Tambo Colorado – a glimpse of Peru past and present

Today we’re journeying from the port of San Martin in Peru inland to the Inca ruins at Tambo Colorado. We docked very early to allow those taking the tour to Macchu Picchu to depart. It’s one on my bucket list but the two day tour organised as an excursion from our cruise comes in at well over $2000 each and means missing Lima so it’s a no-brainer for me to leave Macchu Picchu for a separate trip. No one pretends Tambo Colorado is Macchu Picchu but a ninety minute drive each way through different terrains sounded interesting too.

When we got up for breakfast and checked the port side it was immediately obvious that the port isn’t quite finished!

To be fair, Peru is a poor country with a recovering but still frail infrastructure so I should cut them a bit more slack. We boarded the coach and set out through extremely barren land; this was the Atacama desert, depending on who you listen to the dryest desert on earth or a close second to the Sahara. Annual rainfall here is 1.8mm; they had had 4mm in one day last week, which left a strange white salt deposit on the hills.

After a few rather monotonous miles we came to Pisco town. Pisco is famous for the drink made from grapes and used in Pisco sour, which we had already enjoyed in Chile. This is a poor town; there are some attempts to build but much of the habitation is squalid and occupied by squatters.

I was reminded of villages in India or Cambodia, the former impression reinforced by the incongruous appearance of tuk tuks, adopted as local taxis!

9AF1CB97-981B-4889-8AD5-3964C2F30EB9The town has built up quickly in recent years as local country dwellers come in search of employment. There are jobs in mineral production and fishing to be had. We saw a busy market where locals shopped for food and clothes.


Leaving Pisco behind, the countryside became more verdant as we entered a plain where grew the Pisco grapes, maize, asparagus, avocados, cotton and chillies. In the distance, the Andes became clearer as we headed east and mist rose with the temperature.

With the mountains comes the valley and soon we were descending into another type of countryside with lush plains lying between foothills and a slow moving muddy river at the centre. Our destination was near.

The Incas were a relatively short lived civilisation; not the first in this region, the fifth in fact. Our guide repeatedly chanted the others at us but I confess I can’t recall; do what I’ll do and Google it. They conquered the region in the 13th century and reached their peak in the mid 15th century, before being crushed out of existence by the Spanish conquistadors. 

Tambo Colorado may have been an administrative centre or a trading outpost as its layout is pretty generic. There are:

A large courtyard

A wide platform for the leader to appear






A temple


The walls and niches bear traces of the original red, yellow and white pigments. 

After ninety minutes in the hot sun with little shade, the return journey by air conditioned coach was most welcome; now we look forward to seeing Lima tomorrow.

As we sailed forth from San Martin bound for Callao, port of Lima, we stopped to view ‘The Candalabra’, an Inca marking in stone similar to the more famous Nazca lines. The nature of all these giant markings remains controversial; Peru does not reveal all its secrets lightly. 

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