Location #2 in this series of seldom visited sites is Pikillacta, and like our previous site Tipon it is also located in the Southern Valley. Pikillacta is located roughly 32 km from Cusco making it only 6 km further than Tipon, this really makes it surprising to me that more people do not visit, as is is not a difficult site to reach, even by local bus. I would hope that anyone choosing to visit Tipon would take the time to travel just a little further, but for some reason they do not, so 90% of the times that we have visited Pikillacta with our guests, we have been the only ones at the site, so if you really want a break from the crowds, this would be a good site to consider because you will likely be the only people there (unless of course we happen to be visiting with some of our guests at the same time).
One of the things that makes this site stand out from others for me, aside from its emptiness, is the fact that it is a Wari (Huari) site, which makes it pre-Inka and different than 99% of the sites that most everyone sees when visiting the Cusco Region. The Wari culture is believed to have existed from about 500 to 1000 AD, so there is not likely any overlap between the Wari and Inka cultures, but the name of the site “Pikillacta” is actually a Quechua word that translates to “City of fleas” and is believed to be an Inka reference to previous culture being insignificant, like a flea.
While the Inka and Wari did not likely have any direct interactions, the Inka did occasionally make use of pre-Inka structures like those of the Wari civilization, and this is one location where you can see examples of this. Along the main road and just past the entrance to the main site of Pikillacta you will see Rumicolca, this was originally a Wari aqueduct that the Inka were in the process of re-purposing to be one of the control points to the Cusco region from points to the East. The bulk of the structure was Wari and you can see here where the Inka engineers were working to cover, or encase the Wari wall in more refined Inka stone work.
One of the things that I like about Rumicolca is it is a good place to actually see the progression of construction, the higher stones are rougher and more curved, or pillow like in the edges and still contain the protrusions that were used as handles during construction. The lower stoned on the other hand are smoother and more uniformed across the face, so you can see that the finished wall was likely to be a very smooth surface.
Pikillacta is one of the larger Wari sites found and there have been a variety of thoughts as to its purpose, some of the purposes it is believed to have served were a city, a religious center or maybe a government center, but no matter which purpose it actually served, it was likely an important place as they had a series of defensive walls that protected the city. One of my favorite places to walk with guests is through some of the double walled sections that surrounded the center of the complex, and are kind of like a miniature version of the Great Wall of China.
The complex covers over 34 square kilometers, which make it one of the largest sites in the region, covering over twice the area that Machu Picchu does. Because of this it is easy to spend 1-1/2 to 2 hours here exploring the site and its many pathways, buildings, and defensive walls, many of which were 2 or even 3 stories tall. One of my favorite walks is through the walled section that runs along the NE of the site above the large plaza area, you can enter from the plaza then turn either right or left and follow the wall around the city center.
One of the things that I find really interesting is that in the few structures that have been excavated, they have uncovered original Wari plaster on the floors and the walls, which if you consider that this plaster is over 1,000 years old, is really incredible.
Up next in this series, 2 locations in the heavily traveled Sacred Valley that many people pass by, but few people visit.