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Added: June 12, 2010

Tags: Bolivia RTW SouthAmerica mountains photos ruins
Also known as Tiahuanaco was a target of our first one day trip from La Paz, where we were acclimatizing for high altitude. We've done it on 2nd of February.

It is archaeological site near Lake Titicaca. It was built in pre-Inca times and existed for much longer time than later Inca empire. That also means it is less preserved, more crude and it is hard to compare with Inca sites. We had an advantage, it was our first archaeological site in South America and we liked it in the end. But it does not stand out much, it is easy to miss from distance.

To Tiwanaku

This trip was booked at Kanoo Tours when we went there to collect our bus tickets and voucher for Uyuni trip. It was $10 and can be booked also online on their website, but is not necessary, because there are plenty of other operators providing the same trip.

While you can speak English in all tour agencies in La Paz, none of those we have seen command English so well like Kanoo Tours. We used their service for more trips to our full satisfaction. We also bought our tickets to Copacabana there. Very good service.

Nice thing about tours done from La Paz is they provide hotel/hostel pickup. Downside is you might spend next 30-60min by driving around La Paz while picking up other people. And it is not city tour, but boring traffic jam experience.

Similar traffic jam happened also in El Alto we needed to pass through. Compared to La Paz, you even don't need clean windows, it is so boring.

Finally we got to country side. Roads are not very bad here, they get worse only sometimes. It was cloudy and we could not see any mountains along the road. Pity, we knew they are amazing during fair weather.


One of the reasons why this place is less impressive is older techniques used to build it, but I think the most important reason is that stone from the site was used on buildings in nearby village. It is still really impressive when you realize builders did not have horses or oxen. Llamas are not suitable for hauling a cargo, they work only up to about 25kg (different people told us different numbers, I assume it was based on llamas they have at home :-) )

The first thing was to visit local museum, that was still under construction. The idea is to move all artefacts here when it is done, but I hate that idea. Reasons follow:

  • Big sculptures look better when surrounded by walls, steps, mountains and blue sky.
  • It is not allowed to take photos inside the museum.
  • It is dark inside, colours of artefacts cannot stand out.
  • It is artificial there.
But I understand it can help to preserve relocated artefacts. And I don't plan to return, so I should not care :-). The biggest sculpture is already inside, it is 8 metres tall and it looks pretty interesting. Nobody knows what it meant in its era, but when they excavated it they gave it name Pachamama (Mother World). Before moving here it "served" its time in La Paz square and also next to futball stadium! I hope I don't need to explain again why there is no photo of it here.


The most interesting part of the station label is: ELEVACIÓN 3.870m.

This photo is from other side, so to be fair, it should not be shown at the beginning. But my point is, I missed the opportunity to take photo as we approached it, because it was just "invisible". It did not occur to me I should.

We were really lucky. When we arrived to Tiwanaku the sun peeked out and stayed on blue sky. That brought another problem, though. I was lazy to apply sunscreen in the morning, it looked like it was going to rain so why to bother? So I got sunburned. It is easy in thin air.

We visited this place out of season for reconstruction. Advantage was we could take photos of main pyramid. It is forbidden during excavations because local workers don't like it. BTW, nobody knows how the place looked before, so they just build what they think this place could look like. It might not be correct, but it's better than pile of dirt.



That church was built from reused stone. I wanted to write stolen, but inhabitants were not around any more, so it was probably not a theft.



Our guide was very good. He explained everything in English and Spanish, switching every 2 or 3 sentences. It was interesting to listen even for those with limited Spanish vocabulary. Thanks to this switching we had no problem to understand also Spanish part :-)

We got to the most interesting part with sculptures and gates and finally I started to like this place. It was not wasted money after all.

Notice the figure on the left. It was partially buried in ground when they found it and it is still visible.
Figure at Tiwanaku      Figure at Tiwanaku


Our guide shows us where metal clamps were used for holding structure together.
DSC_6828_raw      DSC_6898_raw


This is famous Gateway of Sun. Again, it is made up name. The guide explained us how it was used for calendar, it contains exact number of features to match a year, some of them (holes) are on the other side, but he did not convince me. If you want to make up some number, you always can do that, just include or exclude something unrelated and you will get there :-)
Gateway of Sun at Tiwanaku



We left Tiwanaku site and went to nearby restaurant. Meal price was not included in tour, it cost 32 BOB (3GBP) and consisted from quinoa soup with cheese, llama fillet with rice, cake. Plus Sprite. Very tasty, I liked it a lot.

Zuzka started to chat about travel experiences with people sitting around. 2 German ladies told us they were on trail to Machu Picchu when landslide happened and they had to return. They showed us the photos of flood - terrible. French couple was at that time in Ollantaytambo when train service was interrupted. We could not go there too, but it must have been really disappointing to be so close unable to get there. Still better than being evacuated, though.

Puma Punku

After lunch we continued at nearby site Puma Punku. It is only a few hundred metres from Tiwanaku site. It is different, no pyramid, no statues. Just many "lego" blocks of strange shapes with cavities. I think the guide was aware it is less interesting to many, because he started talking about Däniken, hypotheses of extraterrestrials building this place and about people believing some of these blocks were meant to be used for Egyptian pyramids. Well, he needed to keep our attention...




Finally a view of Andes!

On our way back we finally could see mountains! I took some photos , but it was done through a window, I was sitting at the incorrect side of the bus and the bus did not stop, so I cannot show satisfying photos. Terrible photo better than none is my motto, obviously ;-)