Located south of Lima, Pachacamac is well worth the visit. Explore the ruins and learn about one of the most important pre-Inca pilgrimage sites in South America.
About an hour away from the city you’ll find an extraordinary archaeological complex rich in pre-Columbian historic and cultural significance. Here’s what to know, what to see and how to get to Pachacamac.
What is Pachacamac?
The archaeological site sits in on the bank of the Lurín river and covers about 465 hectares of land. It’s named after the god Pacha Kamaq, creator of man and woman, venerated in this location by the polity Ichma (or Ychsma). Inhabited since around 200 A.D., the site became the capital of the Ishma kingdom before it was reconstructed by the Huari (or Wari) and later absorbed by the Inca empire.
The Ishma built at least 16 pyramids on this site, and many other structures around the Lima area. Archaeologists began studying the site in the 1890s, finding a large adobe complex of buildings including temples, pyramids, plazas and looted burial sites. The Huari civilization (600-800 CE) used Pachacamac as an administrative site, as evidenced by the finding of their designs on many structures and ceramics.
A burial site excavated in 2012 led to the finding of 80 mummified remains, plus the remains of a dozen infants, as well as ceramics and jewelry. It’s known that most of the temples and buildings were built between 800-1450. Meaning, the site was active for more than 1,300 years, up until the arrival of the Spanish. Hernando Pizarro, brother of the conquistador Francisco Pizarro, was ordered to invade Pachacamac and collect its gold treasures.
What to see when you visit
The circuit for visitors starts with a visit to the ceremonial area, where the Temple of the Sun, the Painted Temple and the Old Temple are found.
You can then visit the administrative zone that is made up of 16 pyramids and structures like the Pilgrims Plaza, and the Taurichumpi and Acllawasi buildings. According to the archaeologist Peter Eekhout, the pyramids were in fact palaces for the rulers of the Ishma, and not a place of worship as had been thought for many years.
A third area is simpler in its architecture and was most likely used to house pilgrims who would arrive to the area to venerate the god Pacha Kamaq.
For a more detailed history of each area of the complex, along with videos and photos, visit the site’s website.
The Pachacamac Site Museum
Inaugurated in 2016, Pachacamac’s new Site Museum is one of Peru’s most celebrated contemporary architectural landmarks. Its design is meant to be an ode to the ancient buildings of the area, with its various buildings connected by ramps and walkways much like the original complex.
The museum has around 277 objects on display for visitors, including the Pachacamac Idol, which was discovered in 1938 and is one of the most important archaeological finds in the Americas. A recent study using radiocarbon dating confirmed that the effigy, which measures 7 feet tall, dates back to A.D. 760 to 876. What would be the one and only physical representation of the god Pacha Kamaq escaped the attempts to destroy it by Pizarro.
Learn more about the Pachacamac Idol here.
Tuesday-Saturday: 9am-5pm (tickets sold until 4:15pm).
Sundays 9am-4pm: (tickets sold until 3:15pm).
General Admission Adults: S/ 15.00
Higher Education Student (with valid card): S/ 5.00
Special Entrance (active teachers and military): S/. 7.50
Seniors (with ID): S/ 7.50
Children (up to 12 yo) including primary & high school students: S/ 1.00
Special Route per person (i.e. Pilgrims Route): S/ 20.00
Guided service: S/ 30.00
Braille signage is available, as well as ramps for wheelchairs and motored carts for seniors.
How to get to Pachacamac
The site is located off the kilometer 31.5 of the Antigua Carretera Panamericana Sur (the old Panamerican highway) in Lurín, Lima. Take private transport or public transportation that head south from Lima. The most well-known stops are at the Ave. Primavera bridge on the Panamericana highway, or the Ave. Benavides bridge further south. Take a bus with the Pachacamac/Lurín route.
You can tell the conductor, or cobrador (ticketer) to let you off at the nearest stop to the ruinas (ruins). You’ll find yourself in the Pachacamac village, about 1km from the entrance. To get back to Lima you can flag down any bus heading to the city from the gate, or hire a taxi that will cost about S/ 45.
Cover photo: Lucerito Corrales/Flickr
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