All about Piquillacta
What is Piquillacta?
Piquillacta is a pre-Inca archaeological site in Cusco. It was an immense citadel where up to 10,000 people belonging to the Wari culture (from the 7th to the 13th century AD) lived. Its urban and architectural design has significant differences with the abundant Inca sites in Cuzco. It is one of the best preserved archaeological sites before the Incas in Peru.
Where it is located?
Piquillacta is 30 kilometers southeast of the city of Cusco. It belongs to the district of Lucre, in the province of Quispicanchis, Cusco region. Geographically, it is 3,350 meters above sea level. Nearby is the Huacarpay lagoon and the Vilcanota river.
The name Piquillacta comes from a Quechua term that means 'People of the fleas'. This nomination was not due to the existence of fleas in the place but to the connotation of a small place. Therefore, the correct translation would be 'Tiny town' or 'Small town'. The entire archaeological site of Piquillacta covers an area of up to 50 hectares.
How to get?
To get to Piquillacta you must follow the south road that leads to Andahuaylillas. At the height of the Huacarpay lagoon the tourist must descend and go on foot towards the archaeological complex. You can take a public transport, such as the transport 'Cusco - Sicuani' whose cost is approximately 1 US dollar.
However, the option as more tourists arrive at the archaeological site of Piquillacta is through the 'South Valley Cusco Tour' for half a day. This service, in addition to the visit to Piquillacta, includes a tour of the Inca complex of Tipón and the church of Andahuaylillas. It offers tourist transport, entrance to all the places described and tour guide service.
Map to get to Piquillacta
History of Piquillacta
Piquillacta was built approximately in the 7th century, at the time of expansionism of the Wari culture, which covered much of the southern region of Peru. The citadel housed more than 10 thousand people among artisans, priests and families. For this purpose, the Waris built 508 colcas (warehouses), 200 fields and 700 buildings of various characteristics. The citadel lived its time of splendor between 700 and 800 AD, when the Incas still did not make their appearance in the Cusco region.
Due to the immense area it covers, the research work in Piquillacta continues its course until today. There is no Inca evidence in the area, so it is believed that they never came into contact with the Wari civilization. All the finds: ceramics, tools, offerings and bone remains belong to the pre-Inca culture. However, many of the Wari practices and knowledge were taken by the Incas for the construction of their main temples and citadels. Currently, Piquillacta is one of the most important tourist destinations in the South Valley of Cusco.
Archaeological site of Piquillacta
The Yunkapunku – On the outskirts of Piquillacta is the remains of an Inca bridge made of rope, which crosses the Vilcanota River. The nearby residents have rebuilt this bridge, which is currently crossed by tourists heading to Piquillacta. It is made of a native plant intertwined with maguey fibers, just as the Incas did.
Amarupata Platforms – This set of overlapping stone and mud platforms have water channels that continue to flow water to this day. Its name 'Amarupata' is a Quechua term that means 'Place of the snakes'. They are located following the route to the town of Lucre. These platforms are in good condition.
The Urpicancha – This set of platforms joined in the form of overlapping walls stands out for the fineness of its finish. Its name means 'Place of little birds' because it is located at the top of a rocky promontory where the birds settle. It is one of the most famous attractions in Piquillacta. It is located near the Huacarpay lagoon.
The Kunturqaqa – This building is a rock carved in such a way that it resembles the shape of the head of an Andean condor, an animal considered sacred in many cultures of the Andes. It is located west of Piquillacta. Its name comes from a Quechua word that means 'Rock of the condors'.
The Qaranqayniyuj – This group of enclosures is located east of Piquillacta. It is made up of several semicircular houses where a large part of the population of the place settled. The uneven terrain caused the site to be built on two different levels: a hollow and a plateau.
The Choqepucjio – This set of tall and solid buildings is one of the most famous in the enclosure. It is made up of several temples whose bases are made of stone while the buildings that are superimposed are made of clay. There are buildings up to 4 stories high. This group is located next to the Huatanay River.
The Rumiqolqa – The portal of Rumiqolqa (stone deposit) is one of the most important buildings in Piquillacta. It was one of the main income of the Wari site. It is made up of stepped walls that are finely polished and rectangular in shape. At the top there are water channels. In Inca times, this section was part of the network of Inca roads, known as the 'qhapac ñan'.
Almost all tourists visit Piquillacta through the famous 'South Valley Cusco Tour' for half a day, which costs approximately US $ 70. These tours also include a visit to the Inca archaeological site of Tipón and the San Pedro de Andahuaylillas church, known as the 'Sistine Chapel of America'.
If you visit Piquillacta on your own, you must purchase the 'Cusco Tourist Ticket', whose cost of 70 Peruvian soles (approximately 22 US dollars) also includes the entrance to Tipón as well as the Museum of Contemporary Art, the Regional Historical Museum, the Coricancha site museum, the Qosqo Center for Native Art and the Monument to the Inca Pachacutec. Then you must go to the place on your own (by taxi or public transport) and make your entrance to Piquillacta.
What things to bring?
- Comfortable walking shoes.
- Poncho in case of rain.
- Cap or hat.
- Cortavientos jacket.
- Snacks and rehydration drink.
- Photographic camera.
- Passport or identity document.
Piquillacta has a temperate climate whose average temperature is 12ºC. (53.6ºF). During the day the heat can reach 23ºC. (73.4ºF). while at night the cold can drop to 3ºC. (37.4ºF). There are two seasons characterized by their level of rainfall: the dry season (from April to October) and the rainy season (from November to March). The rainiest months are January, February and March.
Other tourist attractions of the South Valley of Cusco
Tipón – An Inca archaeological site in a good state of preservation where there are enclosures, terraces, platforms, temples, gardens, viewpoints and, above all, well-working water channels. It is believed that it was the palace of the Inca Yahuar Huaca. It is only 25 kilometers from the city of Cusco.
Andahuaylillas – This town in the South Valley is famous for its church, which is called San Pedro de Andahuaylillas and is recognized as the 'Sistine Chapel of America' due to its resplendent decoration of canvases, silver ornaments, gold leaf objects and others more. The town is 39 kilometers from the city of Cusco.
Raqchi – This Inca archaeological site has adobe and stone constructions where the famous 'Temple of Viracocha' stands out, which has walls up to 20 meters high. The place must have been a citadel and religious center. This is demonstrated by the hundreds of colcas (food stores) and the traces of a section of the 'qhapac ñan' (Inca trail). Raqchi is 119 kilometers from the city of Cusco.
Piquillacta in pictures
Piquillacta was built by the Wari culture, which disappeared some 300 years before the Incas. Due to the area that this culture covered, some historians consider that it was an empire. It spread throughout much of the Peruvian territory and parts of Bolivia and northern Chile. Its capital was located in the city of Huari, in the current department of Ayacucho in the central Andes of Peru. Many of their techniques in ceramics, architecture, and urban planning were adapted and improved by the Incas.
The Cusco Tourist Ticket Circuit 2 includes the entrance to Piquillacta as well as Tipón and several museums in Cusco. The cost of this ticket is 70 Peruvian soles (approximately 22 US dollars). Tourists can buy it in the same city of Cusco (Avenida El Sol 185). It is the best option if you want to visit without a tour.
Tips for your visit
Piquillacta is a large citadel so take your time exploring it. Its hours of operation are from Monday to Sunday from 7 in the morning until 4.30 in the afternoon. Bring good sneakers and a hat with you to protect yourself from the sun.
Piquillacta is 3,350 meters above sea level. At that altitude, tourists can feel some of the symptoms of altitude sickness such as fatigue, nausea or headaches. In the high mountains, these symptoms are natural and disappear after the first or second day of adaptation. Also try to avoid alcoholic beverages and fatty foods.
In Cusco the Incas built their most important citadels and temples such as Sacsayhuaman, Coricancha and Machu Picchu. However, like Piquillacta, Peru has several archaeological remains of pre-Inca cultures. Some of the most famous are: the Nazca lines, the ruins of Pachacamac and Caral, known as the oldest civilization in America because it developed between 3,000 and 1,500 before the Christian era.