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Situated about 31km southeast of the city center, the archaeological complex of Pachacamac is a pre-Columbian citadel with adobe and stone palaces and temple pyramids. If you’ve been to Machu Picchu, it may not look like much, but this was an important Inca site and a major city when the Spanish arrived. It was a ceremonial center for the Lima culture from around AD 100, and was later expanded by the Waris before being taken over by the Ichsma.
The Incas added numerous other structures upon their arrival to the area in 1450. The name Pachacamac, which can be variously translated as ‘He who Animated the World’ or ‘He who Created Land and Time,’ comes from the Wari god, whose wooden, two-faced image can be seen in the on-site museum.
Most of the buildings are now little more than piles of rubble that dot the desert landscape, but some of the main temples have been excavated and their ramps and stepped sides revealed. You can climb the switchback trail to the top of the Templo del Sol (Temple of the Sun), which on clear days offers excellent views of the coast. The most remarkable structure on-site, however, is the Palacio de las Mamacuna (House of the Chosen Women), commonly referred to as the Acllahuasi, which boasts a series of Inca-style trapezoidal doorways. Unfortunately, a major earthquake in 2007 left the structure highly unstable. As a result, visitors can only admire it from a distance. Without the funding to repair the extensive damage, it has been listed as one of the planet’s most endangered sites.
There is a visitors center and cafe at the site entrance, which is on the road to Lurín. A simple map can be obtained from the ticket office, and a track leads from here into the complex. Those on foot should allow at least two hours to explore. (In summer, take water and a hat – there is no shade to speak of once you hit the trail.) Those with a vehicle can drive from site to site.
Various agencies in Lima offer guided tours that include transport and a guide (S120). Mountain-bike tours can be an excellent option.
Alternatively, catch a minibus signed ‘Pachacamac’ from Av 28 de Julio or the sunken roadway at the corner of Andahuaylas and Grau in Central Lima (S3, 45 minutes); minibuses leave every 15 minutes during daylight hours. From Miraflores, take a bus on Av Benavides headed east to the Panamericana and Puente Primavera, change here for the bus marked ‘Pachacamac/Lurín’ (S4, 30 minutes). For both services, tell the driver to let you off near the ruinas (ruins) or you’ll end up at Pachacamac village, about 1km beyond the entrance. To get back to Lima, flag down any bus outside the gate, but expect to stand for the duration of the ride. You can also hire a taxi per hour (from S45) from Lima.