During my cycling trip from Alaska to Argentina, I discovered that Peru is a great country for bicycle touring.Being on the bike meant I could get to out of the way places like Markawamachuko. Never heard of it? It's a true hidden gem in Peru.
Markawamachuko or Marcahuamachuco?
There are quite a few reasons why this site is little known. It is in an out of the way place certainly, but also, the spelling of the name has never been quite agreed upon.
When I wrote this travel blog post back in 2010, I used the spelling from the archaeological site, which was Markawamachuko. When wikipedia finally recognised this site though, they spelt it Marcahuamachuco.
I had never heard of this site before starting my cycling trip from Alaska to Argentina, and it had only come to my attention a few weeks before arriving in the area. I was excited about visiting it, especially considering its size.
Where is Marcahuamachuco?
The archaeological complex of Markawamachuko is located some 10 km from the town of Huamanchuco, and 500 metres higher at 3600 metres. I must say that it provided a good early morning workout cycling up there!
At 5 km long, and roughly 500 metres wide, it’s the largest archaeological complex in the northern mountains of Peru. Markawamachuko, built from between 400-1000 AD, really is one of the least known, archaeological sites in Peru… a real hidden gem!
As I had cycled up to it, I left my bike in the hut at the entrance, and followed the path through the complex. The first area is known as Las Torres (the Towers). Their function is unknown.
Photos of Markawamachuko (Marcahuamachuco)
There were several other ruins leading up to the area known as the central plaza. Just past the central plaza was the area known as El Castillo (The Castle). Although it looks like a castle (well, a little bit), it is generally thought that this area was the religious centre of Markawamachuko.
Cross section of the walls. The design and construction totally different to the later Inca stonework.
Leaving the area, I passed through some massive walls. The next section was known as Las Monjas, and I found this area the most impressive. Consisting of several massive, circular stone defensive structures with double or even triple walls. I had a perfect picnic here, wondering how life must have been in the complex over 1000 years ago.
This low doorway revealed a triple wall system inside, with protruding rocks indicating that beams would have been in place between the walls, making rooms.
I have to say that Markawamachuko was a real highlight. Its so great to travel and see something of archaeological significance like this so far from the beaten path. I wish I had taken more photos and video of the complex. Let that be a lesson both to me and other bicycle tourers cycling through the area!