Top 10 Archaeological Sites in Latin America

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Latin America is rich in history and culture. It has iconic archeological sites and world heritage sites for tourists to experience in addition to the incredible nature that surrounds them. Ancient civilizations that settled in Latin America have left the greatness of their cultures in stunning archaeological sites where majestic cities once stood.

Here are 10 of the most important ones that travelers cannot miss.

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Machu Picchu

Located in Peru, northwest of the city of Cusco, on the heights of the Andes, this site was inhabited by the Inca civilization and is considered a jewel of architecture and engineering. It was built in the 15th century and was one of the residences of the Tahuantisuya, as the great empire of the Incas is called.

To reach it, visitors can take a train and then hike along magnificent trails surrounded by nature. Once inside the sanctuary, the tourist can get to know important places of this culture, such as the Temple of the Sun, the Temple of the Three Windows, the Liturgical Fountains, the Main Temple, the Palace of the Just, the Holy Square and the Royal Museum.


Chichén Itzá in Mexico is one of the most important cities of the ancient Maya civilization. (Photo via Kai Lawson).

Chichen Itza

This is one of the most visited archaeological sites in Mexico. It is very close to the city of Cancun and the famous Riviera Maya. The visitor cannot miss the opportunity to climb the pyramid dedicated to Kukulkan, the great feathered serpent, part of which is open to the public.

This Mayan pyramid has 91 steps on each side leading to the upper temple. There are 365 steps in total, representing the days of the year. During the equinox, the shadows of the steps form the body of the serpent, which reaches the base where two colossal heads are located. Over time, the serpent seems to move to the head, which touches Mother Earth and fertilizes nature.

tikal

This ancient city in the city of Flores in Guatemala was one of the most important and populous of the ancient Maya civilization. It has more than 5,000 buildings, only 5 percent of which have been restored and can be visited. Its pyramids have steps that reach important altars of this culture. The main square still has winter solstice celebrations for tourists to enjoy, along with important buildings such as Seven Temples Square and the Central and Northern Acropolises. Knowing the place where the ball game was practiced is also highly recommended.

Teotihuacan

This important ceremonial center near Mexico City offers visitors two impressive pyramids dedicated to the sun and the moon. This city, meaning “where men become gods,” was found in ruins by the Aztecs. In the center is the Calzada de Los Muertos, which leads to the Pyramids of the Sun and Moon. These two large buildings feature a large labyrinth of subterranean caves where burial rites and other fertility events are believed to have taken place.


The huge monuments of Easter Island in Chile are one of the great mysteries of history.  (Photo via Flickr/Lee Coursey).
The huge monuments of Easter Island in Chile are one of the great mysteries of history. (Photo via Flickr/Lee Coursey).

The Moais

Located on Easter Island in Chile is this fantastic site, guarded by giant statues built as tombs between the 9th and 16th centuries and for archaeologists due to the difficulty it must have cost to move to different areas of the island, remain an enigma island. There are more than 900 moai created by ancient Rapa Nui. Most of them were carved into the rock of the Rano Raraku volcano and more than 400 are still in various stages of construction.

Cueva de las Manos (Cave of the Hands)

This incredible archeological site is located in Santa Cruz, Argentina, in Patagonia. It’s one of the best places to admire cave paintings depicting hunting scenes and abstract figures, but the most important are the handprints left on the stone. This site has the oldest paintings of South American villages and also remains of bones, utensils and animal skins that formed the basis of the livelihood of ancient Paleolithic civilizations.

Chan Chan

Another wonder of Peru is this archaeological site in the city of Trujillo, on the north coast of the country. It was a city of great splendor between the 9th and 15th centuries, built by the Chimu culture until destroyed by the Incas. The citadel of Nik An stands out in this place, built of mud bricks and decorated with interesting geometric shapes.

copan

It is the most important archaeological park in Honduras and is located in what is known as the Copán Valley. The visitor discovers in this place many secrets of the ancient Mayan civilization such as the Ball Game, the Acropolis, the Grand Plaza and the Hieroglyphic Staircase, which can be traveled with the help of specialized guides. Visitors cannot fail to notice the Q Altar, which is the most important monument on the site and depicts 16 of the 18 monarchs who ruled this important city for almost five centuries.


The Nazca Lines in Peru can be seen from high altitudes aboard tourist planes.  (Photo via GAdventures).
The Nazca Lines in Peru can be seen from high altitudes aboard tourist planes. (Photo via GAdventures).

Nazca

In Peru, in the Nazca Desert, there is this mysterious place also known as the Nazca Lines or Hieroglyphs of the Pampas of Jumana. These are huge drawings that can be seen from above, depicting perfect figures. They are believed to have been created as offerings to the gods, who could admire them from the sky and with which the residents thanked them for the favor of giving them the water they needed to survive in the desert. In the past, the inhabitants of Nazca extracted groundwater for their agricultural activities.

Tourists can take 35-minute flights by plane to admire all the drawings. During the flight, the history of these mysterious lines is explained, including figures such as the astronaut, the whale, the condor and many hands.

La Huaca del Sol

On the north coast of Peru, visitors will find this impressive archaeological site that was a sanctuary to the Moche culture. It is a series of monuments that cover a large area where the Huaca del Sol and Huaca de la Luna pyramids are located, as well as a citadel that was inhabited only by the upper class of civilization in the Time of Splendor. The largest pyramid in this place has a rectangular plan and five terraces, where former residents engaged in various administrative and political activities. Legend has it that the city was built in just three days with the help of the gods.

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