All about Marcahuasi
The mysterious stone forest of Marcahuasi
Marcahuasi comes from a Quechua word that means "House of the protector".
It is a plateau located in the highlands of Lima. It covers an area of 4 square kilometers where a stone forest formed by erosion millions of years ago stands out.
These stone structures have the shapes of animals and even people such as: the prophet, the toad, the seal and, the most famous stone, the 'monument to humanity', a man's face in profile that, according to he says, it represents several men at the same time.
But in Marcahuasi it is also possible to enjoy the typical Andean geography with lagoons (such as the Cachu Cachu and Huacracocha lagoons), spectacular views as well as the typical flora and fauna of the Andean region.
The 4-kilometer hike that leads to Marcahuasi is challenging. However, for many visitors it is part of the adventure. On the plateau, after the arduous hike, most visitors decide to camp.
Because of everything that the trip implies: hiking, camping, rock formations, flora, fauna and incredible landscapes; Marcahuasi is a very attractive option for the residents of Lima and even foreigners.
Marcahuasi is on an Andean plateau in the Andes Mountains (on the right bank of the Rímac River). The average altitude of the place exceeds 4 thousand meters above sea level.
It belongs to the community of San Pedro de Casta, in the province of Huarochirí, province of Lima.
How to get there?
To get to Marcahuasi from Lima follow these steps:
- From anywhere in the city of Lima, take a public transport or taxi to the avenue 'Paseo Colón' where the famous buses of the company 'Los chosicanos' park. This is the bus that will transport you to the first leg of the trip.
- The journey takes approximately 2 hours. The cost of the ticket is 4 Peruvian soles on average. The final stop is the 'Park Echenique' in Chosica.
- In the park where you get off is the bus stop that leads to the town of San Pedro de Casta in the Sierra de Lima (Huarochirí province).
- The buses leave two or three times a day (at 7 am and 12 pm). The journey to San Pedro de Casta takes 3 hours and costs approximately 15 Peruvian soles.
- Once in San Pedro de Casta, it only remains to walk the remaining 4 kilometers to reach Marcahuasi.
History of Marcahuasi in Huarochirí
The origins and history of Marcahuasi pass between reality and fiction. What is known for sure is that the stone forest was formed millions of years ago as a result of a volcanic reaction and wind erosion.
The place was inhabited by few ethnic groups that were located in the Huarochirí area. There is even evidence of the Inca presence in the area such as the chullpas, roads and smaller enclosures. In the 20th century, the local people already knew about the existence of this stone forest, however, they did not give it the importance it deserved.
In 1952, the Peruvian explorer Daniel Ruzo arrived there carrying out research work, which in the long run would make Marcahuasi put in value for tourism.
Daniel Ruzo's investigations are on the edge of myth and reality. He claims that the 'Masma' culture is responsible for the rock formations.
For the former mayor of the Miraflores district (the most touristy in Lima), the Masma culture suffered a catastrophe and could be saved in Marcahuasi, a place isolated from the world. There they built the granite monuments that can be seen until now. And right there, human civilization began again.
Currently Marcahuasi is one of the most visited tourist destinations by the people of Lima. There are not even a few foreign tourists who arrive there attracted by its mysticism and incredible landscapes.
To get to Marcahuasi, you must take a 4-kilometer walk from the town of San Pedro de Casta. Walking the route can take 2 hours or more.
The walk is a real challenge as you climb steep paths. It should be noted that the town of San Pedro de Casta is 3,180 meters above sea level while Marcahuasi is approximately 4,000 meters above sea level.
The route follows a dirt path prepared by the local population. It has an intermediate difficulty - challenging that is complicated by the high altitude that 'mountain sickness' can cause.
People who are not in good physical condition are the ones who suffer the most from this arduous walk. For them there is the option of renting a horse that, guided by a local villager, leads it to the top without any frights. The cost of this service is approximately 20 Peruvian soles per horse.
Another option is to rent a mule that, also guided by a local villager, can transport the visitor's heavy luggage. Thus it is possible to walk more lightly. The mule rental has a cost of 15 Peruvian soles.
After the final intense walk to Marcahuasi, there are two options: a) tour the stone forest and return to San Pedro de Casta or b) camp in Marcahuasi and have more time to explore the stone forest the next day. This last option is preferred by visitors.
The sector called 'amphitheater' is the preferred area for visitors to pitch their tents and spend the night in Marcahuasi as it protects better against the wind and cold. It is estimated that an average of 100 people camp there each night.
Camping in Marcahuasi is free. The big drawback is the intense cold that is felt at night and in the early mornings (it even reaches 0ºC).
In this case, it is best to bring a coat and, why not, a little firewood to make a fire and warm up during the night. In the town of San Pedro de Casta there is sale of firewood at 5 Peruvian soles for each package.
The stone forest
Marcahuasi is so big that it is difficult to go through it all in just 1 day. The most famous rock formations of the place are:
The Monument to Humanity - Also called 'Pecagasha'. It shows a human face in which figures of other faces from various cultures of humanity are also distinguished, such as: a goddess from Egypt, the pharaoh, a Greek man, a Chinese man and even Jesus Christ. Is it crazy? You just have to sharpen your gaze a little. It is the symbol of Marcahuasi.
The sacred feline - At one of the highest points in Marcahuasi, it is possible to appreciate the figure of this animal that resembles an African lion. Due to the difficulty of getting there, not everyone can appreciate it.
The toad - A whim of nature or the work of man, in Marcahuasi the figure of a toad stands out very close to the main monuments of the stone forest.
The Valley of the Seals - This granite monument resembles the heads of a group of seals. With a little imagination it seems that these were turned into stone.
In addition to the monuments mentioned, it is worth highlighting: the turtle, the camel, the condor, the woman with a child in her arms, the llama, the prophet, the alchemist, the lovers and more.
Flora and fauna
Among the trees, plants and flowers, the following stand out: eucalyptus, molles, white mustard, kantu flower, icchu (Andean straw) and more.
Among the mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians, the following stand out: the Andean condor, the vizcacha, the mule, the cow, the horse, the lizard, the toad, the hummingbird and more.
Climate at Marcahuasi
Marcahuasi has a cold climate with temperatures that can reach a maximum of 20ºC. At night, temperatures can drop to 0ºC.
The rains are most intense from November to March. The rest of the year, from April to October they are not so frequent, so it is a good opportunity to travel.
Pictures of Marcahuasi in Lima
How much is admission?
The 2-day Marcahuasi tours that start in Lima have a cost of 190 Peruvian soles per person, approximately (it varies depending on the tourism agency you choose).
Entrance tickets to Marcahuasi can be purchased at the Municipality of San Pedro de Casta and have the following cost:
- 20 Peruvian soles for foreign tourists.
- 10 Peruvian soles for national tourists.
- 5 Peruvian soles for university and high school students.
- 5 Peruvian soles for school students.
The festival in honor of water is one of the most important in the town of San Pedro de Casta. It is also called 'Champería'. It is said that its origins date back to Inca times. It takes place the first week of October and is characterized by the cleaning of the water channels as well as music, dances and even poetry.
During your visit to Marcahuasi, do not forget to bring with you: warm and light clothing, comfortable shoes for the walk, a good tent, sleeping bag, firewood, a hat, sunscreen, extra clothing, additional cash and everything inside of a backpack that is not too heavy.
Take advantage of your visit to Marcahuasi to see other places in Lima such as el famous archaeological site of Pachacamac or the sacred city of Caral.
Along the route through Marcahuasi there are stalls selling hot drinks, food dishes, rehydration drinks and even cigarettes. The local people are the ones who organize to set up these small businesses.
The visit to Marcahuasi is also a very interesting cultural experience. The inhabitants of San Pedro de Casta preserve many traditions since Inca times. Their language is Quechua, their clothing is the typical multi-colored garment of the Andes and their customs are related to nature. Dare to know more about deep Peru!