Peru is certainly a place full of ancient mysteries and significant pre-Columbian civilizations, where the Incas were the most developed culture of the whole continent. However, there were other native communities that also marked the evolutionary path of the famous Andes. The Wari people inhabited the Cusqueñan region and left an important legacy that influenced the next civilizations.
The pre-Inca culture was characterized for their architectural style and clever urban planification, being the Wari citadel and the Pikillacta Archeological Site the perfect examples of these ancestral skills.
According to historians, Pikillacta was indeed one of the most significant settlements of the Wari culture. They certainly influenced the architecture and engineering techniques of the Tahuantinsuyo Empire, which is why the Incas are recognized for adapting and improving these methods in a splendid way.
However, the Wari were the beginning of an era where innovative engineering knowledge, cultural expression, and a well-defined identity ensured a major guvernamental power. Another step followed by the Incas which granted the heyday of their empire.
Undoubtedly, Pikillacta is one of the unmissable attractions in Cusco, where you’ll get to understand even more of the cultural heritage of the region. It is part of an important archeological site circuit located south of the Imperial City, here we’ll tell you why you must include it in your trip itinerary!
The Pikillaqta site was built between the VI and IX centuries, just at the peak of the Wari culture. The first archeologists in studying the complex thought that the structure belonged to the Incas, however, the elements used in the construction weren't typical of this civilization.
Further research showed evidence that the Wari were responsible for this ancient citadel due to its similarity with their capital in Ayacucho. Unlike most of the Inca settlements, adobe and non-carved stones were the main materials of the construction, a fact that ruled out the previous theory.
Now, the original name of the site remains lost, and there are no records that point out the actual denomination of the structure during the Wari or Inca times. It was the Spaniards that gave it the name of Pikillacta or Pikillaqta, a Quechua word that could be interpreted as “Flea City” or “Small Town.”
The archeological complex is one of the largest prehispanic places within the Cusco region since it has an extension of 50 ha. Likewise, the Pikillacta citadel is composed of 700 buildings, 200 courts, 508 storages or colcas (some archeologists considered them as rooms), and many other buildings.
Apparently, it was an enclosed citadel with walls that reached over 10 meters of height, giving it a fortress-like appearance. The distribution consisted of straight streets with an almost perfect urban planification, also, the buildings had basic rectangular and square shapes.
As to the cultural and economic practices of the Wari people in the Cusco region, studies say that they were dedicated to agriculture, and cultivated maize and beans. Therefore, the community managed to create water canals and aqueducts that supply water to the city and their croplands.
The remarkable agricultural and architectural knowledge of this civilization has marked the Andean highlands since some historians say that they were the ones who implemented terraces for agronomic purposes, something that potentially influenced the Andean region’s development.
The archeological site served as a ceremonial, administrative, and residencial center, which housed around 10,000 people. Its strategic location gave them control over the Quispicanchis valley and part of the Vilcanota valley, confirming its purpose as a military center as well.
Going further down the future, one may think the Incas had inhabited the complex at some point, but the excavations and studies ruled out this possibility since there is no evidence that can solve this enigma. However, some aqueducts near the citadel were adapted by the Incas by changing the rudimentary construction elements with a more elaborated and resistant structure.
Likewise, it is known that the Pikillacta Archeological Site was suddenly abandoned, but the reasons are uncertain since archeologists didn’t even find signs of battle or anything else that may have caused the desertion of the place.
There are several sectors within the famous archeological complex, some of them have remained nearly intact, whilst others have been severely damaged overtime. However, here we have listed a few of the most intriguing sites within the Pikillacta ruins:
• Pikillacta Citadel: Located at the foothills of the Huchuy and Hatun Balcon mountains, it is one of the most impressive pre-Columbian structures in Cusco. It’s composed of several buildings intended for potential ceremonial, residential, and storage purposes.
In addition, Pikillaqta also comprehends a complex hydraulic system, terraces, agricultural centers, and more. All enclosed by a wall that surpasses the 10 meters of altitude.
• Choquepujio: It is located at the outskirts of the Huatanay Lagoon, composed of the structure of a 2-story building surrounded by aqueducts, terraces, and funerary centers.
• Urpicancha: It is found a few meters away from the Huacarpay Lagoon. Urpicancha comprehends several platforms, defensive walls, and hydraulic systems.
• Amarupata: It is a series of platforms situated near the Qosqoqhahuarina mountain. It served as an agricultural center with a complex irrigation channel system that are currently in use by local people.
• Kunturqaqa: The area is composed of several rock formations. Unfortunately, not much of the site is known, except that one of the rocks is shaped like the head of a condor, a distinctive animal and icon of the Andean Cosmovision.
Pikillaqta is located in the South Valley of Cusco, it takes about one hour to get there by car. If you’re planning to do this on your own, keep in mind that you will need to hire a certified taxi for a round trip ride since transport is nearly limited in this area.
However, we advise you to take a tour where you’ll get to visit this and even more attractions within the Cusco region. Luckily for you, we have another archeological circuit of the Imperial City of the Incas, get to know more about the South Valley Tour while you're here!.
In this opportunity, you’ll get to visit Tipon, Pikillacta, and Andahuaylillas, three historical monuments situated a few kilometers away from Cusco. Dare to uncover the mysteries of the Cusqueñan region, find out everything about it in this travel package.
- Operating Hours: Monday to Sunday from 07:00h to 18:00h.
- Entrance: The Touristic Ticket is needed to enter the archeological site, it includes all the sights within the South Valley Tour. (Ticket included in our packages).
Dare to uncover the mysteries of the ancient Inca civilization with Viagens Machu Picchu and explore Cusco like a real expert!