Relatively speaking, the Incas are recent history. One unfortunate consequence of the fame of the Incas is that they tend to crowd out the long and rich history of the region with its many kingdoms and civilizations that went before. Some pre-Inca cultures were incorporated into the Inca Empire, while others were ancient history by the time the Incas appeared on the scene.

The oldest city now known in the Americas is that of Caral. It flourished at around the same time as the Egyptian pyramids were being built. The ruins of 'Sacred City of Caral-Supe' or simply 'Caral,' is a reminder of just how old the history of what is today Peru really is. Another ancient pre-Inca city in the Peruvian desert to explore is Chan Chan. Peru is a country with a very rich history.

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Caral - The America's Oldest City

Caral is considered both the oldest (known) city in the Americas and one of the oldest in the whole world. It history stretches back around 5000 years rivaling the age of Ancient Egypt and its pyramids. No other site in the Americas has been found with Caral's diversity of monumental buildings and ceremonial and administrative functions.

  • Location: Peru In The Supe Valley By The Coast
  • Oldest: Believed To Be The Oldest City In The Americas' (and One Of The Oldest In The World)

The city of Caral was part of the ancient Caral culture. It is believed to have developed between 3000 and 1800 BC and is considered the oldest of the pre-Hispanic civilizations.

  • Caral Culture: Developed Between 3000 and 1800 BC

To put that into context, that is much older than the civilizations of Mesoamerica. The Olmec civilization is considered a progenitor to the complex civilizations of Mesoamerica (the Olmecs were responsible for the "colossal heads" and the first use of chocolate). But the Caral Culture is believed to have developed around 1,500 years earlier than the Olmec culture.

As is understood now, Caral could be thought of as the cradle of Andean civilization - and eventually the Incas. It appears that Caral was the model urban design that was subsequently adopted by Andean civilizations over the following four millennia.

Related: This Ancient "City of Fire" Is Known As The Machu Picchu Of Lima

Pyramids As Old As Egypt And More

Exceptionally well-preserved, the site is impressive in terms of its design and the complexity of its architectural, especially its monumental stone and earthen platform mounts and sunken circular courts.UNESCO

As one visits Caral today, one will see a windswept desert with what appears to be six dunelike mounds. But these are not works of nature, they are human-made pyramids. They are what remains of a city that once flourished there almost 5,000 years ago.

  • Size: The Site Covers 626 hectares
  • Contains: Pyramids, Plazas, and Residential Buildings
  • Pyramids: The Site Has The Remains of Six Main Pyramids
  • Listed: As A World Heritage Site

Closely associated with the city of Caral was the early fishing city of Áspero or El Áspero situated on on the west coast of Peru, near the mouth of the Supe River. Here excavations have found the remains of human sacrifices (two children and a newborn). It also has large platform mounds.

The Supe Valley has fertile lands and is close to the sea. The ancient inhabitants were fishermen, farmers, and seafarers.

The city is believed to have been the home of over 3,000 inhabitants and is now the best studied and one of the largest Norte Chico sites known.

Related: Forget Egypt: See This Pre-Inca Mummy In Peru, Instead

Visiting Caral Today

Today the site is open to the public but is often overshadowed by tourists' eagerness to see the ruins of the Incas.

Caral is today an important archeological site with the remains of what was the main city of the Caral civilization. It is located in present-day Peru in the Supe Valley near the town of Caral - around 180 km or 110 miles north of Lima.

Opening Times:

  • Mon-Thurs: 9:00-16:00
  • Fri-Sun: 9:00-18:00
  • Price: Adults: S/11 ($3.00)

It is around a 3-hour and 20-minute drive from the capital of Lima and can be visited on a day trip. There are full-day trips that one book from Lima to visit the ancient site on Viator.

Example Full-Day Tour From Lima To Caral On Viator:

  • Duration: Approx. 14 Hours
  • Includes: Hotel Pick Up, All Fees and Taxes
  • Price: From $169.00