Fodor's Expert Review Chavín de Huántar

Chavin de Huantar Archaeological Site/Ruins Fodor's Choice

Indiana Jones would feel right at home in these fascinating ruins, which feature an underground labyrinth of stone corridors and a terrifying idol at their center. The idol, known as the Lanzón, is a 4-meter (13-foot) daggerlike slab with a jaguar's face and serpentine hair, and it was the Holy of Holies for the Chavín people, who were the mother civilization for the Andes. Pilgrims from all over South America would come here to worship, eventually spreading the cult of the so-called Fanged Deity throughout the continent. To make things even crazier, during ceremonies here, Chavín priests and their acolytes would ingest the psychedelic San Pedro cactus, thus facilitating their transformation into the smiling, ferocious god.

Visiting the Chavín archaeological complex, which dates from 1500 BC, is a favorite day trip from Huaraz. The UNESCO World Heritage site sits on the southern edge of the tiny village of the same name, and comprises two separate wings of the main temple,... READ MORE

Indiana Jones would feel right at home in these fascinating ruins, which feature an underground labyrinth of stone corridors and a terrifying idol at their center. The idol, known as the Lanzón, is a 4-meter (13-foot) daggerlike slab with a jaguar's face and serpentine hair, and it was the Holy of Holies for the Chavín people, who were the mother civilization for the Andes. Pilgrims from all over South America would come here to worship, eventually spreading the cult of the so-called Fanged Deity throughout the continent. To make things even crazier, during ceremonies here, Chavín priests and their acolytes would ingest the psychedelic San Pedro cactus, thus facilitating their transformation into the smiling, ferocious god.

Visiting the Chavín archaeological complex, which dates from 1500 BC, is a favorite day trip from Huaraz. The UNESCO World Heritage site sits on the southern edge of the tiny village of the same name, and comprises two separate wings of the main temple, a large U-shaped main plaza, a second plaza surrounded with mysterious carvings, and an on-site museum that houses the grinning stone heads that once looked out from the temple's outer wall. On the drive southeast from the city, you get good views of two Andean peaks, Pucaraju (5,322 meters/17,460 feet) and Yanamarey (5,237 meters/17,180 feet), as well as of the alpine Laguna de Querococha. The eight-hour tour costs about S/50 per person, not including the entrance fee to the ruins. If you'd prefer to get here on your own, regular buses run between Huaraz and Chavín, and you can hire a guide at the entrance to the ruins.

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Archaeological Site/Ruins Fodor's Choice

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Chavín, Ancash  Peru

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