Tours of the vestiges of ancient civilizations — which left the imprints of their rites and ceremonies, as well as those of their members’ daily lives — allows us to understand the development and spirituality of early peoples.
In Latin America, the remains of such civilizations are found in various parts of the continent, usually framed in beautiful natural settings. Visiting them helps one to sense the splendor of some of these civilizations lost in time. Mexico, Colombia, Peru and Ecuador are among the countries that retain vestiges of pre-Columbian civilizations such as the Maya, the Inca and the Aztec. The Mayan city of Tikal, in Guatemala; the majestic ruins of Machu Picchu in Peru; and Chichen Itza, located in Yucatan, Mexico, and which are the ruins of the most important capital of the Mayan culture, are among the most representative sites on the continent.
Ecuador too retains the remains and foundations of important pre-Inca civilizations. We offer you a tour of the most famous and most visited by archaeologists and tourists alike.
Rumicucho (“Middle of the World” Park / Quito, Ecuador)
“Cornerstone” is the meaning of the Kichwa word “rumicucho.” Archaeological ruins of this same name are located just north of the city of Quito, offering us a clear view of a temple that was dedicated to the Sun God. From its privileged location, on a peak where you can see La Marca Hill and the Cayambe Volcano, these ruins form an east-west horizontal line at the precise location that the sun crosses during its equinox.
It is believed that Rumicucho was one of the most important temples for worshiping the “Star King.” Covering an area larger than 300 meters long and 75 meters wide, the ruins are made up of five pyramid-shaped stone terraces. During clashes between the native people and the Incas, this place served as a military and logistical support structure due to its strategic location. Today, like footprints, what remain are roads, bridges and temples; structures that — according to historians — were also used as an Inca military fort.
Rumicucho is a charming place with wonderful views where you can learn about these ancient peoples and their traditions while learning about the development and knowledge of ancestral cultures. What’s more, all of this is surrounded by a wonderful natural environment.
The Ingapirca Ruins (Cañar Province)
South of Ecuador, on a plateau in Cañar Province, are found the ruins that make up the Ingapirca Archaeological Complex.
Only 50 miles (80 km) from the beautiful and culture-rich city of Cuenca, these pre-Columbian ruins were built by members of the Cañar people to serve as a ceremonial and trade center.
What remains of Ingapirka (a word meaning “Inca wall”) may have been a sun and moon observatory, as well as a center for conducting religious rituals and carrying out military strategies, according to some scientific explanations. The building, which is of Inca-Canari origin, was built by direct order of the Inca leader Huayna Capac during wars of territorial expansion.
The environment around these majestic ruins consists of Curuquinga and Bueran highlands to the east and south, and a string of mountains to the west. It is said that the Canar civilization chose this land to build these temples as this site was on the route that ran between Ecuador and Peru. Large ceramic findings have helped to date these ruins to around 500 B.C. You can enjoy these places on a one-day visit, and then stay in the beautiful and culture-rich city of Cuenca, a UNESCO-declared “World Heritage Site.”
Agua Blanca Commune (Manabí Province)
Located about 9 miles (15 km) north of the coastal town of Puerto Lopez, in Ecuador’s Manabi Province, the Agua Blanca commune is an archaeological site embedded in a stunning natural setting.
Part of the Machalilla National Park, the commune has been transformed into a museum that reveals vestiges of the Machalilla civilization and the Manteña culture. The remains of temples, squares and houses of the Manteña culture (1500 BC), as well as funeral urns and pottery, especially from domestic and ceremonial use, can be seen in this museum. All of this gives visitors an idea of what the everyday life and culture of these ancient inhabitants must have been like.
Also found here is a lake that is high in sulfur, which is another attraction for those who visit the commune. These sulfur concentrations that flow from an underground volcanic formation into a natural lagoon are said to give these waters certain healing properties.
Pumapungo Complex (City of Cuenca)
Situate in the heart of the city of Cuenca, in its historic district in fact, you can find a ten-acre archaeological park that was built in the late 15th century. These are the ruins of what, according to some archaeologists and historians, was one of the most impressive cities of the Inca Empire. Found here are the “Temple of the Sun” and the “Temple of the Sun Virgins” as well as the “Tomebamba Temple.”
During work conducted over the last two decades, various ceramic materials, metal, shells and bones have been recovered, which can be seen in the site’s museum and evidence that ancient society’s developed and complex organization.
On these grounds was also founded the city of Tomebamba, which was destroyed before the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors. However, these colonialists later built their churches on top of the foundations of the preceding indigenous temples. It is said that this city was the birthplace of the son of the Inca leader Hayna Capac, and that this standing earned the site a sacred status. In the Pumapungo Archaeological Park, you can also see the entrance to a 30-meter tunnel that studies have determined served as a mausoleum and symbolized the spirit world. All of this was part of the complex and profound worldview of the people who inhabited what is now one of the country’s most important archaeological sites.
If you visit the Pumapungo Complex, you can stay in the beautiful city of Cuenca, built with features similar to those of its namesake city of Cuenca, Spain.