Tiwanaku

Tiwanaku
Photo by Els Slots.

“Tiwanaku: Spiritual and Political Centre of the Tiwanaku Culture” comprises the ruins of the capital of an important and distinct pre-Hispanic empire in the Andes.

The ancient city was mostly built of adobe, especially the residential buildings that have now faded away. For ceremonial and administrative architecture, lithic material was used. Notable remaining monuments include the Akapana (the major temple, a stepped pyramid), a semi-underground temple (with monolithic stelae and heads (clavas) built in the walls), and the Kalasasaya (an open temple built on a platform; it includes stelae and the Gate of the Sun frieze).

Community Perspective: Tiwanaku is usually visited as a day trip from La Paz. In addition to the architectural ruins, there are also two on-site museums that are worth seeing. Most reviewers find the site overall a bit underwhelming and it does not take much time to visit.

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J_neveryes

Canada - 22-Feb-24 -

Tiwanaku by J_neveryes

Tiwanaku is a site with fascinating elements, but the sum of those elements do not result in a fascinating site. 

The individual elements, such as the Gate of the Sun, the monoliths, and the heads in the semi-subterranean temple (photo) are striking artifacts.  For some visitors, the Gate of the Sun, with a crack in its lintel that adds to its mysterious allure, alone may be worth the price of the admission.  However, other than the few interesting elements still standing (or fallen), the site is monotonous.  

Additionally, the site is heavily reconstructed with non-original materials.  The walls of the Kalasasaya - the platform on which the Gate of the Sun sits - is not original with the exception of the taller stone pillars.  Old drawings and photos of Tiwanaku show the stone pillars standing freely, akin to the ancient stones of Avebury.  It is very likely that there were indeed stone walls between these pillars, but those stones were long ago taken from the site to be used for constructing buildings elsewhere, e.g., the church in the nearby village.

The Akapana "pyramid" is also mostly a reconstruction.  Indeed, Akapana was never quite completed in antiquity and looked more like a natural hill until recently (A Spanish chronicler said of Tiwanaku, "They build their monuments as if their intent was never to finish them.")

There are two museums at Tiwanaku.  One of the museums contain artifacts such as the artificially elongated skulls of the Tiwanku upper-class.  The other museum contains the 7 metre-tall Pachamama Monolith, which was originally set inside the semi-subterranean temple. 

In summary, Tiwanaku is a site that is undoubtedly worthy of its UNESCO World Heritage designation.  For the average traveller, however, it is likely a site that is worthy of a trip if you are already visiting the region, rather than a site to plan your trip around.


Timonator

Germany - 23-Jul-23 -

Tiwanaku by Timonator

I find it hard to review the sites independant from the bad travel experience I had. Therefore first of all the circumstances and second of all the experience on site.  
 
I tried to visit Tiwuanaku twice (!) from La Paz by public transport. The first time failed unfortunately. After a nice walk over La Paz cemetery I reached the closeby spot where trufis go to Tiwuanaku when full. It was the Friday before the La Paz Anniversary at about 9 a.m. Some other tourists and locals waited there slready half an hour. The office was closed. After nothing happened for another 30 minutes we decieded to go up to El Alto Terminal Interprovincial. Big mistake not to take the efficient téleferico but a taxi. The taxi driver kicked us out as soon as reaching El Alto as he didn't knew the way to the terminal. The Uber driver afterwards got stuck in the huge markets and some parades in El Alto. Finally we took the téleferico and reached the terminal at about noon. We decided that it's too late to visit the one hour distanced Tiwuanaku now.  
 
One week later we returned to the cementary Trufi office at 08:30 a.m. and it took until 10 a.m. until the trufi was full. Not to mention that I was annoyed by the fact that they explained that the week before there was a reunion that's why they didn't operate but normally they go every day. Without apologizing of course. Then we had the painful 30 minute drive to El Alto where the trufi queued with other cars to get petrol. That's when I was fed up with the company and walked to the Terminal Interprovincial from where I took another Trufi to Tiwuanaku. I reached the site around 12:15 p.m. (it's only a 1 hour drive from El Alto) and joined a Santa Cruz Family with a Spanish speaking guide after confirming that English guides weren't available at this moment and would cost 200 BOB and like this I could share a 150 BOB guided tour with the three headed family. Not to mention the 100 BOB entrance to all related sites that are only once visible with the entrance paid. Bolivians pay 15 BOB. I personally hate these price differences based on nationality even though there are arguments in favor of it. The Spanish speaking guide confirmed she would happily answer questions and make sure I would understand everything by using easy words. I did indeed understand her well but when using topic related vocabulary I was out. Unfortunately it was hard for me to ask questions as she usually ran away and delivered her program on the site as well as responding a bit annoyed when asking something she already explained before and I didn't understand. Also she rather repeated her point than explaining it in other words. Maybe it was because we were in kind of a rush as the family already had booked the trufi back. Finally the walk took us more than 3,5 hours with here and it covered almost all places of the site. Concluding from my experiences I would recommand to take an agency to do the trip from La Paz that includes transport and an English speaking guide or use the trufis from the terminal Interprovincial in El Alto and always go there by teleferico and never by car from La Paz! 
 
I couldn't enjoy the visit as much as under conditions with less of a hassle. Nevertheless I try to share an opinion on the Tiwuanaku site as such. It consists of a main excarvation area with the remains and reconstructions of three different temples. Some original material is used but also replacements and it's in the end ruins. However some pieces are rather fascinating like three monoliths with carvings of a person and many details same as the sungate for the solstices. There is a unique walkway along the area with some signs with little details in English and Spanish. Bring sunscreen and a hat. You can store your bag for the visit at the entrance. Additionally there are two museums closeby that should be merged in the future into one bigger museum. Basically no new excarvations are made because of lack of space in the museums. One museum displays the biggest found monolith with again  many details and nicely displayed in the litoral museo. Also there is a room on Lama related findings in the site. The ceramic museum displays mainly this with some good objects that have survived many centuries in a good condition. There are general infos in Spanish and not many details on when the objects were used. Only technical infos on when and where they were found. Finally there is the site Puma Punka on the other side of the road towards the highway which is a ten minute walk away. This excarvation side appears even more technical and displays single stones lying next to each other that originate from the Tiwuanaku culture. The most interesting one I found was the "H" - stone which was carved in order to put multiple of these together for constructing something.  
 
Finally I tried to see another WHS that day by walking to the UNESCO coordinate of the Qhapaq Ñan position next to the town center. That can not be recommanded as it´s on the grassland of a local family and there is nothing to see. This location is covering a huge area where not necessarily something is visible. The church at the plaza was made by the Spanidards from the Tiwuanaku remains and is therefore interesting to get a look on. 
 
Getting back to La Paz at about 5 p.m. when the sites are closing was easy as trufi drivers drive around town to find there clients. They start 1 quadra south of the plaza. 
 
As mentioned I find it hard to value the site independant from the struggles I had. It feels less touchable and fascinating as other archeological sites like Rapa Nui however it´s still interesting to visit the remains of this culture in this unique Altiplano landscape close to Lake Titicaca. 

Read more from Timonator here.


Christravelblog

Netherlands - 26-Dec-22 -

Tiwanaku by Christravelblog

Tiwanaku is an easy day trip from La Paz. It takes approximate 2 hours by car from La Paz to Tiwanaku. I highly recommend to either hire a car yourself drive or take other private transport. A car with driver should not cost more as 80 USD for the day. Personally, I prefer to go private as I have more flexibility to stop at places where I want to make a photo or just look around. It takes approximate 2-3 hours to explore the archeological remains of Tiwanaku, an hour for the two museums and another hour for the nearby Pumapunku excavations. I left my hotel in La Paz at 9:30AM and was back well before dinner time, which is late in Bolivia.

The Tiwanaku ticket gives access to two separate entrances; the largest site is Tiwanaku and the smaller is Pumapunku just a kilometer away. The museums are located at the Tiwanaku site which I advise to visit first to learn about the Tiwanaku Empire. There are some interesting statues, steles, pottery, and other artifacts on display. The Bolivian government is expanding the museums collecting more artifacts from the empire in one place which is a good thing to see them together.

I enjoyed the sites, but I must admit that you can walk through it quite fast. Akapana pyramid was good. It gives from the top a good overview of the site as well. At various places there are foundation stones with pretty nice carvings but the best is at the sun gate which is richly decorated.

If you have the time, do make a stop at the nearby site of Pumapunku as well.

[images uploaded for use on worldheritagesite.org by Els only]

Read more from Christravelblog here.


Nan

Germany - 28-Feb-18 -

Tiwanaku by Nan

On what used to be close to the Southern shore of Lake Titicaca, you will find the ruins of Tiwanaku. Billed by some Bolivians as Bolivian Tikal, you will find a small pre colombian and pre inka archeological site whose history reaches back to 1500 BCE.

For a long time the area was very fertile. But climate change and deforestation severely hit. Nowadays, the shores of Lake Titicaca are a distant 10km away and the area is covered by strubs and bushes.

The site shows some nice stone works. The original pyramid is gone and hard to imagine based on the ruins that remain. As is often the case with pre columbian ruins the Spanish removed stones  and used them for buildings in the nearby village, specifically the Spanish colonial church.

On site several museums display excavation finds. The big stela is quite impressive. In the end, this is a fairly simple site and not much to dial home about.

Getting There

From La Paz you can do this on your own via colectivo. I can't confirm all the details of the how to, but I can confirm that there were colectivos waiting in Tiwanaku to take you back to La Paz.

Due to being a bit time stressed and the organized tours being fairly cheap (below 20 USD) I opted for an organized tour. As is often the case most agencies seem to be selling the same tour. I booked via Diana Tours due to their speedy service. They were also just around the corner from my hotel.

You can also do this while transferring from Puno to La Paz. I saw several tourist agencies in Puno offering the trip. However, you should always visit Isla del Sol and that to me seems like the better stopvover on a transfer ride.

Notes

The site (or parts thereof) is part of the Qhapaq Nan nomination. I did not spot any concrete remains of the trails though.


Els Slots

The Netherlands - 05-May-11 -

Tiwanaku by Els Slots

Tiwanaku lies 72km to the west of La Paz. It's a very fine trip to get out there: you'll pass the buzzing suburb of El Alto and the quintessential Altiplano landscape with lama's, indigenous Aymara women in traditional dress, and mountain vistas.

The Tiwanaku site consists of 2 museums and an archeological site. The entrance fee for foreigners is 80 bolivianos (8 EUR), which gives you access to both museums and the site. The ceramics museum has a lot of pottery made by the Tiwanaku, as well as by their predecessors and the Inca. The "Lithic Museum" still only holds one piece - the Pachamama or Bennett Stele. It's a grand piece of work, a 7 meters high monolith, transported here from the center of La Paz where it had stood for years. It did not look as if other prominent findings were soon to join it in the "museum". Further development of both the museum and the archaeological site seems to have come to a stop. Our guide told us that there is a conflict between the local indigenous people and the Ministry of Culture on how to proceed.

The archeological site is spread out over a vast area, without many obvious highlights. The "pyramid" is just like a small hill. They hope to have it restored completely in 5 years, but that doesn't seem likely to me.

Having visited so many archeological sites in Peru, for me it was interesting to see the links between the Tiwanaku and the (earlier) Chavin and the (later) Inca. For example at the Semi Underground Temple, my favourite spot of the complex. Here the walls are still (or again?) dotted with 175 stone heads, just like it once was in Chavin. At Chavin, there is only one left in situ.

In all, a site not to go out of your way for, but a nice enough addition if you'd like to see the whole spectrum of Andean pre-Hispanic civilizations.


Joyce van Soest

The Netherlands - 05-Jul-08 -

Tiwanaku by Joyce

Tiwanaku (Tiahuanaco) is a complex of buildings, temples and a pyramid from pre-Inca times and is therefore Bolivia's most important archeological site.

The site consists of two museums and the archeological grounds with the buildings. One museum hosts mostly ceramic artifacts and the other one only hosted one sculpture by the time I visited it (June 2008). More artifacts and sculptures will be brought from the archeological site to the museums in the near future for preservation.

The archeological site has a piramide that covers more square meters than the one from Geops in Egypt, but is less tall. Total excavation is to be done in about 7 years. Interesting are the way the bricks are placed on the buildings (just like the Inca's used to do it later on), the ear-shaped loudspeaker, the interesting and very detailed carving on the sculptures and the faces on the wall of the Semi-subterranean Temple.


Site Info

Full Name
Tiwanaku: Spiritual and Political Centre of the Tiwanaku Culture
Unesco ID
567
Country
Bolivia
Inscribed
2000
Type
Cultural
Criteria
3 4
Categories
Archaeological site - Pre-Columbian
Link
By ID

Site History

2000 Inscribed

1998 Deferred

Bureau - for more info re protection/management (of undoubted siginifance however)

1991 Referred

Bureau - better boundaries. Help to be given to Bolivia

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The site has 1 locations

Tiwanaku

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Alberto Rodriguez Gutierrez Allison Vies Ammon Watkins Amohanty Ana Andres Gomez Casanova Argo Ari Kailash Artur Anuszewski Atila Ege Bamse Basementonline Bborders Bob Parda Bob pateman Boroka Szamosi Bram de Bruin Buzz CHJLondon Carlos Caminando Carlos Sotelo Christoph Christravelblog Czesioszpachelka Daniela Hohmann Dave wood David Pastor de la Orden Dennis Nicklaus Dibro Dirk-pieter Donald M Parrish Jr Els Slots Erik Jelinek FGKJR1492X Fan Yibo Fernweh Fmannucci Francky D'Hoop Garyrjtaylor Gianmarco Gilles Hanming Harald T. Headventure Iain Jackson Izzet Ege J_neveryes Jacob Otten Janis Janklak Jarek Pokrzywnicki Jason and Corrinna Jens Joel on the Road Joyce van Soest João Aender JudyWalsh KB1 Keqi Kjdavis Kurt Lauer Leontine Helleman Lidiane Lindsay Hasluck Londonium Luis Filipe Gaspar Lukasz Palczewski M.HATADA MMM Malgorzata Kopczynska Marcel staron Maria Marta Lempert Marvin B. Michael Ayers Michael Novins Michael anak Kenyalang Michal Kozok Michal Marciniak Michiel Dekker Milan Jirasek Monica Tasciotti Morodhi Nan Nanvano Nihal Ege Nomad99 Pablo Tierno PabloNorte Pascal Cauliez Patrik Patty Verhoeven Paul Schofield Philipp Leu Pink Bunny Rach Rob Randi Thomsen Reza Richard Stone Rickard Alfredsson Roman Bruehwiler Ryan09sb SHIHE HUANG Sachin Sclowitz Sergio Arjona Shandos Cleaver Sibariam Solivagant Squiffy Stanislaw Warwas Sutul Svein Elias Tasmith87 Tevity Thibault Magnien TimAllen Timonator Timothy C Easton Tino A Offner Torkjell Djupedal Tourhistrio Virp VisionMX123 Walter Weecheng Wolfgang Sander Wouter Xiquinho Silva Yorch ZX You Zoë Sheng