Peru’s Pacific coast is a major attraction - and has been so for many thousands of years. We know this because of excavation of a site called Las Haldas, a vast site that dates back to Peru’s Initial period, around 2,000 BC. At its height, it is thought to have housed 10,000 inhabitants. Historians look to this site as a key to the very beginnings of Peruvian culture. Visit the site for a hike and a guided tour. Once you’ve had a hike around the ruins, you can relax on the nearby beach.
Located in the Casma Valley, Las Haldas sits next to a remote stretch of beach. It’s about 4.5 hours north of Lima, and 2 hours from the nearest major town. This rural location, accessible via the Panamericana highway, is an idyllic destination for a road trip. Las Haldas, while more worn-down than the ruins of Inca or Wari people, gives a much stronger sense of the age of the area.
The site is about a quarter of a mile long (390 m) and 230 feet wide (70 m). U-shaped mounds, and small buildings made from platforms stacked on top of each other, resemble other known ceremonial sites of the same time period. Distinct mounds and plazas characterize the layout of this site, with staircases leading down into circular depressions. Other buildings, clustered near each other without a uniform pattern, are believed to have been domestic sites.
This architectural site has raised many questions. Since the site’s discovery in the 1960s, archaeologists have puzzled over how such a large site could have existed so far from fresh drinking water. Its size would have required an enormous, sustained construction effort, and it had a sizable population for many years. Without any fresh water nearby, there is also a lack of fertile land for growing crops.
But this is not uncommon for prehistoric sites in this part of the world – people chose these locations for the abundant fishing. Many experts believe they must have had wells to draw fresh water. For those wells to have functioned, however, the topography of the area would have had to have been quite different. Other theories suggest they simply transported water from further inland.
Evidence of Las Haldas culture was eventually discovered at the nearby sites of Bahía Seca and Sechín Alto. It appears that Las Haldas was quite influential. Las Haldas seems to have fallen into disuse sometime in the early 5th century BC. We don’t know much about the culture of the people at Las Haldas, but a quiet beach on Peru’s Pacific coast is a great place to ponder the mystery.