyramids, housing and circular temple. You can realize this flights with Aerodiana.

A word from Lima Tours: “The LimaTours’ Trust has supported the Caral Archaeological Project since its inception in the 1990s. Our award-winning program Wings over Peru was the first to feature an overflight of the 5,000-year-old site. We were also the first DMC to offer Supe as a port of call for international cruise lines, from which to visit the UNESCO World Heritage Site as a half-day shore excursion.”

Book a tour from Barranca

Explora Tours

They offer four hour-long tours, starting from the town of Barranca, which cost between 35 and 40 soles.

Getting into Caral

Admission: S11; with guide S20

Hours: h9am-4pm

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Scott Montgomery is a multi-medium storyteller and holistic creative, a travel guide and transformational coach, whose core mission is to help others to live authentically with purpose and intention in order to make an impact in the world. After earning his masters degree in creative writing at Arizona State University in 2013, he made the move to Peru in order to write about indigenous communities of the jungles and the Andes, and to explore what this might have to do with his own life path. These years of traveling and living across the country have helped him to embrace a more purposeful lifestyle that's guided by the values of collaboration, creativity, and transformation. To find out more about what Scott's up to and how you can get involved, visit his personal website www.voyagewithscott.com