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Ancient Ecuador & Chile - Cuenca and San Pedro de Atacama
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Although Peru, and to a lesser extent Bolivia, are the countries with the largest collection of pre-Columbian ruins, human settlement extended into Chile, in the south, and Ecuador, in the north. Desert lovers will be thrilled to explore the environs of both of these towns.

Cuenca, Ecuador

Near the town of Cuenca in Ecuador is Ingapirca, the only major remaining archeological complex in Ecuador. Ingapirca means Inca Walls. This was once a bustling outpost on the 3,250-mile Inca Highway and is now a hefty 12 acre site of well-preserved ruins. Though originally thought to be a fortress, the discovery of women's graves, and the fact that the main building is rounded, which is rare in Incan secular architecture, has lead some experts to argue that the site was a religious center.

San Pedro de Atacama, Chile

The dry Peruvian/Chilean Atacama coastal desert has been called the driest area on earth. Whether or not it's the driest is debatable. That it is dry, very dry, is not. San Pedro de Atacama is the archaeological center of Chile, where work carries on exploring important nearby ruins. In town, visit the excellent archaeological museum. Just outside of town, be sure to visit Pukara de Quitor, the partially restored remains of a fortified hillside village. The ruins offer a stunning view across desert, taking in the San Pedro oasis, several 15,000 - 20,000 foot peaks, and a smoking volcano.

Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication
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