Peru Chavín de Huántar external
Peru Chavín de Huántar carving
Peru Chavín de Huántar gate

If you have an interest in the formation of Andean civilisation, Chavín de Huántar is vastly more significant than the famed Machu Picchu, but with a fraction of the crowds. Situated in Peru’s Cordillera Blanca, some 160 miles north of Lima and within easy reach of the trekking hub of Huaraz, the site was once the most important pilgrimage destination in the Andes. The renowned Peruvian archaeologist Julio C. Tello called Chavín de Huántar “the birthplace of South American culture.”

Due to their extreme age, with portions dating to at least 1,000 BC, the ruins don't look like much from the outside. But get inside -- and underground -- and you'll discover an eerie world of subterranean passageways, sunken courtyards and strange carvings that help explain the origins and rituals of the original Andean civilisation. Many mysteries still surround Chavín de Huántar. How much power did local priests wield over the surrounding communities? What was the exact nature of the rituals carried out at the site? Archaeologists are still trying to piece together the pieces, and excavations are ongoing. As recently as 2018, laser scanning and robot explorers have discovered more tunnels and graves beneath the temple, potentially offering further insights into the mystery of Chavín de Huántar.

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