Rest in the height

Samaipata is a word in Quechua meaning Rest in The Height. It is a geographical and melting pot of three main eco systems: Amazons, Chaco and Andes. Original cultures from these places began to meet in Samaipata before the Spanish landed in the continent in 1492.

Called by the Spanish “the fortress”, it was declared cultural patrimony of humanity in 1998. It’s a huge black carved rock dedicated to ceremonies and to administration. It is 65 metres wide and a bit longer than 220 metres. It is all covered by carvings: representations of animal forms, geometric patterns, alcoves, a channelling system. All of them hold significant magical and religious meaning, carved with extreme precision.   It shows advanced hydraulic systems linked to purification and fertility rituals; idols worshipping animals as representatives of their gods and goddesses and a calendar. The administrative are includes watch towers, agricultural land, military camps and a market.

When we got to the Fortress, we requested Lenny to be our guide. Lenny is a pacena (from La Paz), 62 years old, who was living with an American, when he died because of cancer.  Her husband did not want to marry her and she was left without any money or pension and now she is guiding tourists.  She told us about how air, earth, fire and water were the key elements of the Mohos, Guaraníes or Incas coming to the rock. With her finger, Lenny showed us the route followed by ‘el Che’ and the disappointment that he generated among local groups.

Lenny telling us about el Che

Lenny telling us about el Che

When we got to ‘the Fortress’, she explained about the Tawantinsuyo (Inca empire) and the 4 geographical directions Chinchay suyo (North), Anti suyo (East/Amazon jungle), Colla suyo (South) and Conti suyo (West). It was amazing watching the carved black rock and the 4 regions coming together. The place is planted with beautiful bromeliads since the Inca times.

The black rock plays with the surrounding landscape and with the shade it generates inside and outside the rock. We could see hundreds (or thousands?) of carvings: The rock contains carvings of jaguars, cats, snakes and other animals as well as several deep pits and long grooves and channels presumably used to circulate and store water. You can see them all! At the top of the stone there is a circle of 12 seats with a set of 3 seats in the middle. Locals call this the “Coro de los Sacerdotes” or “Choir of Priests”.


From the top of the rock we were able to watch the Tambo (place for people to live in) and the Kallanka, largest type of building built by the Incas. Close to the Tambo and the Kallanka we could see the huge plains that were dedicated to agriculture. The “fortress” is one of the largest ritualistic places in the world.


In the pre-Columbian times, because of religious reasons, the Samaipata Fortress was visited by indigenous people from the Guaranies, Incas and the Amazons. Now Samaipata has dwellers from many nationalities from all over the world, and the number of visitors per day keeps increasing.

Samaipata is just two hours from Santa Cruz. Will you visit it?


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