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Tiahuanacoin La Paz, is an archaeological site that doesn’t sound as familiar as the Inca ruins, but capable of surprising with the same intensity.

Imagine a sculpture of seven meters high and twenty tonscarefully hewn from a single stone?

And these giant monoliths aren’t the only feat of Tiahuanaco civilization intrigued by the dexterity with which these pre-Columbian people worked with stone.

The ruins of Tiahuanaco (or Tiwanaku) are located in the village of the same name, 72 kilometers from La Paz and are one of the most visited attractions near the highest city in Bolivia.

we prepared some tips on how to visit – with agencies or on their own.

check out what will you see at this incredible archaeological site in South America.

Tiahuanaco Ruins
Tiahuanaco is one of the most important archaeological sites in Bolivia
  1. What are Tiahuanaco ruins
  2. tickets
  3. how to visit
  4. What to visit Tiahuanaco
  5. Where to stay in La Paz
  6. Tips
Tiahuanaco La Paz
Note the precision of the architecture. The stones are assembled and there is no connecting element between them.

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Tiahuanaco, La Paz, Bolivia: about the ruins and the archaeological site

The ruins of Tiahuanaco, or Tiwanaku, are from an abandoned prehistoric city. The archaeological site is located in the Bolivian altiplano, near the Lake Titicaca, just over 70km from La Paz. It is in the valley between two sacred mountains, Pukara and Chuqi Q’awa.

More than 3,800 meters above sea level are the ruins of this gigantic empire, in an area of ​​4 square kilometers.

there they are monumental structures and megalithic blocks weighing more than 130 tons, which intrigue experts on the subject, as they were moved before this civilization met the wheel.

Structures that can be visited by the public include the terraced platforms Akapana, Akapana West and Puma Punku, the Kalasasaya, the Kantatallita temple, the Kheri Kala and Putin precincts, the semi-underground temple, as well as decorated ceramics, which are in a attached museum.

Although less known than Machu Picchu, Tiahuanaco is one of the largest archaeological sites in South America, UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2000.

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How much is the ticket?

O ticket from the Tiahuanaco site, or Tiwanaku, costs 100 Bolivians (Aug/2021) at the entrance of the attraction and entitles you to visit the archaeological site, the Lithic Museum and the Ceramic Museum.

It is still possible to reconcile with the Puma Punku site (30 Bolivians), also in the town of Tiahuanaco.

If you are on your own, hire a guide it is optional, but highly recommended so as not to miss any details of the site and to know the history directly through those who live there.

They offer the service at the attraction’s door and charge around 150 bolivianos for groups of up to 5 people.

How to get to Tiahuanaco

O archaeological site is located in the village of the same name, 72 kilometers from La Paz. Enjoy and check air tickets to Bolivia at this link.

El Alto International Airport (LPB) is about 14 kilometers from downtown La Paz and has currency exchange bureaus, ATMs, car rental agencies, a restaurant and a duty-free shop.

There are daily flights there from airlines such as Latam, Avianca, Taca and Aerosur, departing from São Paulo, with connections in Santiago de Chile, Lima or Santa Cruz de la Sierra.

Once in La Paz, there are a few ways to get to the ruins of Tiahuanaco:

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1. With agencies in La Paz:

The tour includes a van, bilingual guide and lunch (admission separately). It leaves La Paz around 8 am and returns in the late afternoon for 200 Bolivianos.

It is easy to hire one of the many agencies around the Plaza Mayor of San Franciscoin the center of La Paz.

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2. On your own:

Take a taxi or circular van to the cemetery point in La Paz, 10 minutes from downtown.

From there, the vans to Tiahuanaco they leave with a minimum of 6 people and cost 15 bolivianos each way (30 round trip – Apr/2020). We went like this.

It is essential to hire a guide (around 150 Bolivians per group) at the door of the archaeological site, to understand the importance and grandeur of the ruins.

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3. Private tour:

The private tour includes a guide in Spanish or English, a round-trip van departing from your place of accommodation and the option to include or not lunch and admission to the attraction.

In GetYourGuide you have the complete option and option only with the guide and transport.

Civitatis also offers the excursion to Tiahuanaco, with van, tickets, optional lunch and guide in Portuguese.

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Tiahuanaco ruins: points of interest

At 3,845 meters above sea level, this civilization extended for more than 5 kilometers around the dikes and canals of this meticulous agricultural empire – it is estimated – with more than 30 thousand people.

What remains of them reveals a bit of history and attracts many visitors.

akapana

THE pyramid It is the largest building of the Tiahuanaco culture, with seven levels of terraces and more than 18 meters in height.

Too bad its ruins are the most damaged. There is almost nothing to see, but bones were found there – it is believed – of enemies killed in wars.

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Tiahuanaco Ruins
Akapana was the largest construction of the Tiahuanaco civilization

Ponce, Fraile and Bennet monoliths

They are unique pieces, full of meanings.

In his hands are the keru, a ceremonial vessel typical of various Andean cultures.

  • the monolith of Ponce it is aligned with one of the entrances to the Kalasasaya temple, arousing even more curiosity about this giant sculpture.
  • the monolith of fraile it is the one with the least adornments and symbologies.
  • and that of Bennett It is the largest of all anthropomorphic sculptures, over seven meters high and weighing 20 tons. The curious thing is that it was exposed in La Paz for years, under the weather and degradation.

The monolith has a complex symbology, which we only understand in the legends of the lithic museum.

So, it’s worth visiting it first. For example, the keru, agricultural, astronomical and anthropomorphic-themed high and low reliefs are explained in the museum and are linked to religious rituals, harvest cycles and the hierarchy of civilization.

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Ponce Monolith
Ponce Monolith
Bennett's Monolith
Bennett Monolith. The natives call the monolith Pachamama, after the goddess “mother earth”, one of the daughters of the creator god Viracocha, in Andean belief.

Kalasasaya

It is in this temple that the Sun Gateone of the symbols of Tiahuanaco, intriguing for being carved from a single stone, for its alignment with the Ponce monolith, and for being related to astronomical observations and measurements.

Porta do Sol was a complex astronomical calendar for them.

Every June 21st, on the winter solstice, a ray of sunlight passes through the door and reflects on the monolith, indicating the beginning of the Tiahuanacota calendar.

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Kalasasaya Tiahuanaco
The Aymara New Year begins on the Winter Solstice, around the 21st of June, with celebrations of the new year in front of the Porta do Sol. The Porta da Lua would also be associated with important ceremonies when there are alignments with the Moon.
Sun Gate
Sun Gate seen from outside the temple

semi-underground temple

With 2 meters depth, leads us to imagine what kind of rituals and ceremonies took place there.

What draws the most attention are the sculptures with anthropomorphic heads embedded in its walls, all different from each other.

According to the local guide, there are 197, but I find it difficult to pinpoint that number, and many have already been destroyed.

The same guide mentioned that there are 130 almost intact.

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semi-underground temple
Semi-underground temple, the totems and the monolith of Ponce in the background, at Porta do Sol
Semi-underground Temple Heads
Semi-underground Temple Heads

Lithic Museum and Ceramic Museum

Both are in front of the entrance to the Tiahuanaco site.

At the Lithic Museum Detailed information on the monoliths can be found in the Ceramic Museumancient ceramic and bronze pieces used in agriculture and in everyday life, as well as clothing and weapons.

It is still possible to combine the visit with the site Puma Punku, one kilometer from the Tiahuanaco site. It is lesser known, but equally full of history. We didn’t visit because time went by too fast.

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Tiahuanaco museums
The entrance to the museums is in front of the site.

Where to stay in La Paz

The best region to stay is on the outskirts of Sagarnaga Street and Plaza Mayor, in the historic area, in the Rosario and Belén districts, where there are many services, exchange offices, agencies, etc.

We stayed on a street that cuts through Sagarnaga, close to the Witches Market.

Check the accommodation offers on Booking and book in advance.

To better understand the regions, how to get out of the airport, where to eat and what to do in the city, check out our full article with itinerary in La Paz.

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Tips for those visiting Tiwanaku:

  • There is not Restroom at the archaeological site of Tiahuanaco. They are located in the museums, located in front of the entrance to the archaeological site.
  • There is restaurants and snack bars in front of the site.
  • There is a small fairground next door, with several local handicrafts with the same or cheaper price compared to La Paz.
  • Stay connected in Bolivia with internet chip with data plan for 140 countries and unlimited connection to EasySim4U.
  • If you’re on your own, pay for the one-way ticket so you’re free to decide your return time, but don’t forget to ask for the latest departure times.

SERVICE

Tiahuanaco/Tiwanaku

Address: Avenida Manco Kapac, Ingavi province, Tiwanaku, La Paz, Bolivia

Email: [email protected]

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+ about Bolivia:

How is the visit to the ruins of Tiahuanaco, in La Paz – Bolivia

By Camila Coubelle

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