Have you read about Peru’s latest archeological find at El Paraiso? The area north of Lima is stuffed with enormously significant historical sites – like Caral: ten times as old as Machu Picchu and astonishingly under-visited.
A vast temple has been uncovered at the already very impressive El Paraiso, about 40km north of Lima, and it’s thought to be 5,000 years old – that puts it up there with the oldest known sites suggesting civilisation. The rest of El Paraiso is about 4,000 years old.
Archeologists are speculating that it could be as old as Caral, which is the marvellous, 5,000-year-old sprawling site that was only discovered in 2001 and that we visited in December 2011. And by discovered I mean, somebody realised that all the small hills in the middle of the valley weren’t hills, they were ancient pyramids covered in earth.
If you’re in Peru and hoping to see El Paraiso – it could be tricky. But to fully understand the context of what was going on in Latin America 5,000 years ago, see Caral. It cost us about two British pounds to get into and the grounds were basically empty. But importantly it has a fantastic visitor centre and if, like when we visited, there’s nobody else around, you’ll probably get a personal guided tour for free. It’ll be in Spanish but you can’t win ‘em all.
It’s been called the oldest town in the New World and I first heard of it reading Hugh Thomson’s excellent book Cochineal Red. At the time it was the hub of its valley and artefacts dug up there suggest groups of people would travel long distances to trade goods there – that’s pretty impressive given that very little evidence even hints at a sniff of civilisation, of humans settling and living together in co-operation, much earlier than the time frame Caral sits in. The other nice thing? Despite extensive excavations, not a single artefact suggesting violence or war has been found at Caral.
It’s a bit north of Lima – I won’t use “just north of Lima” like a lot of news sites have because we made that journey and it was neither quick nor easy. But technically it’s not that far – no more than 250km from Lima.
Re-posted from my travel blog two-lions.blogspot.com, here’s how to get there
GETTING TO CARAL FROM LIMA
This was pretty difficult for us to fathom without any recent guidance anywhere on the internet or in our guidebook. So here’s how we did it, in December 2011. Of course try to check things are still valid:
Take a bus from central Lima to Huacho. There is no central bus terminal in Lima (yes, that is nuts), so you have to know which bus company you’re after. We went with San Martin, took a taxi to the office, and the journey to Huacho cost S12 (about £3) and took around 3 and a half hours.
- In Huacho, find your way to the place colectivos leave from for Supe. We engaged the services of a taxi driver for this, but it is not far.
- Take a colectivo from Huacho to Supe. We paid S5, it took about 30 minutes.
- If you leave Lima very early, you can probably still get to Caral. But it will take 1hr15min from Supe and the place closes at 5pm. It opens at 9am so we waited till the next day, staying in a small place on Supe’s main drag that cost S10 for a double room. The 30min colectivos leave from the main street and cost S3 to the town of Caral. From there it is a walk of about 40min (flat) to the entrance.