Pre-Inca Ruins

If you’re looking to explore pre-Inca ruins and want to find the best places to view Pre-Inca history then you can explore our interactive map above or navigate further by using the links below.

There’s a great selection of pre-Inca ruins and you can plan some fantastic things to see on your trips. Once you’ve explored the list of Pre-Inca sites and selected those you wish to visit you can use our itinerary planner tool to plan your trip and then print off a free pocket guidebook. This indispensible holiday guide will help you make the most of your time exploring these pre-Incan ruins .

Our database of historic places is growing all the time, but we may not cover them all. Remember, if you know of other Pre-Inca sites, remains or ruins, you can always add them to Trip Historic now by visiting our upload page.

Pre-Inca: Site Index

Photo by Václav Synáček (cc)

Cahuachi

Cahuachi is an ancient site of the Nazca civilization in Peru.

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Cahuachi is believed to have been a pilgrimage site of the Nazca people. Still an active archeological site, Cahuachi is dominated by several adobe pyramids made of sand and clay as well as having a graveyard.

Little is known about Cahuachi, but as it overlooked the Nazca Lines, it is thought to have been a ceremonial site. Another site at Cahuachi is known as Estaquería, which archeologists believed was used for mummification purposes. A general Nazca tour which includes Cahuachi and other sites takes approximately 3 hours.

Cerro Patapo

Cerro Patapo was the site of a city of the Wari civilisation only discovered in 2008.

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Cerro Patapo is an archaeological site near Chiclayo in Peru which houses the remains of a city of the Wari Empire. This empire, which ruled much of the Andes, had a presence in Peru from approximately 600 AD to 1100 AD.

Only discovered in 2008, Cerro Patapo was a vitally important find, creating a chronological connection between the Wari and the preceding Moche Empire, which existed from 100 AD to 600 AD.

The Wari city at Cerro Patapo stretches for approximately three miles and is believed to have been the site of human sacrifices. Amongst the finds at Cerro Patapo, archaeologists found the remains of a woman as well as ceramic pieces and clothing.

Photo by Bruno Girin (cc)

Chan Chan

Chan Chan in Peru was the capital of the Chimu civilisation and is a UNESCO listed site.

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Chan Chan is an impressive site in Peru and the world’s largest adobe city as well as the largest pre-Colombian city in the Americas. As the capital of the ancient Chimu civilisation, Chan Chan was developed in around 1300 AD and would have reached its peak in the fifteenth century, after which the Chimu were overtaken by the Incas and the city was abandoned.

Still a vast site today, it is thought that Chan Chan was home to a population of tens of thousands, perhaps up to 100,000 people. Partly due to erosion, but also to mass looting, what remains is a shadow of the grandeur of the former city and yet is still an incredible sight.

Chan Chan is a labyrinth of dwellings, palaces, fortifications, streets, storehouses and temples, all organised into a well-planned city structure spanning approximately 20 square kilometres.

The buildings at Chan Chan were ornately decorated, adorned with elaborate friezes, some of which can still be seen today and which depict animals, mythical creatures and abstract shapes. Sadly, what cannot be seen now is any gold or silver which probably decorated many of these sites, as this has all been stolen.

Divided into four sections, one of the main areas of Chan Chan is Palacio Tschudi (the Tchudi Palace), which has been thoroughly – and some say overly – restored.

Many people who visit Chan Chan would choose to only see parts of the site, while enthusiasts may want to see it all – this requires either a guided tour or taking taxis to each part of the site. There is also a small Chan Chan Museum - Museo de Sitio - housing some finds from the site.

Today, Chan Chan is a World Heritage site listed by UNESCO on its “sites in danger” list. This site features as one of our Top Ten Tourist Attractions in Peru.

Photo by sancho_panza (cc)

Chauchilla Cemetery

Chauchilla Cemetery is a fascinating ancient burial ground with Peru’s largest display of mummified bodies in their original graves.

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Chauchilla Cemetery is an ancient Nazca burial ground in the town of Nazca, Peru. Relatively unknown, particularly when compared to the world famous Nazca Lines, Chauchilla Cemetery dates back to 1000 AD and is one of the most open displays of mummified bodies.

Chauchilla Cemetery has been severely looted over the centuries, as a result of which many of the graves are open displaying incredibly well preserved Nazca corpses in the original cloth in which they were laid to rest. All of the corpses face east in accordance with the Nazca culture and they are all in the sitting position. This site features as one of our Top Ten Tourist Attractions in Peru.

Photo by Veronique Debord (cc)

El Brujo

El Brujo is an early Chimu archaeological site in Peru.

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El Brujo in Peru was a Moche (early Chimu) settlement inhabited between 100 and 700 AD. Now an archaeological site, the main features of El Brjuo are its three “huacas” or sacred pyramid temples.

The best preserved of El Brujo’s trio of temples, thought to have been sites of ceremonial significance, is Huaca Cao Viejo (also known as Huaca Blanca) . It is adorned with dramatic, colourful friezes showing various scenes ranging from everyday activities such as fishing to depictions of violence and particularly of human sacrifice. These friezes have led archaeologists to believe that El Brjuo was probably the site of the torture and execution of prisoners.

In 2004, archaeologists found the mummified hand of a woman thought to have been a leader of the Moche, a particularly interesting find given that the Moche were a male-dominated society. The advantage of El Brujo is that it is quieter than other, more popular archaeological sites in Peru.

Nazca Lines

The Nazca Lines are ancient earth drawings in Peru and a UNESCO World Heritage site.

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The Nazca Lines are a series of large shapes embedded in the earth known as “geoglyphs” in Peru’s Nazca Desert.

Spread over 450 square kilometres of the Pampa Colorada region in between the towns of Nazca and Palpa, the origin of the Nazca Lines is a subject of much debate, but they are believed to have been created by the Nazca Civilisation between 500 BC and 500 AD.

Amongst these enigmatic shapes is a monkey, two human beings one of which is known as the “astronaut”, a hummingbird, a spider and a tree.

Most people view the Nazca Lines from the air by booking a flight for approximately 50 minutes, but for those who want to keep their feet on the ground, go to the Pan American Highway observation tower for a view of three of the drawings.

The Nazca Lines are featured as one of our top Visitor Attractions in Peru.

Royal Sipan Tombs

The Sipan Tomb Museum holds the treasures of the 4th century tomb of the Moche Lord of Sipan.

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The Sipan Tomb Museum in Peru displays the treasures found at the Royal Sipan Tombs, originally uncovered in the Lambayeque Valley.

The Royal Sipan Tomb was the mausoleum of the Lord of Sipan, a great warrior and a significant figure amongst the Moche people dating back to the fourth century AD.

A revered warlord, the Lord of Sipan’s tomb is said to have rivalled that of Tutankhamen in terms of the amount and grandeur of objects buried with him. When the Sipan Tomb was found, the Lord of Sipan was covered in and surrounded with an abundance of gold, silver and jewels.

The Royal Sipan Tombs artefacts, which include jewels, ceramics, gold and silver objects and pieces made of carved wood, are all displayed at the Sipan Tombs Museum, which is even structured to look like the actual tomb.

However, in addition to this wealth of artefacts, the Lord of Sipan’s tomb contained further incredible finds. In fact, the Lord of Sipan was found amongst other skeletons, including those of a dog, a llama and even two young women, possibly his concubines, believed to have been sacrificed upon his death.

The Sipan Tomb Museum is very much a labour of love, created by the archaeologists who unearthed and protected these artefacts. This site features as one of our Top Tourist Attractions in Peru.

The Bruning Museum

The Brüning Museum has a varied set of exhibits from Peru's history, focusing primarily on the pre-Incas.

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The Brüning Museum (Museo Arqueológico Nacional Brüning) in Lambayeque, is an archaeological museum with a varied set of exhibits from Peruvian history, but focusing primarily on the pre-Incas. One of the highlights is known as the Gold Room or Sala de Oro.

The Moche Temples

The Moche Temples are two ancient adobe pyramid temples in Peru.

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The Moche Temples in Peru are made up of Huaca del Sol y la Luna, translated as the Temples of the Sun and the Moon.

Moche was a pre-Inca civilisation which preceded that of the Chimu and is sometimes thought of as early Chimu. It dates from around 100 to 900 AD and the Moche Temples are thought to have been built in 500 AD.

The Moche Temples are located in northern Peru and, like many Moche sites, are adorned with various colourful friezes of different shapes and ominous figures. They were built of adobe bricks and would have been constructed over the course of many years, each generation adding further levels.

While Huaca del Sol is the smaller of the two Moche Temples, it is better preserved than Huaca de la Luna.

Photo by mishmoshimoshi (cc)

Tiwanaku

Tiwanaku in Bolivia was the capital of a powerful pre-Inca civilisation and is a UNESCO listed site.

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Tiwanaku in Bolivia is an impressive archaeological site housing the capital of pre-Inca empire. Much about Tiwanaku remains a mystery and the subject of ongoing academic debate.

Tiwanaku started out as a small farming village in approximately 1200 BC, possibly the first to ever cultivate potatoes. Over the course of the first century, Tiwanaku developed and, by 550 BC, it was a thriving capital of a vast empire with a presence throughout much of the Americas.

At its peak, Tiwanaku had around 20,000 inhabitants. The city remained prosperous over the coming centuries and satellite towns were built, altogether with a population of up to 175,000 people.

The people of Tiwanaku built a magnificent city spanning approximately 2.3 square kilometres with monuments, temples, homes and public buildings. Constructed using the adobe method, this feat was all the more impressive when one considers that Tiwanaku is located approximately 3.5 kilometres above sea level, requiring many of their materials to be transported over long distances.

Tiwanaku was still flourishing in 900 AD, however by the time it was discovered by the Incas in the mid-fifteenth century, it was entirely abandoned, probably having declined in the twelfth century. Yet, the legacy of the Tiwanaku Empire remains today, albeit in ruins.

That which remains is incredible and has resulted in much excited speculation over the years. For example, the many carved heads on the “Templete” or Small Semi-Subterranean Temple were probably meant to represent humans, but have been said to resemble aliens. This has led to some 'alternative' theories as to who – or what - built Tiwanaku.

One of Tiwanaku’s most famous structures is its Akapana temples, which would once have been a pyramid, but has since been significantly eroded, both by looters and by nature. However, its 16 square metre base does allude to the former grandeur of this structure.

Today, Tiwanaku is a popular tourist site and a UNESCO World Heritage site. Visitor can view its many monuments, gates – such as the well-known Gateway of the Sun - and statues, all of which attest to the importance of this once ceremonial city.