Incallajta and Bolivia's Incan History

by Amizade Global Service-Learning

Bolivia is little known for its Inca history and treasures, but is, in fact, a country bursting with Inca history.  One of the least known, but most astounding Inca sites is Incallajta, just a few hours east of Cochabamba.  This fortress community lies at the mouth of a scenic agricultural valley.

Before the Spanish conquest, the Incas had expanded into the Cochabamba valley because of its rich agricultural potential.  They built complex systems of roads and fortresses, and Incallajta was a strategic effort to further Inca expansion toward the Amazon.  This fortress was built originally by Inca Tupac Yupanqui around 1465 to repel invaders from the lower tropical regions.Incallajta

This remote Inca fortress has not been well preserved, and has only recently come under the protection of the Bolivian government, through the University of San Simon in Cochabamba.  A new visitors’ center has been built, there is an introductory slide show (in Spanish) and a local guide is now available on site for tours through the ruins.  The most dramatic structure is a huge rectangular building, (kallanka) that is 78 by 26 meters – the largest known roofed building in the entire Inca Empire.  The roof is no longer there, but the walls, with their 44 niches and 12 accesses, are still standing.

Also within this Inca community are the remains of a number of residences, including housing for the women and priests, buildings that were apparently used for administrative or public functions, storage buildings and silos, and a principal plaza area with a sacrificial altar.  For the energetic, a climb to up the mountain reveals sections of an old wall stretching up to 5 meters in height.

In the western area of the community is a waterfall that was the source of water for the Incas.  Visitors can hike down a steep path to the base of this beautiful waterfall, then continue west on the path to a small tower that was an astronomic observatory.

For Inca and history enthusiasts, these ruins are an absolute treasure!  Although they are well off the beaten path, and a trip from Cochabamba city and back is a long day’s trip, the visit is worth every minute.  The 3-hour drive to and from Incallajta provides stunning views of the Bolivian Andes rural highlands, and the ruins themselves are fascinating, and set amid a beautiful valley landscape.

Selected Amizade trips take service-learning volunteers to Incallajta for one of their weekend excursions.  Amizade is an organization that offers teens through senior citizens affordable opportunities to volunteer abroad, doing a variety of service projects.  Long-term volunteers of a few weeks or more can combine an individual service project with private Spanish language lessons. For more information on how you can join one of Amizade’s site in Bolivia and to find out how to join one of our upcoming programs, click here or contact our office.