Chavín de Huántar is a town and archaeological site from the pre-Incan Chavin culture of around 900 BC containing ruins and other artefacts. The site in the Central Andes of Peru is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site.
- See also: Indigenous cultures of South America
Chavín de Huántar is a town of around 9,000 inhabitants, most of which are bilingual in Spanish and Quechua. It's the capital of a district with the same name and is perched high up in the Andes at an altitude of 3,137 m above sea level.
Once it was an important center of Chavín ceremonies and a pilgrimage destination, which had an cultural influence on much of Peru from the coast to the highlands from the 15th to the 3rd century BCE. Today the site attracts visitors who want to learn more about this ancient culture from a historical point of view but also visitors interested in the spiritual and mystic site of the place even in the present day, as well as the entheogenic plants of the region (also used in the ancient ceremonies).
Moreover, there's a great deal of beautiful nature in the surroundings. Part of the district is in the Huascarán National Park and there are several day or multi-day treks to see snow-capped mountains, waterfalls and streams.
- 1 Tourist office, Jirón San Martín (half a block north of the northeast corner of the Plaza de Armas). On the first floor of the Centro Cívico municipal building, staffed during office hours. They can provide information about attractions and events in town and the region.
Chavín is in the tropics, but also at a high altitude so temperatures aren't particularly high for this latitude. Daytime highs are generally below +20°C, and at night temperatures are a few degrees below +10°C. As with tropical locations, the temperatures don't change much throughout the year but the amount of rain does. The dry season, also known "Andean summer", ranges from April to November, whereas the rainy season covers December to March - though months just before and after the rainy season aren't entirely dry. During the rainy season it may rain up to 1000 mm.
From Huaraz the distance is 104 km (65 mi), and the ride along a paved road takes at least two hours. The trip goes south to Cátac, then eastwards at which point the road starts ascending. It then enters the Huascarán National Park and goes through the Kahuish tunnel to enter the district of Chavín de Huántar. Several bus companies located on Mariscal Caceres avenue offer regular departures throughout the day to Chavin (S/12, May 2014). Buses to destinations further afield also stop at Chavin around midnight, but then you'll need to have accommodation sorted out ahead.
You might also be able to find shared taxis and combis from Huaraz. From San Marcos, a town 14 km (8.7 mi) away, you can get in by taxi colectivo or combi. The former is a private vehicle, commonly a station wagon, and the latter is a small van with seats. Combis are part of a private association operating routes approved by the Peruvian Ministry of Transport.
There are hikes of two days and longer from other villages, going through the beautiful Huascarán National Park. Alternatively you can hike along the Inka naani, a well preserved part of the world heritage listed Qhapaq Ñan network of Inca trails. The most famous trail is the Olleros-Chavín trail beginning in the village of Olleros near Huaraz. It has a distance of 38 km, and includes the mountain pass of Yanashallash at 4,700 m (15,400 ft) above sea level. Do hire a guide from one of the many tour agencies.
You can also get to Chavín by tour from Huaraz, all the agencies offer a package transportation + Guide for S/35-40 (as of May 2014).
Attractions within the town are within walking distance, the same goes for most of the sites outside town (see the See section for individual advice).
- 1 Centro ceremonial Chavín de Huántar (Chavín de Huántar archaeological site). Open Tuesday-Sunday 09:00-16:00. The remains of the administrative and religious center of the Chavín culture is the main attraction of the town and inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List already in 1985. It sits at the confluence of the Huachecsa and Mosna rivers at the southern edge of modern Chavín de Huántar. Notable features are the squares; a large one, a rectangular and a circular one, as well as two kilometers of underground tunnels. Another highlight is the old temple (Templo Viejo) with the Gran Huaca, also known as the Lanzón Monolítico, a carved pillar which is a representation of a Chavín deity and still in its original place. Entrance fee S/10, students S/5.
- 2 Museo nacional de Chavín (Chavín national museum), ☏ . The national Chavín museum was opened in 2008 and displays artifacts from the Chavín culture. Exhibits include the Tello obelisk, carved conch trumpets (pututos) and carved stone statues and heads.
- 3 Muro megalítico (Megalithic wall) (corner of Bolívar and Túpac Amaru). A wall with carvings, created around 800 BCE. At the beginning of the Túpac Amaru there's a stone carved into the shape of a snake's head. Archaeologists are not sure whether this is the northern wall of the ceremonial complex or the southern wall of another (now obliterated) place of worship. free.
- 4 Mirador de Shallapa (Shallapa viewpoint) (take Jíron Túpac Amaru out of the town (westwards) and at the left you'll soon see the trailhead). The trail to the Shallapa viewpoint is a bridle path, continuing to the Pójoc archaeological site and the town of Putcor. The hike will take 30-60 minutes uphill and from the viewpoint you can see the town and the Chavín site. Below it there's a small cave named Chico Patac. free.
- 5 Plaza de Armas. The central square is lined by the cathedral, town hall, shops, cafés and other businesses. It has a fountain in the middle, benches and colorful flowers and trees.
- 6 Baños termales de Quercos (Quercos thermal baths) (in the hamlet of Quercos, some 2 km south of the archaeological monument). 08:00-17:00. Sulfurous waters emerging from a rock formation. Pay at the ticket office, then descend a staircase towards the river.
- 7 Sitio arqueológico de Pójoc (Pójoc archaeological site) (go to Mirador de Shallapa per above, continue for about one hour on the same trail, gaining 700 m in altitude). The other archaeological site in the region, also serving as a ritual site, and with views to Mount Huantsán and the main Chavín site. Stone sculptures of the Chavín culture were found here during excavations led by archaeologist Richard L. Burger.
- 8 Casa de Mama Rayhuana (Mama Rayhuana house) (hike for about half an hour towards Nunupata, you'll see the house across the Huachecza river). Perched on a mountainside, this ruined building is rather inaccessible but you can see it from the road to Nunupata. According to legend it was the residence of Mama Rayhuana, the "original mother", who created the flora and fauna of the valleys.
- 9 Cueva de Yurac Machay (Yurac Machay cave) (take a taxi to San Pedro de Pichiu, from there hike along a mule track). Yurac Machay means "white cave" and named so as it's in white volcanic tuff. In Yurac Macay there's a monolith similar to the one in the temple in Chavín. There's another cave nearby, the Cachi Machay.
- Edgar Zambrano (Peru Llama Trek), teroceanica 719 Huaraz In, ☏ . Peru Llama Trek is a Adventure Tour Operator especially for Olleros Chavin Trek being based with its main office in the Pre-Inka trail Olleros Chavin in Canrey Chico (place where Inka Trail starts to Chavin). 300.
The region has long traditions of making carved stone art, and many shops in town where you can buy such artworks by local artisans.
- 1 Tejidos Yachaq, route AN-110 (20 m from the bridge across Mosna river), ☏ . Sells works by artesans, Mrs Gudelia Obregón Minaya and Mr Martín Loarte Valenzuela. You can find weaving works, and carvings in different stones, horns and other materials.
- 2 Artesanía Rumi Tzaka, Jirón 17 de enero Sur 530 (near the archaeological site, north of the Huachecza river bridge), ☏ . 9:00-16:00. One of the biggest artisanry shops, with textiles and stone sculptures for sale.
Eat and Drink
- 1 Restaurant turístico Las Delicias, Avenida Julio César Tello s/n (behind the church). 07:00-21:00. Has a great variety of dishes and prices are affordable. For breakfast, lunch and dinner. Breakfast and lunch from 7 soles.
- 2 Restaurant campestre Tukuy Rikuy, Barrio Nueva Florida (on the western side of the archaeological site, on the southern bank of Huachecza river). Traditional food like cuy (guinea pig) and chicha de jora (corn beer). Great view of the site and town and friendly service.
- 3 Restaurant Buongiorno, Jirón 17 de Enero Sur (close to the archaeological site, from there go across the Huachecza River and the first building to the right), ☏ . 7:00-21:00. Traditional dishes on the menu like trout ceviche, spicy cuy, papakashki (potato soup), choclo con queso (corn with cheese). Nice indoor garden with view to the site.
- 4 Restaurant Turístico Pukutay, Jirón Tupac Yupanqui 230 (between the site and the town square Plaza de Armas.), ☏ , email@example.com. 8:00-19:00. In an old house, items on the menu include cuy, trout prepared in different ways, pork rinds and salted loin.
- 5 Cafetería Renato, Jr. Huayna Capac 285 Plaza de Armas (northern side of Plaza de Armas), ☏ . 9:00-19:00. A pretty café in an old building, great for breakfast before visiting the archaeological site or for lunch afterwards. Serves sandwiches and deserts.
- 6 Cafe-Galería Cálido Nevado, Jirón 17 de Enero Sur 530 (near the site, from there cross the river Huachecza and continue for 20 m.). Great for breakfast, or a light lunch or dinner. They have sandwiches and various hot drinks including coffees, herbal teas, shakes and punches.
- 7 Mama Raywana Cafe Bar, Plaza de Armas 110 (Plaza de Armas, near the town hall), ☏ . Operating in the morning and the evening. They have sandwiches, and hot and cold drinks. Friendly ambience and they're happy to tell you about things to do and the history of the town.
- 8 La Casita Chaupin, corner of Jirón 17 de Enero Sur and Jirón Manco Capac (southern end of Plaza de Armas). Hot drinks and desserts, and has a small shop with artisan works, books and other souvenirs.
International and Peruvian cuisine
- 9 Tullpa Pizzería & Resto Bar, Jirón Huayna Capac 101 Plaza de Armas (southern side of Plaza de Armas, in the front of the auditorium.), ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. 7:00-22:00. Varied menu, operating from early in the morning to late at night.
It's a small city but there are several places to sleep, most of which are concentrated downtown.
- 1 Chavín Arqueológico I, Jirón Inca Roca 141 (very close to Plaza de Armas), ☏ . Traditional rooms in an older building, and the hotel has a friendly ambience. The patio has a colonial style with plants. individual dorms with bathroom and hot water from 35 soles.
- 2 Hostal Gantu, Jirón Huayna Capac 125 (At Plaza de Armas, near the town hall), ☏ , email@example.com. Friendly small hostel in an old building with an indoor patio, around which the rooms are situated on two floors. The place has a restaurant also. individual dorms with bathroom and hot water from 35 soles.
- 3 Hotel Inca, Jirón Wiracocha 170 Plaza de Armas (on the left side of the town hall), ☏ . Check-in: 08:00-21:00, check-out: 12:00. Also this hotel, with 18 rooms, is in an old building an has an indoor gardens. Offers breakfast in the morning and free Wi-Fi and has indoor parking. dbl 123 soles.
- 4 Hostal Chavín Turístico, Jirón Maytacapac 120 (block 3 of Jirón 17 de Enero Sur.), ☏ , fax: , firstname.lastname@example.org. 8 double rooms, and as such capacity for 16 persons. Free Wi-Fi. dbl 133 soles.
There's a health center in the city, and a few pharmacies. The closest hospitals are in Huari (38 km away) and in Huaraz (104 km away, has three hospitals). In addition there are a few small health centers in nearby hamlets.
- 2 Centro de Salud Chavín, Avenida Julio C. Tello s/n, ☏ . 8:00-14:00. The main health center, serving the Chavín district, doesn't have hospitalization facilities. There's a doctor, a nurse and a laboratory technician and pharmacy technician.
- 3 Puesto de Salud Machac, s/n (hamlet of Machac). 8:00-14:00.
- 4 Puesto de Salud Chichucancha, s/n (hamlet of Chichucancha). 8:00-14:00.
- 5 Puesto de Salud Chacpar, s/n (hamlet of Chacpar). 8:00-14:00.
Some hotels offer free Wi-Fi. Operators Claro and Movistar have 3G coverage in town and a bit outside of it, Movistar also has 2G coverage further out.