Although Marcahuamachuco has been around for about 1600 years, only recently has it started being promoted as an archaeological site that could one day rival Machu Picchu. The site is a pre-Incan one and there is still more unknown about it than known, despite the fact that it has been studied since 1900. The reasons for this include plundering of the artifacts that might have revealed some vital information, destruction through the ravages of time and nature and the fact that there is some of it that is yet to be uncovered.
The site is huge, covering more than 590 acres or 240 hectares. Determining exactly how large the grounds are will need to wait until the excavation is completed. As with many of the major sites in Peru, it is located at a high altitude, over 12000 feet or 3700 meters above sea level.
Although it has been studied for such a long time, it wasn’t until the government partnered with the Global Heritage Fund in 2010 to clear away more of the brush that the size of the site was appreciated and interest it was renewed.
The name is Quechua and means “people of the men with hawklike headdresses”. Yet, exactly which culture the site belonged to is one of the things yet unknown. It’s considered a particularly important pre-Incan site given that the buildings, language, and gods are unlike any others in Peru. It is believed that the inhabitants were gone as of the 13th century before the Incas even arrived, yet it’s unknown where or why they went.
Among the structures that remain, at least in part, are high walls, galleries, a plaza, living quarters, a religious center and burial sites. The hope is that those human remains that have not yet been destroyed will offer some clues about the inhabitants.
Much work will need to be done to repair the site before it can truly become a tourist attraction to rival Machu Picchu. Adding to the challenge is the fact that there are local people living and grazing their animals within the complex itself. In its favor is that there are no other sites of this magnitude in northern Peru as well as that it is accessible by road. This will make it easier to reach than Machu Picchu, which requires hiking or travel by train, or Choquequirao, which can only be reached by a rather challenging trek.
It’s possible to travel to the site by road from Trujillo, a journey of about three and a half hours. Trujillo is already the home base for visiting two other archaeological sites, Chan Chan and the Temples of the Sun and Moon.
For more information about traveling to Peru, listen to Travel to Peru – Amateur Traveler Episode 349.
Willa (but not the Amateur Traveler) was sponsored by Tucan Travel, a Peru adventure trips specialist, to write this post.