Archaeological Complex of Toro Muerto
Archaeological Complex of Toro Muerto is part of the Tentative list of Peru in order to qualify for inclusion in the World Heritage List.
Toro Muerto is a site of petroglyphs engraved between 800 and 1500 on more than 2500 rocks of volcanic origin located in a desertic valley. The artists created anthropomorphic, zoomorphic (camelids, dogs, birds, reptiles...) and geometric motifs as well as scenes from everyday life. It is an exceptional ensemble which represents a unique tradition of rock art.
Map of Archaeological Complex of Toro MuertoLoad map
The coordinates shown for all tentative sites were produced as a community effort. They are not official and may change on inscription.
"El Toro" is definitely worth a visit, even if you dislike rock art or carvings. The scenery in the area is quite something and even though it's hot you are rewarded with some unique rock art that is worth finding. There was a family with kids nearby and the children were super excited each time they found a new boulder with art on it. I have to admit that was the same with me. You get two choices for the hike. There is a small circle trip just adjacent to the entrance hut and it will take you maximum of thirty minutes to get around. The custodian made it clear that's for "kids" and the real thing is further up the hill. He said you start seeing some rock art in 20 minutes which is indeed the case. The walk up is a little frustrating as there isn't anything to see for a while and you get the feeling he's lying or inaccurate about the rock art coming up but once you start spotting it there is no end in sight.
Before getting into the rock carvings, this site is a bit way off the beaten track. There is no tourist bus that stops on the way and there is no real town closer enough to stay so your best bet without having your own car is to arrange transportation from Arequipa which is ~2h away mainly because town traffic is slow.
Once you get to see the rock art it is quite stunning. Stunning in a "this should be inscribed" way, and I'm quite shocked it is not yet added to Peru's wealth of sites. Nevertheless I'm so happy to have seen the carvings, even though I have seen plenty of rock carvings around the world and it can be usually very boring, particularly already inscribed sites that I feel were mainly inscribed for a small niche reason or just had nothing better to compare it to.
The rock carvings range from simple lines (although I'm still unclear what the wavy lines could mean, maybe directions?) to simple creatures like a lizard to people, complex animals (condor) and some kind of event pictures (partEY!). It seemed that each time you turn you head there would be a fresh large boulder with exiting new features and you also wonder how you missed that on your way up or from the left, hmm you'll know exactly what I mean when you explore the desert. Speaking of, bring plenty of water as it's a slope up in the heat and when you get back down you'll have a dry throat.
At the end I also made the small circle which has a sort of path to follow although it's not exactly wheelchair friendly and you will still have dusty shoes. It doesn't much to see but you get some shade to rest every once in a while and the few boulders they have seemed to have different carvings than up on the slope.
If you get the chance to see this it will be worth adding a day while in the area, potentially a car rental from Arequipa should do the trick (the last stretch of road is sandy but even my 2WD was fine, a taxi ride up shouldn't cost an arm and a leg though, and hey I never went to tourist shops in Arequipa maybe they actually sell a tour for this?!
Coming from Nazca to Arequipa by car it is worth turning left and visiting some of the most interesting rock drawings I have ever seen. The site is called Toro Muerto (Dead Bull), but this name could be changed to almost any other animal - nothing can survive in this desert except perhaps a camel - but there are no camels in the New World. The petroglyphs are close to the village of Corire and the fertile valley of the Camana River, but in this part of Peru only a few rivers are suitable for life. It is enough to drive a kilometer or two to the side and you can meet there at most sand and rocks.
There is a kind of information center in Corire where you have to buy tickets and get a guide to the petroglyphs. However, we passed this place and got to Toro Muerto without paying anything. The road is quite well marked, there is even a parking lot and a shelter with a suggested path. It is good to more or less stick to this path, because it was led next to the most spectacular petroglyphs. The greatest joy, however, is to bounce off it and look for drawings on your own. And there are hundreds of them, some very large, others noticeable only after climbing the rock. The place is delightful, although I was surprised by the dating of these drawings - they were created between 500 and 1000 AD, at a time when much more advanced things were created in Peru centuries earlier, including wonderful ceramics. Comparable drawings elsewhere in the world (e.g. Hail in Saudi Arabia) were made several thousand years earlier. So this is a rare case when I have no opinion whether this place should be inscribed.
Right next to Toro Muerto there is another curiosity - Jurassic Park Querulpa. At first glance, the place looks like a less-than-successful dummy amusement park for kids - you go up among life-sized plastic dinosaur casts. But perseverance will be rewarded - at the very top there are real dinosaur footprints.
Site visited in November, 2013. Finally it has been added to tentative places. One of the best petroglyph site I have ever seen, can be compared only with Tamgaly in Kazakchstan.
The best place to start exploration of the site is a small town of Corire, some 3 hours by bus from Arequipa (doable as a day trip if you stay in Arequipa). While in Corire you have 2 options to reach the site. One is walk - around 3 km from Corire center (mind that the last part of the road is barren lanscape with no shadow - in hot days it may be difficult. Other option is to take a taxi from central Corire. The taxi will take you there, wait for you and take you back to Corire, prices are negotiable.
On a way from Corire towards Toro Muerto there is a small visitor's centre and ticket booth. If closed someone will come to you while you are visiting the place. As far as I remember official entrance fee was around 5 peruvian soles per person.
Toro Muerto petroglyphs are located in the upper part of La Candelaria village in vast valley. As of 2013 the area was completely unmarked, no paths, no signs, you just go and see on your own. Thousand of stones, rock, the majority of them were with some kind of carvings - typical scenes as in other places - hunting scenes, animals, people, different symbols. But what really matters is the concentration of them. You can spend hours on finding different petroglyphs, each big rock or stone can be covered with them. Reserve at least two hours to explore the area. Have in mind that there are no trees, no shadow there, just barren landscape so take water during sunny day together with sun protective precautions.
2019 Added to Tentative List
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