High in the Sierra alpine, shrouded in grass, is the Cochasquí archaeological site. This understated, pre-Inca site gives visitors a glimpse into the life of Ecuador’s little-known Quitu-Cara people.

0 - Cochasqui, Ecuador
1 - Cochasqui, Ecuador
2 - Cochasqui, Ecuador

Cochasquí is located roughly 40 miles (64 km) north of Quito. The site is situated high in the northern Sierra at 10,170 feet (3,100 m). On a clear day, Cochasquí offers fantastic panoramic views of the Cayambe and Cotopaxi volcanoes.

The Cochasquí archaeological site is composed of 15 earthen mounds, which are known as truncate pyramids. Observant visitors will be quick to notice that the mounds are aligned with distant volcanoes. The pyramids are made from blocks of compressed dirt. On top of them, large wooden structures once stood. Today, the site is shrouded in grass, and ruled by resident alpacas. A small museum filled with interesting Quitu-Cara artifacts is also integrated into a tour of the site.

Archaeologists theorize that Cochasquí was used for either military or astrological purposes. The latter theory is enforced by the alignment of mounds with geographic features, as well as the remnants of solar and lunar clocks.

This pre-Incan site was built by the Quitu-Cara people around 900 ACE. The Quitu-Cara ruled the highland region of northern Ecuador for thousands of years. The Quitu-Cara are also credited with founding the city of Quito. In 1492 the Quitu-Cara were defeated in a battle with the invading Incas, and the Quitu-Cara were subsequently integrated into the Inca empire.