Day 15 — Huaca Pucllana

Friday — April 17

I’d come across a brief mention of Huaca Pucllana when I was researching alternatives for things to do on our “go with the flow” day in Lima. Though information about the “Templo de Adoradores del Mar” (Temple of the Sea Worshippers) was a bit hard to come by, the site looked interesting enough for us to decide to visit it after our morning walk along the cliffs in Miraflores.

Although the temperature and humidity had been rising throughout the morning, it wasn’t bad enough for us to consider taking a taxi to the ruins. Using a map we’d been given when we stopped to ask directions at one of the tourist information booths near the walking path, we easily found our way to Huaca Pucclana. The 20-minute walk was quite safe and afforded us an opportunity to see where the locals live and work.

We arrived at the archeological site 20 minutes before the next guided tour in English. (As this is an active dig, self-guiding is not allowed.) Taking advantage of the waiting time, we toured the small museum located just inside the entrance.

Left: A display entitled “Space and Time” shows how the pyramid changed over hundreds of years.
Right: A mural depicting a hypothetical Wari burial ceremony.

Some of the pottery excavated at the site.

“Huaca” is a name given to pre-Columbian tombs. And that’s essentially what the site is — an immense ceremonial center that served as a burial site for several cultures. The name “Pucllana” comes from Quechua and is the name that was given to the site in the 16th century by the Incas. The ruins themselves are far older, dating back to the sea-worshipping Lima Culture (200-700 AD) who first built the ceremonial/administrative center.

Our tour started at the pyramidal structure — the ceremonial area of the site. Built with handmade adobe bricks placed vertically like books on a shelf, the pyramid is quite impressive — not just because of the precision that went into the placement of the bricks, but also because of its size (1,650 feet long, by 330 feet wide, by 73 feet tall [500 x 100 x 22 meters]).

Though eroded, the pyramid is still quite impressive.

The builders of the pyramid lined up the adobe bricks very precisely.

Our tour of the ceremonial area eventually found its way to the top of the pyramid, which afforded views of the modern high-rise buildings in stark contrast to the ancient site. This vantage point was also good to get a sense of the extent of the rest of the site, which archeologists have determined to be the administrative sector.

The administrative center of Huaca Pucllana from atop the pyramid.
(the white building overlooking the site is the restaurant where we plan to dine shortly)

Archeologists hard at work? Wait and find out.

A sideways glimpse of the pyramid looking south from the top of the structure.

Our tour of the site concluded with a visit to the administrative sector where a closer look made it apparent that the figures we’d seen from a distance were mannequins and not archeologists slaving under the hot mid-day sun.

What we thought were archeologists turn out to be mannequins.

By the time we returned to the entrance it was 2:00p. We were hot and sweaty from our visit to the excavation site; we could have used a cool shower. Our growling stomachs, however, had only one thing in mind — lunch. No problem; we walked a few steps to Restaurante Huaca Pucllana where we were seated at a table with a view of both the administrative sector and the pyramid — perfect.

Restaurante Huaca Pucllana is conveniently situated for a meal after touring the archeological site.

A table with a view of the ruins adds to our dining pleasure.
(photo by our very obliging waiter)

A splash of cold water on the face, a bottle of ice cold water, and an equally cold Cusqueña Rubia beer did wonders to refresh us. We snacked on warm bread as we perused the menu, which had so many wonderful options that it was hard to make a decision.

In the end, Mui ordered the Ceviche Pucllana (fish, shrimp, scallops, and octopus marinated in lemon and yellow chili, served with yucca sticks) and I ordered the Yellow Potato Gnocchi (served in a creamy tomato and basil sauce broiled with parmesan cheese). Two words to describe our main courses: “very delicious.”

Although it might have been a bit gluttonous on our part, we just had to order separate desserts this time (we still split them … wink, wink) — Chocolate Volcano (a rich chocolate explosion served with coconut ice cream, sesame tuile, and mango-passion fruit sauce) and Quinoa Tuiles (filled with lucuma mousse and fresh berries, and drizzled with chocolate sauce). The word to describe these dishes: “delectable.”

Our meal at Huaca Pucllana is definitely a highlight of this trip.

Completely sated, we left the restaurant at 3:30p. The cliff-top walking path was calling our name — “come and walk off those desserts.”

Footnotes:

  • Tuile: A french word meaning “tile;” when presented in rows, supposed to resemble the curved tiles on roofs. In its traditional form, a tuile is a flat cookie that has been set over a curved surface while freshly baked and allowed to cool, giving its characteristic curved-tile shape.

  • Lucuma: A delicately flavored tropical fruit native to the cool highlands of South America.

Next Up: Day 15 — Time to Say Goodbye

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