About El Fuerte de Samaipata
El Fuerte de Samaipata is an archaeological site in the eastern foothills of the Bolivian Andes which contains architectural remains of three different cultures.
History of El Fuerte de Samaipata
El Fuerte de Samaipata is an archaeological site whose name translates to Fort Samaipata and includes the buildings of Chanè, Inca, and Spanish cultures. It was likely originally built by a pre-Inca people known as the Chanè around 300 AD.
As well as the remains of a Spanish settlement with buildings resonant of Arab Andalusian architecture, the site contains the remains of an Inca plaza as well as residences. These date from the 15th and 16th centuries. This makes the Inca site contemporary with the eastward expansion of the Inca empire from the Andes towards the foothills.
For the Inca, the site of Samaipata was transformed from a Chanè settlement into an administrative, ceremonial and religious centre. The 17th century Spanish chronicler, Diego Felipe de Alcaya, reported that the Inca led an army to the area and persuaded the local leader and his 50,000 subjects to submit to Inca rule.
Samaipata became the conquering ruler Guacane’s capital. Samaipata means “the heights of rest” in the Inca language of Quechua and surmounts a 1,900 metre high mountain top. The Spanish established El Fuerte de Samaipata, a camp and possible fortress, from the late 16th century onwards. Formal Spanish settlement took place in 1615.
El Fuerte de Samaipata today
The archaeological site at El Fuerte de Samaipata is 20 hectares and is divided into a ceremonial sector and an administrative and residential sector. While the inner area of the site is cordoned off to visitors to prevent damage, most of the site can be viewed in exchange for an entrance fee.
Getting to El Fuerte de Samaipata
Access to El Fuerte de Samaipata is straightforward from nearby Samaipata via one of the buses run by a variety of operators. Samaipata is a 3 hour drive from Santa Cruz de la Sierra, the largest city in Bolivia.