Tambos were used as administration sites for passing traffic and for military services during the Inca period. Nowadays Tambo Colorado is one of the best preserved Inca sites. Built in roughly 1450, it is one of the most architecturally important Inca sites in Peru. Thanks to the dry conditions, some of the original red paint still remains on the walls, hence the name ‘Tambo Colorado’ (red Tambo). It’s rare that you are able to get so up close and personal with ruins of this quality!
Tambo Colorado is located in the Pisco province of Peru, close to the town of Humay, on the bank of the Pisco River. It is typical of Incas to build close to a water source, so that they wouldn’t have to travel far to access this necessary resource. The Tambo sits along the site of an Inca road that was in use up until just a few decades ago.
A tambo is an Inca structure built along the roadsides in order to serve food and provide lodging for travelers. More were built as the Incas improved their roads, with 2000 or more towards the end of the Inca Empire. Some tambos were little more than inns, others developed into citadels. They were served by nearby communities in the mandatory public service of the Inca Empire, known as mit’a. In general, historians believe that tambos were spaced roughly a day’s ride from each other, as the distances between each one vary from 10 kilometers to as much as 45 kilometers.
Tambo Colorado is typical Inca style and design, except for one thing. Typically Inca buildings faced towards the east, where the sun rises. However, in Tambo Colorado the buildings face to the south. These structures were split into three different sections, each with a different function: the north, the central and the west. The west side was Ushnu, a platform used for ceremonies. This is a sacred place for Inca people. The northern plaza was used for trading and shows a clear difference in the Inca’s attitude to people of different status. The central plaza was used for meetings of noblemen.
The ruins display a fusion of two different types of Inca architecture. The raised walls of Andean Incas, and the decoration typical of the coast. It is also interesting to see the drainage system, by far superior to european models at the time. You will even have an opportunity to check out the site of an ancient jacuzzi, built only for the Inca emperors.
Tambo Colorado are some relatively under-the-radar ruins. Because of this there is no direct public transport to or from the ruins. The only possible way would be to get a taxi in Pisco or book a guided tour.
Of course, it is possible to view this site without a guide, but you’ll appreciate it better if you understand what exactly you are looking at. By all means, enjoy the ruins, but know what you’re looking at.