Attractions of the Pre-Inca City of Tiwanaku

Posted in South America | March 31, 2010 | 0 Comments

An influential pre-Incan settlement ruling the Andean terrain between 500 to 900 A.D. is said to have been resided in the city of Tiwanaku also spelled as Tiahuanaco. Located near the southern coast of Lake Titicaca in Bolivia, the city of Tiwanaku is throng by thousands of visitors due to its monumental and cultural relics of temples, a pyramid, emblematic gates, monolith carvings, and mystifying alien-like faces. When Incas came here, this site was considered as sacred place where their god Viracoca created the world after rising from the Lake Titicaca.

My Visit

Looking at the great site, one can realize that the artisans and builders of the city must have put their great efforts to build their colossal temples. This is simply evident from the quite heavy basalt and sandstone slabs that you can see lying around the site.

Among all the buildings and structures, the most brilliantly made structure is the Akapana Pyramid that was constructed on an already present physical structure. The pyramid is approximately square, while the middle portion of its flat top is a hollow oval part that is believed to be the output of the digging activity of the Spanish invaders. However, many archaeologists say that it was probably an area of storing water. Overall, the pyramid will not be that appealing as much of its stones were carried away for building local homes and churches.

Then, I headed towards the north of the pyramid towards the Kalasasaya Temple, which is an area of rituals. The edges of the colossal entrance hold two monolithic uprights, while the rebuilt portico takes you to the interior courtyard and to the ruins of the priests’ chambers. There are some more secondary platforms in the temple that are the home of some more monoliths along with the El Fraile meaning the Priest. The temple’s walls are comprised of giant red sandstone and andesite chunks. The platform is also elevated using these blocks that are affixed exactly.

Move towards the northwest corner where you can see the Puerta del Sol meaning the Gateway of the Sun. This is quite lofty in weight and is made up of a single andesite block.

According to the archaeologists, this structure has to do with the sun god in some way and therefore, is believed to be utilized as a calendar. It is adorned with bas-relief designs. A carving of a deity is seen on one side, while a line of four deep niches for assembling the offerings is on the other. A similar gate decorated with animal designs is seen close to the western end of the temple known as the Puerta de la Luna – the Gateway of the Moon.

Another temple is seen to the east of the main entrance of Kalasasaya known as the Templete Semisubterraneo meaning the Semi-subterranean Temple. Many people believe it to be the symbolic representation of the Underworld and Kalasasaya as the Earth.

The temple is built from red sandstone holding a rectangular hollow courtyard. Look at the walls to explore more than 150 probing carvings of human faces out of which some faces look similar to the modern sketch of aliens.

To the west of Kalasasaya, there is a vast rectangular region called the Putuni or Palacio de los Sarcofagos, which is yet to be excavated fully. Towards its eastern tip is a mound of rubble called Kantatayita sculpted with geometrical patterns whose identity is yet to be discovered. Lastly, I visited the excavated site of Puma Punku, the Gateway of the Puma located across the railroad tracks towards the south containing heavy megaliths.


Come here on June 21 – the day of winter solstice in the southern hemisphere. This day is celebrated as the Aymara New Year (Machaj Mara) that allures thousands of people. What is of utmost significance here is the sunrise whose rays shine across the temple entrance on the east.

There is an arrangement of party and fair wherein the locals come with colorful ceremonial attire. The party offers drinking singani, having coca, and dancing. You can catch a special bus from La Paz around 4 am that takes two hours to reach on sunrise at a cost of Bs15. On other days, the site is opened from 9 am to 4:30 pm.

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