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Home » Destination Guides - Countries » Ecuador » Ingapirca


Eighty-five kilometres from Cuenca and 3,200m (10,500ft) above sea level, Ingapirca ($4; every day) sits on the side of a mountain overlooking a few houses and a vast expanse of fields and pastures. History credits Ingapirca, which is over 500 years old, to Huayna Cápac. The Ingapirca archaeological site is a remarkable place that shows the dual influences of the Cañari Amerindians who used to live in this region, and of the Incas who settled here a little later. Although tourists have only been able to visit this Inca archaeological site since 1966, it was first described by Charles Marie de La Condamine in 1739.

There is ample evidence that the Cañaris were the first inhabitants of the region. For example, the presence of symbols like the moon were venerated by the Cañaris. Also, female skeletons have been discovered, one in a foetal position, dressed and wearing jewellery which corresponds to the Cañari belief that death is a transition to another life.

Despite its modest dimensions, Ingapirca is the most important silent witness to the Inca presence in Ecuador. The ruins extend from a central platform which was probably used in worship, and is thus named "Temple of the Sun." Many buildings stand all around the ruins; perceptible between them are steps and doorways in the trapezoidal shape typical of Inca architecture. In fact these doorways are more resistant to earthquakes than rectangular shapes. All the stones of this structure are so meticulously fitted together that at first glance there appears to be nothing between them. Looking closely, however, it becomes apparent that there is an exceedingly fine substance between the stones holding them together.

Only the Temple of the Sun has withstood the test of time. The exceptional solidity of its construction is underlined by the fact that there is a substantial layer of mortar between the stones of the other vestiges of this now restored site. All around are recently discovered remains of tombs dating from the period. Ongoing periodic digs will undoubtedly uncover more. While these ruins suggest a military fortress or a religious site, their real meaning still evades historians and archaeologists who remain perplexed and confused about them. There is no comparison between these ruins and the celebrated ruins of Machu Picchu in Peru, but they will delight fans of history and old stonework. Those not satisfied by a superficial look, who want to better understand the architecture and symbolism of the place, should go accompanied by a guide.

Don't forget that Ingapirca is at an altitude of 3,200m (10,500ft). Besides the cold, wind and rain are not uncommon, so dress accordingly.

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