Chankillo Archaeoastronomical Complex

Chankillo Archaeoastronomical Complex
Photo by Frédéric M.

The Chankillo Archaeoastronomical Complex is an archaeological site from 250-200 BCE with ritual and astronomical functions.

The most outstanding construction is a series of 13 stone towers built on the crest of a hill, allowing the date to be known on any given day and to follow the movements of the sun throughout its annual cycle. Its innovative nature and precision testify to the culmination of a long historical evolution of astronomical practice in this region.

Community Perspective: going at sunset or sunrise will mean that you can see the calendrical instrument yourself (if it isn’t cloudy). Best visited from the town of Casma; it might be hard to find on your own and a guided tour will add the needed background info.

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Germany - 14-Oct-23 -

Chankillo Archaeoastronomical Complex by Timonator

The Chankillo astroarcheological complex was a nice trip in the morning with a guide for me in order to see the sun rise between two of the thirteen towers. It's only a WHS since two years and it also feels like it's not that popular yet. Especially compared to other Peru WHS (like Machu Picchu :P). According to the guide there was actually big tourism going on until the pandemic and since then even despite the inscription tourism levels are low. We were for the sunrise for which one specific spots exists actually the only tourists in the whole site. Before we walked up to the towers and had a closer look at them even though there is nothing special to see except stone buildings. For walking up there I highly recommand hiking boots. On the way back down I saw my ankles breaking in my sneakers in front of my inner eye. The hill is a mixture of loose stones and a sand dune. In the parts with loose stones walking downhill was really tricky.  
We requested Aleko tours as all others in these reviews did so far, but it failed. We wrote with them and they only had time with a week anticipation. When we visited the office some old ladys said that the owner is out of office for another 2 weeks. But Aleko recommanded us Herbert with whom we did the tour. He was reliable, kind and had some local knowledge. Much more than we had expected after two month in Peru. He drove us with his car after meeting in Casma at 04:30 a.m. to the Chankillo site so we were there for the sunrise in time. On October 14th it was at 05:50 a.m. and the sun rose over the towers at 06:30 a.m.. Unfortunately it was a bit blocked by clouds still I found it really nice watching it happen. Otherwise there's not much more to do here. There is a carob forest close by. Also you can see the fortress from the morning point of observation however there is no way connecting the two. Some North American had died trying it in 2022 and since then it's closed. However there are only some farmers taking care of the site so you can pretty much do what you want. There is also no entrance fee. You can also do the tour with your own car. At the entrance to the valley street there is a guard house where you have to greet the guard. Afterwards there is a sign where you have to turn right to Chankillo after many avocado and mango fields on both sides. It's a bumpy but not too bad road. Then it's a short drive to the site. The entrance to the fortress is from the complete other side from the Pana0mericana so a detour of maybe 30 km via Casma. Without checking the map I don't understand what the north eastern point of the inscription is. It's on top of a 1400 meter mountain that you can see from the Chankillo site. However there are only ruins from another culture at the bottom of this mountain. Additionally there is another tour operator in Casma called Victor with an "office" in a shop at the Plaza de Armas. Herbert only charged us 130 /S for the tour from 04:30 a.m. to 08:00 a.m. as he had another group then. He wanted to show us more sites of the area but we rejected. Here is his Whats App number: +51 943 561 370 
All in all I had a good experience in Chankillo and prefered it over Caral which I had visited before. However despite the sunrise behind the stone towers that are itself not spectacular there's nothing to see in this desert near the fertile river valley. So it's not a good site but not a bad site neither and lies conveniently between Barranca (Caral) and Huaraz (PN Huascaran and Chavin). 

Read more from Timonator here.

Frédéric M

Canada - 18-May-22 -

Chankillo Archaeoastronomical Complex by Frédéric M

I visited Chankillo in February 2020. Although my visit was very similar to Lauren's, I believe this site deserves more than a single review. Like Lauren, I visited the site at sunrise, with the help of Aleka Tours.

Before 6am, they picked me up from my hotel in central Casma in a gleaming blue dune buggy perfect for driving through the desert of the Peruvian coast. I was guided by a Spanish-speaking archaeologist and an English-speaking guide. Although the presence of the two women made the tour more interactive and complete, my level of Spanish and the archaeologist's level of English would have allowed me to understand 95% of the tour. Please take note that the road leading to the site (AN-1306 / El Castillo on Google Maps) was closed by a chain and guarded by a man at the time of our visit (and this, despite the early hour!). My memory is hazy, but I think the guide was asked to pay a fee.

We started the tour at the ruins between the 13 towers and the concentric wall structure. A platform indicates where to stand to watch the sun rise and determine the time of year. The sky was clear during my visit and I could see the sun appearing between the towers. It is impressive to think that this site was built so long ago and that these people already had a fine mastery of astronomy. We then headed towards some stone walls, ruins of buildings at the foot of the ridge on which the towers are located, before climbing the ridge itself. Some of the towers (especially those at the ends) have been restored. The middle ones are essentially stone stacks without the square shape of the others. It is not allowed to climb any of the towers and sand bags blocked the way to restored ones on my visit. The ridge offers the best view of the ruined dwellings to the south-east of the ridge, as well as of the concentric buildings on the mountain to the north-west. Both these areas are still inaccessible.

In the end, this visit is short and this site is not the most impressive, but it is still very interesting! I was able to see some burrowing owls as I left the site. Also, Casma is an easy stop between the hotspots of Trujillo and Huaraz. Buses serve Trujillo (mostly Lima-Trujillo buses), while collectivos go up to Huarez when they are full. Hopping on a tuk-tuk will also take you to the archaeological site of Sechin Bajo, reputed to be one of the oldest on the continent, and home to some fascinating engravings. On a final note, like Lauren, I can also highly recommend the services of Aleka Tours for your visit to Chankillo.


USA - 19-Nov-19 -

I made it a goal to visit all of the UNESCO sites in Peru and as many of the tentative sites as I could during a five-week trip in 2014.  Of all of the sites, Chankillo was by far the most challenging to visit because of the lack of infrastructure and information online.  When I saw that it's being put forward for a nomination in the near future, I figured it was time for a review.

Chankillo is an astronomical complex in western Peru, about half way between Trujillo and Lima.  It's claimed to be the oldest astronomical site in the Western hemisphere, at over 2000 years old.  There are some ruins of various buildings, but the highlight are 13 notched towers (with twelve spaces in between) that were used to measure the place where the sun rises and sets on the horizon to determine the approximate date of the year.  I highly recommend going at sunset or sunrise so you can see the phenomenon yourself.  (Although I went at dawn, it was a cloudy day, so I didn't actually get to see it myself.)

The site was not well marked, and so I went by a tour, which I'd highly recommend.  I'm not sure I could have even found the exact site in the desert with a rental car, and there was no signage or explanations available at the time.  Moreover, the tour was with a local company and with a local archeologist (details in the logistics section below), so I felt good about supporting the local economy.

Logistics:  The site is just outside the town of Casma.  Casma is on the main bus lines on the west coast from Lima to Trujillo, so getting there by one of the big bus companies that caters to tourists should not be difficult.

I organized a tour of the site through a local company in Casma that I found through TripAdvisor, Akela Tours.  They arranged an archeologist to give a tour in Spanish.  (They also offered a translator, but I speak enough Spanish to get by.)  The tour was at sunrise so you could see the sun rising over the site.  The company was very helpful overall and I would highly recommend!

Because I was trying to pack in a whole lot in a short period, I actually arranged form Akela tours to pick me up from the Lima airport, stop in Caral Supe on the way (only about an hour detour off the highway), leave me in Casma to overnight, and then take the sunrise tour of Chankillo the next morning.  After the tour of Chankillo, I hopped in a collectivo to go over the mountains to Huaraz, where I visited Huascaran National Park. The alternates would have been (1) to do a daytrip to Caral Supe from Lima and then head to Casma on an overnight bus or (2) to take two days to get to Caral Supe and then Casma by public transport.

Site Info

Full Name
Chankillo Archaeoastronomical Complex
Unesco ID
1 4
Archaeological site - Pre-Columbian

Site History

2021 Name change

From "Chankillo Solar Observatory and ceremonial center" to “Chankillo Archaeoastronomical Complex” upon inscription (on the advice of ICOMOS).

2021 Inscribed


The site has 2 locations

Chankillo Archaeoastronomical Complex: Chankillo
Chankillo Archaeoastronomical Complex: Cerro Mucho Malo


The site has

Human Activity
Individual People
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World Heritage Process