Horca del Inca – Copacabana, Bolivia - Atlas Obscura

Horca del Inca

Astronomical observatory above Lake Titicaca. 


When the Spanish swept through Latin America in the 16th century, they destroyed almost everything they touched. The little they left standing, they mislabeled with incorrect European designations with no oversight from the cultures they were trampling. The Horca del Inca is a perfect example of Spanish colonial misrepresentation.

Horca del Inca, which means Gallows of the Inca, is not a gallows, and was not made by the Inca. Actually, the Horca del Inca was a pre-Incan astronomical observatory, built during the 14th century by the Chiripa people. The remains of the Horca del Inca was actually a part of seven trilithic structures, positioned to study the sun, moon and stars above Lake Titicaca.

Unfortunately, the other six structures were destroyed by the Spanish, leaving only one of the horizontal beams in place. The purpose of the rock structure was only discovered in 1978, when a researcher noted that the sun shone through a different rock structure onto the cross beam of the Horca during the summer solstice.

With the help of local guides, the steep and dangerous path to the Horca can be traversed for a closer look at the observatory. Once near the Horca del Inca, the hill offers stunning views of Lake Titicaca and Copacabana.

Know Before You Go

Accessible from Copacabana

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