A few hours from the Peruvian capital, are the remains of an ancient city recognized in the world. The Sacred City of Caral represents the perfect place for travelers more interested in archeology and the mysteries of our past.
The Sacred City of Caral is one of the destinations that must be visited at least once in a lifetime. Its proximity to Lima, just 184 kilometers to the north, allows access to this archaeological jewel declared a World Heritage Site and one of the main attractions of Barranca, a province that is home to a varied and captivating tourist offer.
This 5,000-year-old archaeological site and the seat of the oldest civilization in America is located exactly in the district of Supe, located on a desert terrace in the middle of a rich valley that was the source of food for its inhabitants. Its appearance dates back to the Late Archaic period of the Central Andes.
The Sacred City of Caral stands out for its impressive pyramidal public buildings with sunken circular plazas, central stairs, and ceremonial halls at the top.
Caral entered the UNESCO World Heritage List on June 28, 2009 as Cultural Heritage.
The Sacred City of Caral, is located on a desert plateau and arid territory, in the district of Supe, on the left bank of the river of the same name, on a terrace in the province of Barranca, within the department and region of Lima; about 350 meters from sea level.
It is a city built during the pre-ceramic period, and is considered the oldest civilization in America. And it is currently part of the Cultural Heritage of the Nation (in 2002) and Cultural Heritage of Humanity (in 2009).
Caral has longevity, with a date of 5000 years and also covers a wide territorial extension that borders 65 hectares. The Complex was discovered by the Peruvian archaeologist Ruth Shady in 1994, who continues to conduct research in the area.
The Caral Culture is the oldest civilization in the Americas, and it is estimated that it was formed more than 5,000 years ago in Peru. No other older site and with the same level of complexity has been found in the entire continent. In Caral several monumental buildings stand out, and each one fulfills markedly different functions, whether administrative, religious or ceremonial.
Unlike other ancient civilizations such as those of Egypt or China, which came to interact with each other and shared their culture, research to date suggests that Caral developed completely in isolation, and that the city was an important religious and commercial point.
The ruins of the Sacred City of Caral extend over more than 60 hectares, and are made up of 32 remains of public structures, residential complexes, houses, and other peculiar buildings. Below is a list of the most important.
In Caral you can see at least seven pyramidal structures of considerable size, accompanied by plazas, amphitheaters and residential areas, as well as irrigation systems that reveal the advanced technology. Caral is usually divided into two areas that are simply called Caral Alto and Caral Bajo, to differentiate the areas destined for the State and the purely religious ones.
It is the largest architectural structure in all of Caral. It is made up of a sunken circular plaza with an internal diameter of 19 meters and a depth of 2 meters. Together with the other pyramids they make up the ceremonial center of the city. In addition, in the Greater Pyramid you can see a long staircase 9 meters wide, with which you can ascend to 28 meters high at the top of the pyramid.
It is a walled complex that had a religious function. There you will find a circular square and an anteroom, which received a large number of spectators. Inside the temple, access is increasingly restricted until reaching the most important area, where it is known that in the past only religiously chosen people came. In the Temple of the Amphitheater, more than 30 transverse flutes, 38 horns made of camelid bone, among other things, have been found.
It bears this name because it is aligned with a huanca; that is, with a long stone driven in front and on the ground. It is speculated that its function was linked to astronomical observation.
In this pyramid an interior passage was built, as if it were an underground gallery, which is painted white and highly decorated. This pyramid is so small that only one person can fit, so the ceremonies that took place there must have been individual.
These are some of the places that you will visit during the Caral tour. You will also enjoy the history of other smaller enclosures, such as the Atrium, the Main Enclosure or the Altar of the Sacred Fire.
Likewise, you will visit the Circular Plazas, which are large walled and circular spaces. Two can be seen, one in front of the Greater Pyramid (in the upper sector of Caral) and another in the Temple of the Amphitheater (in the lower sector of Caral).
There is still much to discover regarding the history of this city, since official archaeological excavations began in 1996 under the supervision of Dr. Ruth Shady. Do you know what is the most curious? No remains of weapons were found, nor was there any evidence of armies or organization of wars in the city.
Due to the finding of musical instruments, which have decorations with motifs of birds, snakes, human figures, etc., experts conclude that a refined culture lived here, dedicated to commerce, religion, and entertainment.
Caral is also known as the "City of Pyramids", since in 1994 32 pyramids were rediscovered by Dr. Ruth Shady, current director of the Caral Archaeological Center. Pyramids that today are considered the largest archaeological discovery in the region, after Machu Picchu in 1911.
The entrance costs to the city of Caral are 11 soles for adults, 1 sol for children, seniors and schoolchildren, and 4 soles for university students. The guide service in the same city has a cost of 20 soles for a group of 20 people maximum. There is also a special circuit for people with motor disabilities.
Caral is more than archaeology; In the area you can practice some sports, among which cycling stands out. Some tourist agencies provide bicycles adapted to the terrain and expert cycling guides, but you can also bring your own adapted bicycle and enjoy this great route.
The best time of the year to practice cycling in Caral is from April to December. Although the weather is warm throughout the year, during these months the heat drops a bit, so the journey will be easier and more manageable.
The cycling route starts from Huacho to Huaura, through the route called "Ruta de las Chacras", parallel to the Panamericana Norte. The point of arrival is the town of Vegueta, and from there you follow the road to the entrance of Caral. This road is sandy and stretches for almost 23 kilometers, so we recommend you slow down because you will have to make more effort to pedal due to the terrain.
This route lasts five hours in total, until you reach the ruins of the city. Do not worry, it is not necessary to be in excellent physical condition for the journey. The height is only 350 m.s.n.m.
On important dates such as New Years or Easter, the Government and the corresponding authorities organize camps for which you must register in advance because places are limited. To do this, you need to be aware of the publications on the Zona Caral website.
The organization of these camps also includes visits and night tours to all the pyramids, enclosures and remains of Caral, to which are added various cultural activities. Not to be missed!
Another option is to camp in a place close to Caral, such as near the Laguna Encantada (Huacho, 27 km away), open areas of Haura such as the mysterious Hacienda Rondoy (21 km away), or in some Eco-Hotels with natural areas for camping that you can find in Barranca.
If you want to visit Caral and enjoy an unprecedented cultural event, the party paid to the land will be one of the best experiences you will have.
This festival takes place at the end of October or the beginning of November, during the anniversary of the discovery of the city of Caral. In the celebration, the entire city is illuminated at night with generators and torches. In addition, a payment is made to the land, which symbolizes the gratitude of the residents of Barranca for everything received and earned throughout the year.
All this is done by a shaman from the city, accompanied by music, dances; residents, authorities, and tourists. Locals with pre-Inca clothing also join, who assume the role of the ancient inhabitants of Caral. Maidens are presented around the Greater Pyramid, giving thanks to the Pachamama and throwing leaves into the fire as a sign of tribute. This ceremony symbolizes, in turn, the renewal of energy for the following year, a ritual in which most visiting travelers participate.
This 2017 anniversary celebrations will be on Friday 28 and Saturday 29 October.
The main ceremony is joined by the celebrations in the surroundings of Supe, such as the lantern parade, the “El Sabor de mi Tierra” gastronomic contest and festival, the “Catu Caral” or expoferia, with agroecological and artisanal products from the region. , and the "Runa Raymi" or artistic festival, with artistic presentations by the local population, cultural workshops and guest artists.
Next to Huaura and Huaral is Barranca, one of the three provinces of the "Norte Chico". Once your visit to Caral is over, you can tour this province and enjoy its festivities, depending on the date you travel.
The Caral Archaeological Complex has been designated as a World Heritage Site. It is located almost 200 km north of the city of Lima, in the district of Supe, province of Barranca (department of Lima).
The trip from Lima takes a maximum of 4 hours. To reach your destination you only have to buy your ticket from Lima to Barranca through redBus. The price varies between 15 to 30 soles, depending on the transport company and the date you choose to travel.
From your whereabouts in Barranca, go to kilometer 187 of the Panamericana Norte, a little before Supe. There you will find a market where you can take a bus (which usually costs from 4 to 6 soles) to the town of Caral, exactly at the pedestrian entrance of the Archaeological Center. Another option is to take a taxi to the same destination, which can cost approximately 40 soles.
The province of Barranca offers a series of tourist attractions that have the Safe Travels seal that accredits them as bioinsurance for tourism.
The beauty of the Barranca coastline is expressed in beaches such as Atarraya, Carabela, Caleta Vidal, Chorrillos, El Amor, El Colorado, Lampay, La Viuda, Miraflores, Punta del Áspero, Punta Supe, Puerto Chico, among others located between kilometers 182 and 204 of the Panamericana Norte highway.
These beaches are lapped by generally calm waves for relaxation, although it is also possible to go into the sea to successfully practice sports such as surfing and other nautical sports. In fact, Barranca has been the scene of several championships in these sports disciplines.
One of the emblematic attractions in Barranca is the viewpoint of Cerro Colorado, located south of the Chorrillos spa. There stands out the sculpture of Christ the Redeemer, 20 meters high. Also noteworthy is Caleta Vidal, a small fishing community surrounded by farms and desert hills that give it a unique panorama of tranquility.
In addition to Caral, the Paramonga fortress, a ceremonial construction built by the Chimú civilization (1100-1400 AD) and later occupied by the Incas (1440-1532 AD) is another must-see site. Upon entering the central pyramid, you can appreciate the Inca architectural design, with several passageways and entrances that lead to the highest area of the complex.
Located at kilometer 204 of the Panamericana Norte, in the Pativilca district, this facility welcomed the liberator Simón Bolívar during the summer of 1824 and the existing atmosphere of tranquility helped him recover his good health.
During his stay in this building, which became his headquarters, the liberator organized his army to support the decisive battles of Junín and Ayacucho that sealed the independence of Peru and South America. Currently, this property functions as a museum and exhibits furniture and documents from that time.
The culinary offer of Barranca has among its ambassadors dishes like the famous Tacu Tacu, prepared with beans and cooked rice that are accompanied with fish, shellfish, beef, chicken, pork, among others.
The wide range of fish and hydrobiological species that are extracted from the vast sea allow the preparation of various varieties of cebiche, ambassador of Peruvian cuisine in the world. Other emblematic delicacies are the “Meneao de pavo”, the Supe tamales, the crab stretcher, the supana sausage, the chicharrón, as well as unforgettable desserts such as the alfajor called “Tieso de miel”.
The regional and local authorities, with the support of the central government, are articulating efforts in terms of security, decoration and cleanliness, as well as an intense tourist promotion to consolidate Barranca as an ideal destination to visit not only in the summer season, but throughout year.
Many are the routes that take you to Machu Picchu, but none is like the Inca Trail Tours, the most famous pedestrian path in the Americas. After flying from the capital of Perú, Lima, you will arrive in Cusco to walk for four days along a path through forests and dense fog, millenary stone steps and discovering the ruins of ancient fortifications and Inca cities, and all the time enjoying majestic views.