The History in the Architecture
From modern high rises in Lima to the adobe of Chan Chan in the north, you can travel through time via the style of the buildings you encounter: ancient fortress cities like Sacsayhuaman and Machu Picchu, the reed “towns” of the Uros Islands, and the colonial Spanish style of Puno.
Machu Picchu was named a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1983. It was built by the Incas in the 1400’s but abandoned 100 years later, no one is absolutely sure why as the Spaniards never found it to sack and destroy. It’s perched high, all 8000 feet above sea level, on a mountain plateau . One can travel there by domed train and bus, or follow the Incan Trail on foot. (Flights over or to the site are banned.) One marvels at how it was built so isolated, so elevated, so long ago, and with such precision: the buildings are made with dry stone walls. The Incas mastered the art of building in such a way as to minimize the effects of earthquakes.
In the same general area (Sacred Valley) is the ruin of Sacsayhuaman. If the construction at Machu Picchu astounds, then this will amaze. Some of the blocks are 30 feet high and weigh as much as three tons. The stone used to make the blocks was transported from fifty miles distant, and over very rough terrain. As there was no mortar used, these blocks were fit together so tightly that you would be hard pressed to wedge anything between. This ruin is the remains of another Incan stronghold.
Travel north to the city of Chan Chan built by the Chimu civilization in the ninth century. This was the largest mud constructed city in the world holding up to 30,000 inhabitants in its heyday. The Chimu were defeated by the Incas not long before the Incas themselves were defeated by the Spaniards. Parts are being restored but it is a constant struggle against the harsh desert environment to maintain the buildings.
At Lake Titicaca, one must visit the Uros Islands built by peoples of the same name as a way to avoid taxes levied by the Incan Empire. Ingenious platforms built of a mud and reed foundation,covered with meters of reeds, and anchored to the lake bottom became islands in the huge lake ( 8300 square meters) upon which homes were built and are inhabited to this day. Some islands are so huge as to hold six or seven homes,a school,or a medical centre. Wind storms loosen anchorage from time to time and an island with homes drifts to the nearest shore but, no problem: the island is hauled by boat and re-anchored back out in the lake.