Tiahuanaco is a major archeological site 72 kilometers west of La Paz. The site is also known as Tiwanaku and is around 15 kilometers from the shore of Lake Titicaca. The Inca consider the site one of the most important of them all. The date of the establishment of Tiahuanaco is often contested by scientists, although studies have shown the city might have been founded around 300–700 A.D. Tiahuanaco sits at a height of around 3.8 kilometers above sea level and is also near a village bearing the same name.
Tiahuanaco is around a one and half hour bus ride from La Paz, and this is one starting point for travelers visiting the site. Another way to get to Tiahuanaco is by taking a bus from Desaguadero, a city at the border with Peru. However, I’ve heard stories of people getting dropped off 20 minutes away from the ruins and being left to walk with their luggage. If this doesn’t bother you, it provides another option.
When you arrive at the sites, you can expect to be fascinated by the monuments. Tiahuanaco is a must for those visiting Bolivia and for anyone with a passion for archeological sites, or even for those without. Some of the attractions to look forward to when you arrive are: Akapana, Kalasayathe Monolith, Puerta del Sol the semi-subterranean temple and more.
The Akapana is a pyramid that once had an outside border of 800 linear meters and a height of 18 meters. The building is believed to have been used for religious purposes. The construction techniques used for the pyramid and many other sites at Tiahuanaco will have you baffled – the materials used for the construction are incredibly heavy and this mystery will add to your visit. When visiting the site you will also learn that the mathematics involved in the architecture and efficient construction were quite advanced, showing the Inca were no slouches when it came to numbers.
The Kalasasaya, also referred to as The Standing Pillars and Place of the Vertical Stones, is another attraction to visit. This is a large courtyard 130 meters by 120 meters surrounded by large walls made of huge blocks of red sandstone and andesite that will make for interesting photos.
The Monoliths (Stelae) is a site that was discovered in 1957 by Carlos Ponce, a Bolivian archeologist. This archeological site contains the well-preserved figure of a human holding a cup in her hands. The figure also includes various animals such as the puma, condor and the eagle.
The Gateway of the Sun, or Puerta del Sol in Spanish, is a 10 metric tonne stone monument with a deep spiritual significance. A special festival is celebrated during June every year. The festival takes place at the site in Tiahuanaco and is the Aymaras’ (indigenous farmers’) New Year. The main event of the celebration is sunrise, which is watched through entrance of the Gateway of the Sun. Visitors to the site celebrate while drinking singani, chewing coca, sacrificing llamas, and dancing until dawn. Buses are available, leaving from La Paz in time to make sunrise.
Once you have decided Tiahuanaco is for you, you will need to consider taking accommodation in La Paz, as options closer to the sites are limited. In La Paz, you will find accommodation to suit most budgets. The city offers shared dorms, as well as hotels for those who want privacy and are in a position to pay. Most will also point you in the direction of tours to help you organize your trip to Tiahuanaco.
You will not be disappointed after visiting Tiahuanaco, if you have come for the right reasons. If your plan is to see one of the most interesting archeological sites in the world, well, this place is a must.