The funeral towers of Sillustani about 35 km west of Puno are, apart from the floating islands, one of the main attractions in the area. These towers date back to pre-Inca time about 1.200 AD and an estimated 95 of these “Chullpas” may have adorned the wind-swept Altiplano at that time.
There are three types of these cylindrical towers, depending on the social rank of the people buried in them. All were covered by a roof and had only one tiny opening facing east. Each year at the summer solstice, these were opened to allow the sun to enter. The most refined one is “Chullpas de Lagarto”, the “Tower of the Lizard”, which therefore must have served as a burial ground for priests, shamans and leaders. It is 12 meters high and 8 meters wide.
Near the Tower of the Lizard, archaeologists found sheets of gold, leading them to believe that the tower was coated with those. It housed between 6 – 12 mummies, including the usual offerings they were supposed to need for the afterlife.
Once again, the Spanish destroyed the towers, took out the mummies and burned them. Another splendid action of the Catholic Church … Some of the towers are under reconstruction, often exposing what seems a pile of small rocks in the interior, which is visible since none of towers’ outer walls is completely intact.
Actually these are small copulas constructed about twenty years ago to protect the interior of funeral towers. Apart from the “Chullpas”, the scenery is truly amazing – the Altiplano at its best, intercepted by two small lakes, one of it Lago Umayo. There is a flat-topped island not to far from the shore which serves a national reserve for vicunas, the ever so cute relatives of the lama. Unfortunately they were hunted down close to extinction for their delicate and especially fashionable meat.
Once you have seen a vicuna, you are in love for ever, they are so incredibly adorable! Heidi was simply off her feet after being able to cuddle with a baby vicuna that was brought over from the island by an old lady who lives there.