By Aaron Joshua Spray
The Inca Empire was centered in Peru — the capital of Cusco and Machu Picchu are both in Peru. But the empire was much greater than that and expanded as far south as Santiago in Chile and as far north as Colombia. It included all of Ecuador and today Ecuador boasts some pretty impressive Inca ruins.
The Inca built a massive road network through much of western South America while keeping detailed records, and finely weaving textiles. Peru understandably is famous for its Inca heritage, but it often crowds out Ecuador which also boasts a rich Inca heritage.
The Inca Empire Spread Well Beyond Peru
The Inca Empire expanded from the Peruvian highlands in the early 13th century and between 1438 and 1533 they incorporated much of western South America. In 1532 the Spanish conquered much of the empire with the last of it disappearing in 1572, following the Spanish conquest.
The empire is considered one of the greatest historical empires in world history even though it lacked what in the Old World were fundamental resources and technologies — like the use of the wheel, draft animals, knowledge of iron or steel, or even a fully developed system of writing (it is called Quipu but we still don’t fully understand it).
Ingapirca – The Largest Inca Site In Ecuador
One of the main Inca attractions in Ecuador is Ingapirca, about an hour north of Cuenca. Ingapirca (meaning “Inca Wall”) the largest known archeological site of Inca ruins in Ecuador. The most important building there is the Temple of the Sun – an elliptically shaped building constructed around a large rock.
The ruins of the walls remain remarkable and have been made in the typical Incan way of cutting the stones to perfection. It doesn’t use any adherent or morter (just like the walls at Machu Picchu). Much remains uncertain about the site and the conquering and destroying the Spanish didn’t make things any easier.
The Spanish quarried the site for stone to build their own projects. But many ruins remain and is a significant tourist attraction in the area. If you would like to visit, you can take a day tour from Cuenca. Another option is to spend a night in the closer towns of El Tambo or Cañar.
Pumapungo Archeological Park in Cuenca
Another of the main Inca attractions in Ecuador is the Pumapungo Archeological Park. The site was once a center of Incan culture and, at the time of the Spanish conquest, was under construction to be the northern capital of the empire. The site was built at the end of the 15th century and included a Temple of the Sun and the convent of the Virgins of the Sun. In its day, it would have been one of the most beautiful cities of the ancient Inca empire.
The site had special importance among Incas for the being the birthplace of Huayna Capac, the last emperor of the unified Inca Empire.
It also had political and administrative buildings. It has the largest set of Inca archeological ruins south of Ingapirca. One will see a large irrigation channel as well as a ritual bath for the purification of bodies.
Location: In The Historical Center Of The City of Cuenca
Today one can explore the ruins of Pumapungo and then explore the nearby ethnographic museum to get a better understanding of the history of Pumapungo and the indigenous people of Ecuador. At the bottom of the Museum, one can see a tunnel over thirty meters long. It served as a mausoleum and symbolized the underworld (the home of the spirits of the ancestors).
Pumapungo Museum Opening Hours:
- Monday: Closed
- Tuesday to Friday: 8h00 to 17h30
- Saturdays, Sundays and Holidays: from 10h00 to 16h00
- Museum pumapungo Admission Fee: Free Entrance
Other Inca Attractions In Ecuador
One convenient thing about the Inca ruins of Rumicucho is that they are only a short drive from the Ecodorian capital of Quito. It is one of the most visited sites in the country and the ruins are believed to represent both Inca and pre-Inca peoples.
It was reputed both a military site and a place of worship later on.
Agua Blanca is located on the Pacific side of the country in the Machalilla National Park. It represents on of the last remains of the Monteño culture in Ecuador. The site also have a small archeological museum.
Todos los Santos
Also on the coast, the Todos los Santos site began with Pre-Inca cultures before it became part of the Inca sphere. It was hidden under a Spanish flour mill for years and was only discovered in the 1970s.