Tiwanaku or Tiahuanaco or Tiahuanacu are the ruins of a capital complex built by Tiwanaku Empire at 300 AD in Tiwanaku Town, Ingavi Province, La Paz Department, Bolivia, although archaeological records suggest the area has been a small agricultural village in 1500 BC and a spiritual center for society since 300 BC.

The ancient community of Tiwanaku is believed to have spoken the language of Puquina, but the name where Tiwanaku is known to the inhabitants may have been lost because they have no written language. The surrounding area is the cosmological center for the Tiwanaku empire and many people make pilgrimages.

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The site has been plundered since the fall of the Tiwanaku Empire and the ensuing destruction during the Spanish colonial. Other damage by people who mine rocks for the construction of buildings and trains. No building survives on the site, other than the foundations left with the broken wall.

The treasures of Tiwanaku have spread all over the world. Gold was looted by Spain and some works extended in European museums. Fortunately, some of the larger anthropomorphic stone statues have been left on sites and museums nearby have a decent collection of pottery and other objects. Other treasures are on display at the Museo Nacional de Arqueología in La Paz.

The Bolivian government in the 1960s began an effort to restore the site and reconstruct each section. Kalasasaya wall is almost completely reconstructed, the original stones that form have stood upright. Qualified academic excavations began in 1978 to the 1990s by anthropologists at the University of Chicago.


The Tiwanaku ruins complex consists of many structures that have been unearthed by researchers including Akapana, Akapana East, Pumapunku stepped platforms, Kalasasaya, Kheri Kala, Putuni enclosures, and Semi-Subterranean Temple.

Akapana is a cross-shaped pyramid structure for 257 meters long, 197 meters wide and 16.5 meters tall. Mound of man-made soil with a mixture of blocks of large and small rocks. The largest stone block is andesite weighing 65.70 metric tons. The structure may be related to shamanic activity.

Akapana East is built on the east side which is considered the boundary between the ceremonial center and the urban area. The structure of the sand and clay floor is thick and prepared to support a group of buildings. The yellow and red clay used in different areas may be for aesthetic purposes.

Pumapunku is a platform built on the east-west axis. A rectangular clay mound facing the megalithic block. The building has a length of 167.66 meters along the north-south axis, 116.7 meters width and 5 meters high. Prominent features of Pumapunku are two large rocks weighing 131 metric tons and 85 metric tons.

Kalasasaya is a large 300-foot long page leading to a high gateway. The city lies to the north of Akapana and west of Semi-Subterranean Temple. Inside the yard is the Gateway of the Sun. A hollow yard is covered with a head sculpture of various styles which indicates that the structure was used for different purposes over time.

The Tiwanaku elites live in four walls surrounded by ditches that are theorized as islands. Inside the walls are many pictures aimed at humans and can only be seen by the elite. An ordinary person may have entered this structure only for ceremonial purposes because the structure is the most sacred place of holiness.

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Location: Tiwanaku Town, Ingavi Province, La Paz Department, Bolivia.

Routes and public transport: Flights to El Alto International Airport in La Paz City, then take a bus or taxi to Tiwanaku Town for 69 kilometers in 1 hour. Many agencies in La Paz offer affordable and guided Tiwanaku tours including transportation. This tour is well worth it for the convenience.

Advice: Although not Machu Picchu, a visit to Tiwanaku makes a pleasant trip from La Paz. Tiwanaku town has a number of hotels, restaurants, small squares with statues inspired by Tiwanaku.