Seven ancient cultures of Peru map

Peru is famous for being the heart of the Incan Empire and yet it has so much more to offer. From pyramids more ancient than the ones in Egypt to the largest stones transported in the Americas Peru has a rich cultural history unsurpassed anywhere else in South America. Here we present to you 7 historic wonders of Peru.


Caral’s main pyramid was built in progressive layers over 800 years starting around 5,000 years ago in the Supe valley. Long before the first pyramids were constructed in Egypt the first inner pyramid had been built. Three additional layers were added over the centuries, evidence of the continued occupation of the site. Caral is just one of 18 sites in the supe valley providing clear evidence of a rich and long history within the region.

The site was made famous thanks to the archaeological efforts of Ruth Shady in the 1990’s and is has been extensively uncovered in the decades since. The culture appears to have been a peaceful one of trade and commerce with no signs of weapons and violence discovered at the sites early occupation. Supe culture would replace the cultures of Chavin de Huantar as the true founder culture of the Peruvian region.


Chavin de Huantar

Chavin de Huantar was known popularly as the mother culture of Peru before the discovery of Caral. Despite losing its tag as the oldest culture, there can be no doubt that the people of Chavin de Huantar constructed a temple cult that had wide spread influence over the entire region of Peru centuries before the rise of the Incan empire. The magnificent temple structure, incredible carved Stella and advanced pottery skills were the pinnacle of artistic expression 2000 years ago.


Chan Chan

Chan Chan was the capital city of the Chimor culture for over 600 years starting around 900 CE until they lost control of the region to the expanding Incan empire in 1470. The site is vast and covers over 20 square kilometers (8 square miles). The main buildings were well preserved by the arid conditions and were painted in rich colors with red being a primary color of use.

The Chimor empire lavishly decorated their temples and produced beautiful ceramic pottery often with strong seafaring images as would be expected from a culture in control of a vast ocean hugging region. The main temple seen here is believed to be dedicated to the sea god Ni



Possibly the most iconic of all sites in South America after Machu Picchu is the enigmatic Nazca lines forever etched in the arid desert of Nazca. The sacred lines of Nazca too two distinct forms, vast straight lines and more impressively giant images of birds and animals of the region and further afield. Protected from erosion by being in the driest desert region on the planet the lines have stood the test of time for over a Millenium.

Interpretations of the lines function have drawn widespread speculations from alien encounters to more rational beliefs. The alien based explanation view the lines as land strips. More mainstream explanations center around broadcasting a message to heaven and the probability that they were ceremonial walking lines.


The Chachapoyas culture located  in the cloud forest of Northern Peru has their capital in the serene setting of Kuelap . Often called ‘the people of the cloud forest’ the Chacapoyan’s lived in harmony with the deep rainforest and mountainous range of the Amazon basin to their East. Kuelap is famous for its impressive cliff dwellings and tombs that are reminiscent of the Anasazi in the western United States. Their main phase of construction began in the 8th century and extended to the 12th century.

Like the Chimu they fiercely resisted the seemingly inevitable invasion of the Incan Empire’s expansion.  Well known and respected for their building techniques many of their stonemasons were they were remain distinct and beautiful moved to areas such as Choquequirao where they built many of the impressive structure found in the Incan heartland.


A possibly controversial inclusion in this list is Tihuanaco not due to its historical importance. Rather due to the main temple of the culture is to be found on the Eastern side of Lake Titicaca just within the borders of Bolivia. The Tihuanaco culture was around at the same time as the Wari and shared a border within modern day Peru that appears to have been of a generally peaceful nature.

Beginning around 1500BCE the Tihuanaco culture carried on for over 2500 years well into the 1200CE making it the longest surviving culture known on the continent. The demise of their cultural influence remains a controversial one amongst archaeologists. What is not in any doubt is the sheer beauty of many of their buildings and incredible art. Our depiction of the staff god can be seen in the lower right corner of our map and is taken from the image etched into the sungate of Tihuanaco.

Machu Picchu

One of the seven wonders of our Peru map and a modern day wonder of the world Machu Picchu could not be left of this map. The UNESCO heritage site is clearly the most famous site in Peru if not the entire of South America. Occupied from around 1420 onwards the citadel was a summer palace of the Incas. It’s incredible mountain  setting and breathtaking views all around have made this site a must see on everybody’s bucket list.

The site was fortunate to be left largely undisturbed by the Spanish conquistadors due to its remote location and was reclaimed by the jungle preserving much of its structural integrity. The scientific rediscovery of the site by the Hiram Bingham expedition in 1911 would propel the site on to the international arena. Every year the site grows in popularity and moves to slow down tourism have been made by limiting the amount of entry tickets available to the public