Pachacamac is a sprawling pre-Columbian ruin whose museum is a popular tourist attraction as the most important archaeological site in Lima, Peru.

Construction of Pachacamac began over 1,500 years ago by the Lima Culture. But like Huaca Pucllana and most of Peru’s major archaeological sites, different civilizations made improvements on existing structures over the centuries so what we see today is almost never the product of just one culture. But Pachacamac was always the most revered site in the Lima region.

Pachacamac is the name of the resident oracle which was worshiped and consulted by successive civilizations including the Lima, Wari, Ychma and Inca cultures. Scholars connect attribute much of Pachacamac’s lore with the Spanish Creole tradition, Lord of Miracles and protection from earthquakes.

The oracle is housed in the museum at the entrance of the two-mile circuit featuring stepped adobe pyramids and buildings. The museum exhibits provide context for the regional culture and the trajectory of the revered Pachacamac, which served as an administrative and religious site.

There are various tours you can select after seeing the museum, but you almost certainly won’t see the entire site unless you’re willing to spend five hours or more exploring. Most first-time visitors will be taken to the Temple of the Sun, the complex’s highest building.

But the first structure I saw was Acllawasi, which was actually built by the Incas nearing the end of Pachacamac’s useful life. Acllawasi housed a harem of women for cooking and weaving.

This is Pyramid with Ramp #1 – not the most creative name. There are 16 pyramids with ramps built by the Ychma Culture, one of the few dominant civilizations based out of Lima, between the 11th and 15th centuries.

The Plaza of the Pilgrims is a row of two-foot stumps which were columns that archaeologists believe supported a roof to provide shade for visitors. Like much of Pachacamac, they are undergoing restoration.

I snapped a pic of the land development which literally comes as close as possible to this millennia-old archaeological site. Peru and specifically Lima doesn’t have the resources to protect all its archaeological sites, some of which are overran by impoverished squatters or even land-trafficking gangs. Read a couple articles I wrote about “land invasions” at Lima’s Morro Solar or Tablada de Lurin.

The Temple of the Sun is the site’s largest pyramid, built by the Incas after they subdued the Ychmas. It is the tallest structure to emphasize the Incas’ engineering prominence, and maybe their hailing from the Andes Mountains.

While most of the views of Pachacamac offer barren desert, the high points of the Temple of the Sun overlook the sea, the Pachacamac Islands and the Hacienda Mamacona.

The verdict: Pachacamac is for knowledgeable enthusiasts of anthropology and archaeology. If you’re a more pedestrian admirer of pre-Columbian civilizations and you’re only in Lima for a short time, Huaca Pucllana is your best bet. It’s conveniently located in Miraflores so you can do it in just two hours and the contrast of upper-class development and pre-Columbian adobe may be more attractive than the barren desert.

Location and info

Pachacamac is located in the Lurin district in the far south of metropolitan Lima, just before you start to see beach towns.

Museo de Sitio y Santuario Arqueológico de Pachacamac
Antigua Carretera Panamericana Sur Km. 31.5

Lurin, Lima
Admission: 15 soles (+25 for guide)
Tuesday through Saturday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sunday 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. (Closed Mondays)
www.facebook.com/museopachacamac

I finally did a piece on Pachacamac because I had business in the area, and I actually got lost because I wasn’t coming from the heart of the city. I told a local taxi driver “Pachacamac,” not realizing that the cabbie was local and he would take me to the Pachacamac district instead of the ruins. I realized this en route and said “Museo del Sitio,” but he still didn’t put it together. He took me to Pachacamac (the district) and starting asking around for the museum. So I had to take another taxi to the Pachacamac ruins, which are located in Lurin.

Pictures

Click to enlarge. For high-res slideshow viewing, see the Pachacamac album on the Lima City of Kings Facebook page.

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