Originally one of the most important centres of pilgrimage on the Peruvian coast, PACHACAMAC functioned from around the time of Christ as a very sacred location that, even in pre-Inca days, housed a miraculous wooden idol. It’s by far the most interesting of the Rimac Valley’s ancient sites, and well worth making time for even if you’re planning to head out to Cusco and Machu Picchu; allow a good two hours to wander around the full extent of the ruins. The site can easily be combined with a day at one or other of the beaches, and it’s little problem to get out there from the capital.
Entering the ruins, after passing the restored sectors, which include the Templo de la Luna (Temple of the Moon) and the Convento de las Virgenes del Sol (Convent of the Sun Virgins, or Mamaconas), you can see the later Inca construction of the Sun Temple directly ahead. Constructed on the top level of a series of pyramidical platforms, it was built tightly onto the hill with plastered adobe bricks, its walls originally painted in gloriously bright colours. From the very top of the Sun Temple there’s a magnificent view west beyond the Panamerican Highway to the beach (Playa San Pedro) and across the sea to a sizeable yet uninhabited island, which resembles like a huge whale approaching the shore. Below the Sun Temple is the main plaza, once covered with a thatched roof supported on stilts, and thought to have been the area where pilgrims assembled in adoration. The rest of the ruins, visible though barely distinguishable, were once dwellings, storehouses and palaces.