While iconic places like Machu Picchu and the Parthenon are hot spots for travelers, lesser known sites across the globe offer insight into our past without the pesky crowds. The Inca and Maya left their archaeological mark on Latin America with fascinating sites that are “must sees” for travel connoisseurs. International Expeditions’ small-group treks take in a variety of these lesser known sites under the guidance of seasoned historian guides.
- Cuenca is quickly gaining a reputation as a city combining Spanish style with French influences, but a quick turn through town will reveal both Inca and pre-Inca Cañari ruins. Cuenca was actually connected to the Pacific coast and Amazon rainforest off an extension of the Inca Trail – which of course runs to Machu Picchu.
- Scattered through the Ecuadorian countryside are restored archaeological sites like the Baths of the Inca, once used in purification rituals before ceremonies of religious significance.
- Travelers can venture to Ingapirca, a complex network of stone structures that surround a circular sun temple used by both the Inca and Cañari, constructed in the late 15th century. Here you may walk around the ruins, climb the stairs up to the temple and even sit where the Inca did during their ceremonies.
- While Machu Picchu is undoubtedly the best-known of Peru’s abandoned cities, explorers should make it a point to explore Tucume, in Northern Peru. This vast complex of Lambayeque ruins — first excavated in the 1930s — is home to an impressive, prehistoric urban site which encompassed 26 pyramids. Guests wander through the labyrinth of courtyards or can head to an overlook still used by local shamans in healing ceremonies – Tucume is renowned locally for having magical power.
- The adventurous can take the 45-minutes hike/climb to the plateau where the Kuelap complex is perched. Older than the Inca Empire, Kuelap was home to the “Cloud People.” The area’s remoteness has kept the fortress relatively unknown, but in addition to hundreds of ancient stone homes, within the walls travelers can also find air plants, bromeliads and orchids.
- Winay Wayna may very well have served as an ancient rest stop for travelers walking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. The ruins consist of upper and lower house complexes connected by a staircase and fountain structures.
What are your favorite lesser-known ruins in Latin America? Let us know in the comments.