Pikillacta or Pikillaqta is located in the South Valley, on the outskirts of Cusco. In the micro-basin of the Lucre valley, on the hills of the Huchuy Balcony Hill, which overlooks the Huacarpay lagoon. It was a pre-Inca and Inca settlement, being more prominent during the middle horizon. This was the time when the Wari empire expanded and established a large administrative, religious and ceremonial center. 

The archaeological site of Pikillacta represents a well-organized society, with a well-defined urban layout. The architectural constructions show an orthogonal outline of great size, with impressive high adobe walls, with narrow and long streets, surrounded by the great wall.

pikillacta archaeological park

Pikillaqta is open to the public and is a popular tourist destination. Visitors to Pikillaqta can explore the ruins, visit the on-site museum, or participate in one of the many guided tours.

MEANING: The word Pikillacta originated from two Quechua terms. “Piki” which means flea and “llaqta” village, translated together would be “village of fleas”. Because the settlers suffered from skin rashes caused by fleas. For other researchers Piki means light, fast and quick. Because it is believed that the ancient settlers were agile people. Victor Angles mentions that pikillacta is not registered in the chronicles and is registered as Mohina, Muyna or Moyuna.

Pikillaqta - Everything you need to know!


The First Families Who Lived There

Pikillacta has been occupied since before the Incas. It developed from the Preceramic Period, through the Early Horizon dating back to 1,000 BC.  The Lucre basin was populated by Marcavalle and Chanapata. The first families to inhabit the Lucre sub-basin were Choquepukio, Minaspata and Batan Orqo, whose main activity was pastoralism.

Pikillacta stood out during the middle horizon in 600 A.D. - 1000 A.D. It was the time when the Wari empire reached its greatest expression, expanding to the valley south of Cusco. The Waris established a large administrative, residential and ceremonial center at Pikillacta. The Waris were the first urban planners in history, with a highly developed urbanism.

The Influence of the Incas

During the Inca empire, the Lucre basin was home to the Muyna, Pinaguas and other ethnic groups. In 1200 A.D. the families with power or influence of the Incas were founded. During this period, the Incas expanded into these territories for four centuries until 1438 A.D. The Incas dominated these ethnic groups and had administrative and political control of the site.

Destruction and Construction

The Spanish invasion generated great changes in the Cusco Valley. In the Lucre Valley they transformed the constructions and terrains. They destroyed most of the representations and formed the corregimientos and encomiendas. They had control of the settlers and their territories, and finally some haciendas were established. 

Today Pikillacta

Pikillacta has a high value of constructions to this day. It functioned as an important administrative center of the Wari culture. Nowadays, it is one of the most known and visited tourist attractions in the South Valley. Because the immense constructions cause impact on its visitors from all over the world.

How to Get There

The best known route to reach the archeological park of Pikillacta is the paved road from Cusco - Urcos - Puno - Arequipa.  A distance of 28 km, it is deviated by a rural road to the left margin of the main road at a distance of 500 meters. You will pass the archeological sites of Onocochayoq and Tantaestancia before arriving.

Pikillacta is located northeast of the Lucre Valley at an altitude of 3,250 meters above sea level (10,662 ft). It is near the Huatanay and Vilcanota rivers. Exactly in the district of Lucre, province of Quispicanchi, department of Cusco. 

The best time to visit is between May and October. Because during the day the sky is clear with a radiant sun that illuminates the entire site. And it is not rainy season, allowing you to see the great archaeological monument. But Pikillacta is a wonderful place that you can visit all year round.

  • What is the climate like?

    Pikillacta has a temperate climate. The average annual temperature is 14.1°C during the day up to 23ºC with a radiant sun. On the other hand, at night the temperature drops to 3ºC.  

  • Plants you might see

    The most representative species of plants are: K'antu, Molle, Gigantón, Quisuar among other species typical of the region.

  • Animals that live in the area

    There is a variety of species of birds, mammals, amphibians, typical of the area, as Zambullidor Pimpollo, Wallata or Andean Goose, Leqecho, Fox, Vizcacha, Osqollo or Cat of the pajonales and others.

What You Will See Inside the Archaeological Park

1.The Great Main Square of Pikillacta

It functioned for social activities and possibly served for ceremonies. You will find a large open space that is surrounded by 11 rectangular structures. They are known as kanchas; 8 of them you will see in the east end and four in the east. You can also find:

  • The deposits or rooms of Pikillacta

    For Gordon MacEwan, these constructions fulfill the function of rooms. You will find a residential area with 501 small semicircular structures, called qolqas or rooms. They are distributed in orderly rows, each one has a door and access to the front street. 

  • The Great Wall of Pikillacta

    A great wall surrounds Pikillaqta and measures 1.50 m wide and reaches up to 12 meters high. Because it served as a perimeter fence for the protection and defense of the monument. In general they are well preserved and have different particular features. As niches, overhangs, windows and shelves. These walls facilitate the division of the site into four sectors.

  • The Canchones de Pikillacta

    These are large plots of land with 12 large areas, called “canchones”. It served or functioned as corrals. Although more research is needed. Therefore, their exact function is not certain. They measure between 400 to 600 meters approximately. The constructions are commonly made, they do not have a perfect rectangle, possibly there is more evidence.

  • The Pikillacta Site Museum and a strange animal

    If you want to see a paleontological and archeological collection found in the place. You have to visit it. It presents information from maps, photographs and cultural property, found and recovered at the site. You will discover a prehistoric animal known as the glyptodon and its shell from 300 million years ago. The museum you will find it on the left side at the entrance to the archaeological monument.

2. Archaeological site of Choquepujio

After Pikillacta is one of the most important settlements. You can see two-story structures that are associated with platforms, platforms, water channels and funerary structures. Located on the left bank of the Huatanay River, it has a continuous occupation.  

3. The Portada of Rumiqolqa

Rumiqolqa means “stone steps”. Because you will observe enormous pieces of finely worked stones of pyramidal form. You will find rectangular bases and are associated with water channels, stairways and the Inca road of Qollasuyo. In Inca times, it functioned as a checkpoint at the gateway to the South Valley of Cusco.

4. The Amarupata terraces

Currently the inhabitants of the community keep it in use. It is a group of agricultural terraces, located at the southern end of Lucre. Exactly a few meters from the town, in the lower part of the Qosqoqhahuarina hill.

5. Urpikancha

These are rectangular rooms, associated with high quality terraces, walls and canals. They are located in a rough area, on the eastern side of the Huacarpay Lake.

6. Kuntuqaqa

You will find funerary structures attached to the rock formation. You can locate it on the left bank of the Huatanay River on a rock of the Raqqchi hill. The construction of these structures is based on smaller lithic elements. 

Legend and Important Facts of Pikillacta

The Legend of Sumaq T'ika 

The legend tells that the kuraka Rumichaca had a beautiful daughter called Sumac T'ika. The princess was old enough to marry. Her father took advantage of the situation. He decided that only the one who brought water to pikillacta and put the water channel in the door would marry his daughter. Then there were two suitors Auqui T'ito from the Jaquijahuana or Anta region, in the north.  And the other son of the collao called Atoq Rimachi from the highlands. 

Both began the construction of the canals, Auqui T'ito succeeded while Atoq Rimachi, had failures and did not finish the work. Rumichaca kept his word and arranged the central ceremony. He had a large room prepared for the bride and groom. The honeymoon of the newlyweds. They locked the couple in a room and the fleas devoured them. 

Did You Know That: Currently, Sumaq T'ika Raymi is a cultural festival celebrated by the locals. It is the reenactment of the legend of Sumaq T'ika. Where you can see the ceremony of the “water cult”. A symbolic representation of the Inca period, carried out by the Educational Institution 27 of November and the local municipality. This festival shows the ancient oral tradition. It belongs to the raymi calendar and of the region.

Important Findings

During the archaeological research works in 2018. They found the following objects:

  • 05 Offerings. 
  • 06 Miniature sculptures in copper and silver metal.
  • 109 Miniature sculptures, carved in malacological material.
  • 14 warriors with weapons and 09 unarmed.
  • 08 Pieces of mullu (Spondylus Princeps).
  • 02 Whistles carved in malacological material.
  • Copper and silver plates.
  • A scepter, possibly the insignia of a ruler or member of the Wari elite.

Tips During Your Visit

  • Firstly, leave early, bring your identity documents or passport in case of foreigners.
  • Secondly, wear adequate clothing, comfortable shoes or trekking shoes to make the tour.
  • Wear a hat or cap to avoid sunstroke.
  • Sunglasses and sunscreen.
  • Use the accesses and marked trails during the tour.
  • Once at the site, avoid touching, leaning or climbing on the walls, as this generates deterioration and may cause some type of accident.
  • Do not throw garbage and solid waste, leave it in a container.
  • The conservation of the archaeological heritage depends on each one of us, respect the monuments.

Bibliographic References

  • MacEwan G.,Costura N. Pikillacta y su tipología y arquitectura.
  • MacEwan G.,(1985). Excavaciones en Pikillacta : un sitio Wari.
  • Cuba, Muñiz Irina, Y. (2018). Investigaciones arqueológicas en Pikillaqta: las ofrendas del Horizonte Medio.  DDCC.
  • Oroz I., Vargas M.,(2022) Descripción de la trama urbana de la arquitectura Wari del sector de Pikillacta, Lucre-Cusco, Tomo I.