Ingapirca – Ecuador’s Major Inca Site

Ingapirca, which can be roughly translated to mean “Inca Wall”, is Ecuador’s major Inca archeological site and one of the most impressive anywhere. Although it does not approach the magnificence of sites like Cuzco, Ingapirca is still an astonishing site to see. Part of Ingapirca’s appeal comes from the natural scenery of the location; set into the dry, windswept hills of the Southern Sierra region of Ecuador.

Mainly though, the ruins themselves, like most Incan remains, have that distinctive character that practically shouts “Inca!” even to those with only slight familiarity with the greatest of South American empires. Soaring walls crafted of smoothed stones assembled without mortar, fitting together so closely that it’s difficult to insert the point of a knife between them surround a central building, massive and elliptically shaped, called the Temple of the Sun.

Ingapirca was built late in the 15th century and not long before the Spanish conquest. Although the Incas had fought for centuries with the native tribes of what today is Ecuador, victory was illusive and that is why there are so few Inca sites in Ecuador. It’s difficult to know what the purpose of Ingapirca was. It may have been a ceremonial center, as it is built on top of a much older complex of buildings originally constructed by the local Canari tribe. Scientists have noted that altars inside the Temple of the Sun are directly illuminated only at certain times of the year, specifically the time of the New Year or Inti Raymi.

Today, Inti Raymi celebrations and ritual ceremonies are re-enacted at Ingapirca each year in the third week of June, making that the best time to visit the complex. Ingapirca is not hard to get to, being located due east of Guayaquil and an approximate 2-hour bus ride northeast from the city of Cuenca, a pleasant, picturesque town with pretty colonial architecture and charming cobblestone streets.