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Vilcabamba: “the lost city of the Incas”

Vilcabamba is an ancient Inca city considered the last refuge of the majestic empire of the Incas before it fell before the Spaniards in 1572. In this archaeological site you can find huge stone structures with a knob, as well as other Inca precincts such as Ollantaytambo, Sacsayhuaman and Coricancha.

The city of Vilcabamba was lost and was found in 1892, then identified as the ‘old or old Vilcabamba’.


Vilcabamba is located 118 kilometers from the city of Cusco. There the last rebel Incas who fought the Spaniards took refuge. After the Inca defeat, Vilcabamba was abandoned and covered by dense vegetation. Recently the investigations began in the place.


The important discovery of Vilcabamba

  • In 1911, the American explorer Hiram Bingham (in his search for Vilcabamba), arrived at Espiritu Pampa where he conducted some superficial studies. Because he found no significant finding, he returned to Machu Picchu, which he believed ‘the lost city of the Incas’.
  • The significant findings in Vilcabamba were made from 1964 when the American explorer Gene Savoy arrived at Espiritu Pampa and showed that it was actually the last refuge of the rebel Incas.
  • Archaeological works continued slowly in Vilcabamba. Thus, the Inca sites of Vitcos, Yurak Rumi and more were excavated from the rugged vegetation.
  • In 2011 there was the last important finding in Vilcabamba. Several funeral tombs of Wari origin (ancestor civilization to the Incas) were found. The main tomb (which includes gold and silver objects) was called ‘The Lord of Wari’ and shows that Vilcabamba was inhabited by another civilization prior to the Incas.

This is Vilcabamba

  • Vilcabamba comprises a geographical area of 15 hectares where there are traces of buildings, canals, terraces, platforms and even Inca temples with some colonial influences.
  • There are some covers in good condition. The granite stone walls were not polished with the perfection of other sites such as Machu Picchu or Coricancha. In addition there are remains of a platform system as well as roads that connect Vilcabamba with other nearby places.
  • In Vilcabamba Inca remains were found such as ceramics, textiles and tools. In addition, Spanish elements such as Texas were found, which would explain the fusion of both cultures during the wars of the rebel Incas.
  • In Vilcabamba there was evidence of a fire, which would prove the damage caused by the Spaniards when they conquered this refuge of rebel Incas. Today, there are still spaces covered by the rugged vegetation of the Cusco forest.
Inca city of Vilcabamba
Vilcabamba Fortress

Why the ‘Lost City of the Incas’?

  • The name of the city of Vilcabamba was publicly known in 1911 when the American explorer Hiram Bingham published his book ‘The Lost City of the Incas.’ There he narrates the discovery of Machu Picchu and a place previously found.
  • However, as several authors reveal in his books, Hiram Bingham had no idea of his discovery because he believed that Machu Picchu was Vilcabamba, the refuge of the last Inca emperor.
  • Today, the most accepted theory points out that Espiritu Pampa was actually Vilcabamba, the last refuge of the Incas. Other versions indicate that it was not yet discovered. There are even those who suggest that the true last Inca refuge is the Inca city of Choquequirao.
Inca gate in Vilcabamba
Megalithic structure – Vilcabamba

The Vilcabamba mystery

  • How did the Incas make these incredible stone structures? The same mystery is presented for other Inca structures such as Sacsayhuaman, Machu Picchu or Coricancha.
  • Many agree that it would be a technology prior to the Incas. In Vilcabamba you can see huge polished stones with great technique. Even today the tools used for moving and assembling the stones are not known for sure.
Stone Carved Knobs
Giant stone carved knobs found in Vilcabamba

Other places similar to Vilcabamba

  • As in Vilcabamba, similar structures exist in Ollantaytambo as well as in Abydos, the Temple of Mount Jerusalem or the Pyramid of Micerino in Egypt. All of them have structures where the stones are perfectly embedded.

Machu Picchu is popularly known as ‘The Lost City of the Incas’. However, this appellation would correspond to Vilcabamba. To visit this archaeological site you must hire a tour with a tourism agency.


How to go to Vilcabamba?

  • You can go to Vilcabamba on your own or through an organized tour. Most tourists prefer to do it through a tourism agency that includes transportation, food, camping and more.
  • If you want to travel on your own, you must take a long bus ride to the town of Vilcabamba. Then you have to take a long walk to the Inca archeological site.
  • If you want to travel with a tourism agency, it is recommended to get a tour that includes a visit to the Inca City of Machu Picchu during the return to Cusco. You can get a tour online or directly at an agency located in the Historic Center of Cusco.

Advice from people who have been there

Vilcabamba

Brian S. Bauer (researcher of the Inca city of Vilcabamba).By: Brian S. Bauer (researcher of the Inca city of Vilcabamba).

“It was like entering a new world or crossing a greenish night“

“This district was established between 1530 and 1572, and is the last scenario where the last Incas fought the Spanish invasion, before falling under their dominion.“


 

By Ticket Machu Picchu – Last updated, September 13, 2019