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Among the imposing mountains of the department of Ancash, in Peru, there is an enigmatic place that hides a very important part of pre-Inca history. It is Chavín de Huántar, an archaeological complex built by the Chavín culture more than 2,200 years ago.

Chavín de Huántar is an archaeological complex built by the Chavín culture between the 2nd and 1st centuries B.C. and used until 200 B.C., when it was abandoned. This impressive site is located in the foothills of the Andes, at the point where the Mosna and Huacheqsa rivers meet.

The archaeological complex of Chavin de Huantar is the most important in the department of Ancash, in central Peru. This great architectural work had two temples, some parts of which are still preserved and in which you will find a mysterious network of labyrinths to get lost and feel like a true explorer.

In addition, Chavín de Huántar has ancient and very curious sculptures among which the monolithic lanzón, the Raimondi stela, the Tello obelisk and the nice nailed heads stand out, works of art that will leave you speechless!

While Traveling and discovering historical places like this amazing culture of Chavin you may need to use one of our mobile phone plans for tourists to have a tourist SIM card. In order to understand and find new adventures, here in PeruSIM

Now let’s take a look at this very visited place, that is undoubtedly one of the good options to do in your next trip to Peru:

The Chavin Culture

The Chavin culture spread along much of the Peruvian coast between 1200 and 200 BC and established its center in the same place where they built Chavin de Huantar, in the department of Ancash.

Here, the Chavín developed their activities, mainly cultural, and built the magnificent archaeological complex that would lead them to be remembered and studied for centuries and centuries.

Chavín de Huántar, the great work of art of the Chavín, had a main task: to be one of the most important oracles of the whole country. Every day, people from different parts of Peru came here to make their petitions and offerings to the gods.

The Ancient Temple and the New Temple of Chavín de Huantar

Thanks to the excavations of Tello, Bennett, Amat and Lumbreras, we know that the monumental complex had two attached temples: the Old Temple and the New Temple. 

The first was probably built at the end of the second millennium B.C. 

It is U-shaped, in the central part there is access to a cruciform gallery in the center of which is nailed the overwhelming image of a divinity: the Lanzon. It is a hybrid representation with elements of snakes, felines and humans. Below the gallery and the access stairs runs a channel with no known beginning or end that leads to a sunken circular plaza. 

Lumbreras called it an acoustic channel because the water produces a peculiar sound as it falls down the steps.This plaza has tombstones decorated with felines in pairs and mythical beings in procession towards the access. 

In its center was probably erected the Tello Obelisk that represents the cosmos in the form of dragons with motifs alluding to the water cycle. It could also have served as a sundial.

The cult of water

In the platform of the square there were two galleries, one that contained a great quantity of marine shells used in the cult; the other, called Gallery of the Offerings, kept hundreds of vessels, lithic objects and remains of human beings and burned animals.

These vestiges evidence the existence of ceremonies. This temple was dedicated to the cult of water through a supraregional oracle to which the inhabitants of the highlands and the north-central and central coast went.

The New Temple

It is an extension of the right wing of the Old Temple, called El Castillo. It is much larger than the previous one since it continues through platforms and culminates in a large quadrangular sunken plaza. All platforms had lyrical stairways.

Unfortunately we know little of the function of this complex since we ignore the character of the main divinity and the ritual functioning. 

The famous Raimondi Stela representing the god of the staffs (prototype of later images such as the one on the Portada del Sol of Tiahuanaco, often identified with the god Viracocha), could be this divinity, although its original location is unknown.

Much remains to be discovered to fully understand this fascinating Andean world at the threshold of its history. Certainly Chavin is an exceptional key to its understanding, along with many other centers that are beginning to reveal their secrets.

Key Heads ‘Cabezas Clavas’

These stone heads adorn the exterior facade of Chavin de Huantar. Nowadays, only one remains in its original site. The archaeologists have called them this way because the nape of the neck goes through the wall as if it were a nail. The nail heads are anthropomorphic but with feline attributes. They appear with open eyes and closed mouths.

How to get to Chavin de Huantar

To get to Chavin de Huantar, the first thing you have to do is to travel from Lima to Huaraz. This journey is made by buses daily and takes 8 hours, the perfect time to travel during the night and sleep in the comfortable buses in Peru.

Price, schedules and recommendations to visit Chavín de Huántar

  • Hours: Chavín de Huántar is open from Tuesday to Sunday from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
  • Price: The general entrance fee to Chavin de Huantar is S/. 15 (approximately US$4.5). However, the complex offers discounts for students (S/ 7 – US$ 2) and children (S/ 4 – US$ 1.2).

Recommendations on your visit to Chavin 

Although Chavín de Huántar is open all year round, the best time to visit is from April to October, as there is less rainfall during this season.

To complete your visit to Chavin de Huantar, do not forget to visit the National Museum of Chavin, located two kilometers north of the archaeological complex. 

Here you will find a large collection of ceramic and stone pieces and, most strikingly, several of the famous nail heads (only one remains in the archaeological complex).

The weather in Huaraz can be unstable, so we recommend that you bring both a raincoat and a sun hat.

Finally, we know that you have to keep communication with your relatives and friends, that you need to be able to orient yourself in new cities, that you might need help with translation and that you might need to search for restaurants or hotels. That’s why with PeruSIM you can buy a SIM card including the data plan of your need without having to worry about high roaming costs.