Bolivia's Hidden City

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by catsholiday on February 28, 2010

Tiwanaku is about 50 miles west of La Paz and near the south-eastern shore of Lake Titicaca in Bolivia. Tiwanaku (Tiahuanaco or Tihuanacu) has the Pre – Columbian ruins which were the capital of the state for over 500 years and are in the process of being excavated. The city dates back as far as 1500BC but it is between 300BC and 300AD that Tiwanaku is thought to have been a religious pilgrimage centre and at the height of its importance. Today it is a UNESCO World Heritage site administered by the Bolivian government. Prior to this there have been a number of archaeological investigations, some more sensitive than others.

The price of entry to the site is much less for Bolivians than foreign tourists, It is 80 Boliviano for foreigners and 10 for locals which considering how little local people earn I think is more than fair, it is certainly not expensive for foreigners.

We travelled through the Andean plateau area which is quite a poor farming area and the farms were mud brick buildings with a few llama or sheep and the crops were very limited. It is pretty well subsistence farming. There were a number of road blocks on the road stopping people going to La Paz as there was a big pro government demonstration there; because of this we had to take a side road which was unpaved and very much un-made. This was very interesting as it took us through the real countryside area and the road was extremely uneven, at times it disappeared downwards in a dramatic fashion and we went very slowly down through the shallow river and climbed out again. I give credit to our driver who got us there safely with no damage to the bus.

At Tiwanaki there were two very new museums; one only had a monolith – the Bennett Monolith or Pachamama -in it and nothing else. The story goes that at one time this monolith was moved to La Paz and that year there was a really bad earthquake in La Paz which was unheard of prior to this. They returned the monolith to Tiwanaki and that year in La Paz they had severe rains and flooding in many parts of the city. I think they will not be moving the monolith again as they fear every time it is moved something bad happens.

The other museum holds relics found at Tiwanaku and told the story of the development through the ages in this area. At one time Tiwanaku was near Lake Titicaca and as the water level in the lake fell then the city became less important; possibly because it became harder to continue the agrarian way of life that the city depended upon. If you are interested in more history about Tiwanaku then these sites are quite interesting and the first one has some older drawings of the site:

The actual site is huge and is still in the process of being excavated which means that there are some areas you cannot visit. The main pyramid or Akapana was originally surrounded by water or a type of moat and is still mainly unexcavated and looks like a mound of dirt except for one section. There were seven stepped terraces with buildings on the top but today there are archaeologists working in this area and we were unable to visit. The Kalasasaya is a large raised walled area with the Puerta del Sol at one end and the Peurta del Luna at the other There is a fascinating hole in the wall which acts like a megaphone – if you put your ear near the hole and somebody speaks inside the walled area you can hear them quite clearly. These walls are vertical unlike those in Cusco which were angled, that is because in Bolivia they had not the need to build to stand up to earthquakes.

We were told that the sun gate had been moved from its original position but I’m not sure if I misunderstood, perhaps she was just saying that it had been repaired as it did have a huge crack in it. It was originally astronomically aligned so the sun shone through onto the centre of the pyramid but if it has been re aligned, its new position it was still regarded as important. On mid summer’s day there is a big celebration of local people which unfortunately being more modern, usually requires alcohol and sometimes parts of the ancient ruins are damaged in this revelry.

There was an underground temple or sunken courtyard with strange stone faces in the walls. They were all rather odd and many were worn or damaged. No-one really knows who or why there were carved there. It is one of the many Inca mysteries. We really liked these faces as they were so odd and we enjoy a mystery.

It is a work in progress and as the museums are only 4 years old there is plenty of opportunity for this site to become better known as more is unearthed in the next few years. There is some discussion between archaeologists as to whether some of the reconstruction has been rather over enthusiastic and is not as authentic as it might have been so it hard to know what parts of what we saw is reconstructed and what is merely rebuilt.
Ruins of Tiwanaku (Tiahuanaco)
Near Shores Of Lake Titicaca
Bolivia, South America

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