Just south of Lima, a mere 30 minutes drive (without Lima traffic) along the coast, lie the important ruins of Pachacamac. It’s definitely not a boring drive to get there. Starting at the green areas and modern buildings of Miraflores, the scenery abruptly changes and visitors are reminded that Lima is a desert city. The dusty streets and hills with the human settlements are a stark contrast with the very western tourist district of Miraflores. It is intriguing yet sad to so clearly observe Lima’s inequality. The areas close to the Pachacamac site were settled in the 80s and 90s by people fleeing the violence of the Shining Path in Ayacucho and other provinces. They started a new life in the outskirts of Lima and bit-by-bit built their own community, taking in other immigrants from other regions of Peru over the years.
The location of Pachacamac has of course historical significance, but it also has an interesting location in present times. On one side of the site, you can see the Pacific Ocean and the beach and the perfect green fields that are part of one of Lima’s country clubs, more specifically its polo club, where the rich and famous hang out. If you turn around, you can see the dusty hills full of very basic houses where Lima’s more recent immigrants and working class live. Then, in the middle of all this, these pre-Inca constructions that remind us of Peru’s rich history.
Some people claim that Pachacamac is one of the most underrated archaeological sites of Peru and I tend to agree with them. Just the fact that a site of such historical importance is just a 30-minute drive from the capital, where the great majority of visitors to Peru stays at least one night (admittedly, some out of necessity, because this is where international flights arrive). Some might say that Peru is full of archaeological sites and that this is just one more pile of ancient rocks, but believe us, it’s not.
Pachacamac is the most important archaeological site in coastal Peru and consists of more than 20 pyramids. It was the main sanctuary of the Andean coast for more than 1500 years. Pilgrims from different areas came here asking for advice and omens to an idol that served as an oracle. Today, Pachacamac shelters more than 50 temples and buildings making it the largest archaeological complex in the city of Lima. Construction started in about 200 A.D. and each succeeding culture added their temples. The site grew to over 80 hectares or 200 acres. When finally the Incas arrived they built a huge Sun Temple as well as a house for young women who served as priestesses. This building is a well-maintained, partially rebuilt large compound. This eclecticism, its surroundings and its rich history simply make it a place you shouldn’t skip.
Innovative site preservation
There’s another reason to visit the Pachacamac ruins. Sustainable Preservation Initiative, which promotes the preservation of endangered cultural heritage sites by dynamic economic development, has sponsored a great project that encourages both community development and site preservation by bringing together 23 women from settlements around Pachacamac to create a sustainable community business. The women have been trained in business and artisan skills and are working together to create craft products related to the cultural history of Pachacamac. They control and own the business and through it they build sustainable livelihoods for themselves and their families, strengthen local identity and put the site at the heart of the community. They sell their beautiful handicrafts, or should we say art, at the Pachacamac site.
How to get to Pachacamac?
You can catch a taxi from Miraflores (the taxi will have to wait for you at the site) or even public transport if you feel adventurous and have a lot of time. Or you could of course join our Local Artisan and Pachacamac tour, which takes you on a tour of the Pachacamac complex in the morning and off the beaten path in the afternoon on a visit to a local neighborhood where you’ll see talented artisans at work in their workshops.