The temple of Pachacamac is an archaeological site 25 miles southeast of Lima in the Lurín River Valley. Although it was an important Inca site and a major city when the Spanish arrived, Pachacamac had been a ceremonial center for 1000 years before the Inca. When the Inca arrived, the valleys of the Rímac and Lurín harbored a small state called Ichma. The Ichma used Pachacamac primarily as a religious site to worship Pacha Kamaq, their creator god, whose wooden two-faced image can be seen in the museum near the ruins. The Inca absorbed this deity into their pantheon, but considered him a lesser rival of the Incan creator god Viracocha. Pilgrims traveled to visit the temple from all over the region, and its cemetery was considered sacrosanct.
After the Incan Empire swallowed the Ichma they used Pachacamac as an important administrative center. They maintained it as a religious shrine and allowed the Pachacamac priests to continue functioning independently of the Incan priesthood. They constructed five additional buildings, including a temple to the sun in the main square. Most of the common buildings and temples were built between 800-1450 AD, shortly before the arrival of the Inca. To date, archaeologists have identified at least 17 pyramids. Highlights include the Temple of Pachacamac (whose site was considered in line with the planet’s mystical axis), the Sun God shrine and the Palace of the Chosen Women.
A thorough visit of this extensive site takes around two hours and follows a dirt road leading from site to site. Guided tours from Lima start around $35 per person. You could also visit the site on a Pachacamac bike tour. If you’re going solo, catch a minibus signed ‘Pachacamac’ from the corner of Ayacucho and Grau in central Lima. Tell the driver to let you off near the ‘ruinas’. Tickets are $2 for adults, $0.30¢ for children. Hours: 9am-5pm, Monday-Friday.
- David Jennings