View from Marcahuasi. © Martintoy
Marcahuasi is a plateau in the Andes Mountains, located 49 miles (80km) northeast of Lima, and a wonderful excursion from the city for those who enjoy hiking, or want to experience the mystical side of Peruvian culture. The mountains are home to some remarkable and massive rock formations of mysterious origin, which seem to depict various animals, human faces, and other symbols. There is debate about whether the formations are natural or man-made and theories abound as to how the sculptures could have been made and why. There are also ruins on the north side of the plateau, where more than 50 structures stand in varying states of dilapidation. The plateau is viewed with superstitious awe by some locals and is considered by many to be a spiritual site of great power. The picturesque area is still being 'discovered' by tourists and the atmosphere is enhanced by the fact that the dramatic landscapes are usually empty of crowds.
You can camp at Marcahuasi and the views from the plateau are breathtakingly beautiful, but visitors should note that it can get freezing cold at night. Tents, mattresses, and other equipment - including donkeys to carry all the gear up the steep mountain trail - can be rented at the village of San Pedro de Casta, the gateway to Marcahuasi. Local guides can also be hired in the town if desired.