Imagine the astonishment of Hiram Bingham when he gazed upon the monumental citadel of Machu Picchu in Peru. Although this ancient city was known to the Andean people, it was not known to the Spanish when they came to South America. Built in the 1400s, it was abandoned by the Inca before the Spanish conquest. A World Heritage Site, Machu Picchu is a testament to the cultural network of the ancient Peruvians and their adaptation to the land in which they lived.
Machu Picchu is one of the latest ancient sites of the Andes. But other peoples lived in the region thousands of years before the Inca. Twelve World Heritage Sites document Peru’s rich ecosystems and the continuum of Peruvian history, ranging from the Sacred City of Caral, the earliest known civilization in the Americas, to the Historic Center of Lima founded by the Spanish in 1535.
The Sacred City of Caral, located north of Lima in the Supe Valley above the Pacific coastal plain, dates to 3200 B.C. This site includes platform mounds and circular courts thought to be the model used by later Andean cultures in developing their urban complexes. The Caral people developed a vast network of irrigation canals in one of the driest regions on earth.
The Chavín Culture represents the next major cultural period in the Peruvian mountains, dating between 1500 and 300 B.C. Chavín de Huántar Temple, a World Heritage Site, is located in the northern highlands at 10,430 feet above sea level. This monumental site served as a ritual center with several ceremonial structures built over hundreds of years. Interior walls were decorated with carvings and sculpture. The culture was agricultural, cultivating quinoa, potatoes and other crops suitable for high altitudes.
Moche, Nazca, Huari and Chimú cultures span the period between A.D. 200 and the rise of the Inca in the 1200s. By then, extensive agricultural terraces supported crops that fed millions of Andean people. Many nutritious crops unique to specific ecological zones cultivated at that time are still cultivated today.
The continuum of Peruvian history is perhaps best exemplified by its food. Peruvian food is a source of pride to Peruvians and a cuisine celebrated worldwide. La Costanera Restaurant invites guests to enjoy a relaxed evening of fine dining and experience the heritage of the cultures of the Andes.