The American Stonehenge

Ceremonial Center of Tiahuanaco (Tiwuanaku). Bolivia
Ceremonial Center of Tiwanaku (Tiahuanaco)

On the Bolivian side of Lake Titicaca - shared by Peru and Bolivia - a tremendous civilization flourished in the southern Andes between 400 and 900 AD: the Tiwanaku (Tiahuanaco) culture...

It was anciently known as Taypikala, an Aymara word which means "Stone of the Center" or "Capital of a Group of People".

Its archaeological remains - the city and ceremonial center of Tiwanaku - are still an integral part in the religious lives of the Aymara people in modern-day Bolivia.

In fact, every year by June 21st. - that marks the winter solstice in the Southern Hemisphere - they celebrate Machaj Mara (Aymara New Year) just outside the temple.

A very colorful and traditional ceremony that reaches its peak at sunrise, celebrated with dancing, coca chewing and singani drinking.
Singani is Bolivia's traditional liquor distilled from a variety of the muscatel grape.

The ceremonial center of Tiwanaku is nested in the Altiplano, at 13,000 feet above the sea level, surrounded by the Andes on three sides and Lake Titicaca as the fourth, some 71 km distance from La Paz, Bolivia's administrative capital.

It covers an area of 2.30 square miles, mainly composed of terraced platforms pyramids - Akapana is the biggest of all - courts and urban centers.

Wall at Tiahuanaco (Tiwuanaku). Bolivia
Wall at Tiwanaku (Tiahuanaco)

Its most outstanding archaeological remains include...

  • Akapana pyramid
  • Kalassasaya temple
  • Gateway of the Sun (Puerta del Sol)
  • Gateway of the Moon (Puerta de la Luna)
  • The Priest (El Fraile)
  • Semi-subterranean temple
  • Putuni (Palacio de los Sarcófagos)
  • Kantatayita
  • Gateway of the Puma (Puma Punku)

The Tiwanaku (Tiahuanaco ) culture evolved in three stages: from village to urban to imperial or expansive, reaching its peak at around 700 AD, when they controlled nearly the entire lake Titicaca basin plus parts of Peru and Chile.

They practiced a unique form of agriculture and managed to produce abundant food surpluses based on cultivating raised-bed fields fed by ingenious irrigation systems, as well as taming llamas and fishing the waters of lake Titicaca.

However, by 1100 AD the site was abandoned and the Tiwanaku culture receded to oblivion.
A severe drought is believed to have caused their agricultural collapse, marking the end of an era.

Tiwanaku was listed in year 2000 as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

It's been named the "American Stonehenge" and certainly is one of the greatest Andean civilizations that shaped South America's history.
A city that could be even older than Jericho, according to some researchers in the following video...

How to Get There:

Tiahuanaco is located 71 km away from La Paz, around 1,5 hours driving.
There are daily minibuses departing just outside the cemetery's main gate (price around 15-20 Bolivianos).
You could also book a tour through the many tour operators in the city.

Where to Stay:

There are a couple of motels near the ruins and also a new hotel recently built.
However, if you are based in La Paz there is no need for it as a visit to Tiwanaku could be done in about five hours, so depart early and be back in town at the end of the day.

Find and compare best hotel rates in the city.

Book budget accommodation in La Paz.


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