(7 km from Londres, Mon-Fri 0730-1330, 1700-1900. Cóndor buses linking Belén and Londres stop 100 m from the ruins, US$1. Tours are run by the helpful Ampujaco Tur in Belén, T03835-461189, General Roca 190, or at Hotel Belén, Belgrano y Cubas, T003835-461501. A tour for 4 with guide costs US$7.50 per person. In Spanish only.)
This ruined town is one of the most astonishing remains of the Inca occupation of Argentina, from the 1470s to their demise in 1532. The setting is superb, in a flat area between a crown of mountains and the river – a place the Incas clearly recognized as having sacred significance. Their religious beliefs were deeply entwined with their worship of mountains and their modification of natural forms – the most extreme example of which is Machu Picchu in Peru. Cuzco, too, follows strict conventions, siting the town to line up auspiciously with sacred hills, water sources and the home of the ancestors. According to expert Ian Farrington, El Shincal is a ‘little Cuzco’, following precisely the same rules of orientation to mountains and water sources. There are large kallankas (thought to be either grain stores or military barracks), sleeping areas and a central plaza, lined up between two artificially shaped hills and perfectly aligned with the rising and setting sun at the solstice. In the middle of the plaza is a sacred platform with a specially designed trough for sacrifices. It’s best to visit El Shincal with a guide, but you’ll be lucky to find one in Londres so take a tour from Belén. It’s a remarkable site, well worth visiting.
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