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Daytrip from Lima 2: Marcahuasi

We’ve said it before, but we are convinced that Lima is very much underestimated as a tourist destination. From the colonial architecture of the historic center, the cliffs overlooking the Pacific, the many pre-Inca archeological sites and several great museums to the diversity of its people and its amazing restaurants, Lima is so much more than an obligatory overnight stop between flights.

But we have to admit, Lima can be tiring. It’s a bustling and lively city, but also very busy with lots of traffic and noise. That is why you should consider an escape from the city, a weekend or daytrip from Lima. Do you think that Lima is a city in the middle of the desert so there’s nothing worth your time nearby? Think again! There are plenty of options and something for everyone. We wanted to make a list of five (2- or 1-) day trips from Lima, but we easily came up with ten and couldn’t choose. For the first daytrip from Lima, we went north of Lima to the Norte Chico. This time, we take you inland, 83 km east of Lima, to Marcahuasi in the Rimac Valley.

Gigantic rock formations of Marcahuasi on a daytrip from Lima
Oscar Zegarra San Martin/Flickr

The mysterious rock formations of Marcahuasi

Marcahuasi has become one of Lima’s favorite destinations for camping near the capital but it’s still mostly undiscovered by foreign tourists. This high-altitude Andean plateau (4,000 meters above sea level) is famous for its unique set of gigantic and mysterious rock formations with strange shapes resembling human faces, animals, and religious symbols. This unique landscape is often associated with mysticism, spirituality and even supernatural encounters.

© Martintoy/CC-BY-3.0/Wikipedia

Erosion, ancient sculptures or a meeting place of ancient aliens?

Although most archaeologists confirm that the shapes are the result of erosion over millions of years, some authors argue that Marcahuasi’s unique rock formations are actually megalithic sculptures carved by an ancient civilization. Author Daniel Ruzo named this civilization Masma.

That’s not all, some even believe that Marcahuasi hides some kind of healing power. Their explanation is that Marcahuasi has an abundance of quartz and underground water currents, which are supposed to amplify high frequencies of astral energies.

There have also been rumors and stories about UFO sightings. These stories even became so famous that Marcahuasi was featured in the History Channel series “Ancient Aliens.” The program claimed that the plateau was once the site of ancient contact between humans and extraterrestrials. Fake news or not, it is without a doubt one of Peru’s most unique landscapes and a perfect destination for (would-be) photographers or Instagrammers.

Pre-Columbian funerary structures

If your interests are less esoteric, Marcahuasi still has plenty to offer. For instance, its pre-Columbian archaeological remains, consisting mainly of chullpas or funerary structures, are very impressive. These ancient ruins were first studied by the famous Peruvian archaeologist Julio C. Tello. Some of the mummies and objects from the chullpas can be seen at the museum in nearby San Pedro de Casta. This typical Andean village is definitely worth a visit. It’s a great way to experience the authentic rural life of Peru off the beaten path. But it’s also a very charming and quaint place, with its cobbled streets and old houses with beautiful balconies.

Pre-Columbian archaeological remains in Marcahuasi on a weekend or daytrip from Lima
© Oscar Zegarra San Martin/Flickr

Adventure and extreme sports close to Lima

In addition, Marcahuasi is also a great spot for adventure and extreme sports. Whether you like hiking, horseback riding or want to experience one of the most exciting downhill rides in the Peruvian Andes, Marcahuasi will not disappoint you.

Adventure sports in Marcahuasi on a daytrip or weekend trip from Lima
© Eduardo Núñez/Trailforks

How to get to Marcahuasi

To reach Marcahuasi from Lima, you have to take the Carretera Central (Central Highway) to San Pedro de Casta. You’ll pass the towns of Ñaña, Chaclacayo and Chosica on the way. At kilometer 37.5 take the detour to the left, which leads to the town of Santa Eulalia. Then cross the Autisha bridge and continue to the right until you reach San Pedro de Casta, located at 3,180 meters above sea level (10,433 feet). This drive will take at least 3.5 hours.

The walking path to Marcahuasi starts from the uneven town square with the big church. The trail can be done on horseback (3 hours) or on foot (4 to 6 hours). If you choose to walk, it’s important to be in perfect physical condition. The altitude makes walking a lot harder here.

San Pedro de Casta © Edwin Bellota/Flickr

Best time to visit Marcahuasi

The best time to visit Marcahuasi is in the dry season, between April and October, when Marcahuasi is full of sunshine and adventure waiting to be explored! Be aware that there is no infrastructure or services for tourists, so you need to carry all necessary equipment, including food, tent, water and trash with you.

If you want more information about this daytrip from Lima or help organizing it, don’t hesitate to contact us!