Chullpas de Ninamarca
There are a few ways to reach the wild jungles of Manu in Peru. One of which is overland from Cuzco. This route passes through high elevation pasture and grasslands before descending down through the lush cloud forests in the upper reaches of the national park. Just 30 kilometers from Cuzco, old, tower-like structures punctuate the stark surroundings of the altiplano. These structures are known as the “Chullpas of Ninamarca” and were built as funerary towers during the 13th and 14th centuries.
What are the Ninamarca Chullpas made of?
At Ninamarca, there are 30 chullpas, 7 of which are in poor, ruined condition. The other 27 structures are in pretty good condition and can be visited from six in the morning to five in the evening. The funeral towers of Ninamarca stand around 3 meters in height, have rounded walls, and were placed on a mountain at an altitude of 3,000 meters. They were mostly constructed with mud bricks made from a type of local grass, although some stones were also used in some of the towers. Although not nearly as much stone work was used as for the famous Chullpas of Sillustani, the fact that most of the Ninamarca towers are still standing attests to the lasting nature of the materials used for their construction.
Who built them?
The Chullpas of Ninamarca were built by people pertaining to the Lupaca culture. This Aymara language culture occurred in the high elevation grasslands near Lake Titicaca west to the Ninmarca site.
Who is buried in them?
Although we don’t know the names of the people buried in the funeral towers of Ninamarca, they are believed to be the remains of important Lupaca leaders who lived in the Ninamarca area during the 13th and 14th centuries. Chullpas in other parts of Peru and Bolivia have also housed the remains of servants and family members of the person for whom the tomb was built. This may also be the case for some of the tombs at Ninamarca. People were buried in the fetal position and some were placed in a chamber beneath the chullpa.
Are there other chullpas?
There are many other chullpas in Peru and Boliva. Although the most famous pertain to the Lupaca culture and occur on the altiplano, older chullpas have also been found at sites in northern Peru and even in the jungles of Bolivia. The funeral towers of Ninamarca are most similar to chullpas near Titicaca and other sites in eastern Peru that were also built by the Lupaca peoples. As with those other chullpas, the doors of those in Ninamarca face the rising sun.
How to visit the Chullpas of Ninamarca
These interesting pre-Incan ruins are easily visited on the road between Cuzco and Paucartambo, near the village of Ninamarca. Since this is also the overland route to Manu, a side trip to the chullpas is often made on visits to the Manu national park.