A guide to Marcahuasi: “the gate to heaven”
Marcahuasi is a hidden gem located 90km to the east of Lima, near the town of San Pedro de Casta in the Andes Mountains. Sitting at 4,000m above sea level, this site is known for its granite rock formations that resemble human faces, animals and religious symbols. There are many theories about its existence and therefore this archeological site is such a “mystery”. Some scientists argue that the unusual shapes are formed naturally through erosion, while others claim the sculptures are shaped by ancient people.
Recently, the site has started to attract curious travelers and hiking enthusiasts. The hike from the town to the stone forest of Marcahuasi is gorgeous as it offers spectacular views of the surrounding mountains. There are two routes to choose from: the short versus the long one. The long route is recommended as it takes you to the main entrance of the stone forest where the camping site is located. Besides, this path is less steep and can be easily walked in less than three to four hours. For those who don’t like to hike to the site, it is possible to go by donkey or minivan from the town for an additional charge. Once you arrive at the site, the various rock formations and lakes can be explored, which are scattered around. Take your time to walk around (minimum three hours) as some of the attractions are distant!
Why visit this place?
- A true off-the-beaten-path destination: It is relatively unexplored by tourists, mainly known and visited by Peruvians. There hasn’t been much written about the place, and even current guidebooks lack information. You will feel like a pioneer!
- Towering above the surrounding mountains, the site offers spectacular views of the Andes, hence the nickname “the gate to heaven”.
- The stone forest is an ideal place to watch the sunset and stars – this will probably be one of the most memorable and unique ones you will ever experience!
- There is no such thing as “tourist prices” meaning that the price of accommodation and entrance to the site are low.
- The drive itself from Lima to San Pedro de Casta is beautiful and is an adventure itself!
How to get there from Lima?
The first leg of the journey goes from Lima to Chosica by bus or taxi. You have several options:
- Take a small bus from the center (Paseo Colón or Vitarte) which can take up to two hours, but only costs 5 soles
- Take a colectivo bus (probably the easiest and cheapest) from Jr. Chota and Paseo Colón, Jr. Leticia and Abancay, or Ex-Cine Orrantia and Óvalo de Santa Anita
Take an Uber or Taxi (more or less 70 soles)
The second stretch is by minivan and takes you from Chosica to San Pedro de Casta.
When you arrive at the park “Echenique” (center of Chosica), ask the locals about the minivans which leave about 120m north from the park (Jr. Libertad). The cost of the ride will be between 10 to 20 soles, depending on the date you travel. The buses leave daily at 7 am and 12 pm and the drive lasts about three hours.
Where to stay?
There are two options:
- The town of San Pedro de Casta: there is a government-run hotel (Hotel de La Municipalidad de San Pedro de Casta) located next to the main square. The rooms are very basic and cheap. Breakfast/lunch/dinner can be requested for an additional charge.
- Camping at the site of Marcahuasi (camping gear can be rented in the town).
Note: due to the altitude it is recommended to spend at least two days in the town or on the site.
For more information (Spanish only), visit: marcahuasi.com