Go off the beaten path in Peru, and find the remains of some of the world’s oldest civilizations. These cities may have crumbled, but you can still get a sense of their former glory when you tour the art and intimidating walls they left behind.
Not so ancient, but no less impressive is the complex masonry that the Inca left behind. They picked stones that fit perfectly together to make strong walls — so strong they’ve survived to the present day.
Caral is the grandaddy of ancient sites in the Americas. It’s over 5,000 years old, making it one of the very first cities in the western hemisphere. The main pyramid is truly enormous, and the entire site covers 150 acres (60 ha). In addition to the main pyramid, you can see remnants of residential buildings and ball courts. Archeologists believe this place had a population of around 3,000 people.
The Sillustani Tombs keep watch over Lake Titicaca. They were left behind by the Colla, a Pre-Inca civilization. The Colla fled to the islands of Lake Titicaca to escape the marauding Inca. On some islands, you can still find pockets of Pre-Inca civilization and see their handmade textiles. But at the Sillustani Tombs, these beautifully carved stones bear silent testimony to an ancient civilization.
Sechín’s excavation is the work of Julio C. Tello, who is Peru’s most renowned archeologist. This site dates back as far as 1,800 B.C. You can walk around the outside of the complex and witness the sheer size and strength of the Sechín civilization. Look closely at the designs on the walls — a guide can tell you about the grisly details behind the grotesque depictions of prisoners and warriors.
Tucumé once attracted shamans, who considered it a magic and sacred place. It has a total of 26 pyramids. There is a museum on site where you can learn more about the rituals that used to take place here. Climb to the top of the hill called Cerro Purgatorio for a sweeping view of the entire site.
Inca carved the main feature of the Q’enqo site from a large, already existing stone. Archeologists believe that this site served as a site for animal sacrifice and that the grooves cut into the stone channeled the blood. Below the Q’enqo monolith, man-made caves served as secret chambers, and their purpose remains a mystery.
Further up the hill from Q’enqo are the ruins of Puca Pucara. In addition to ruins, this site has incredible views of the sloping hillside that leads to Cusco. Puca Pucara translates to “red rocks.” Visit the site at sunset to see the site take on a fiery hue.
Zach Smith is CEO of Anywhere.