Six pyramids arranged around a central courtyard form what archaeologists have recently hailed as the oldest city of the Americas. Caral is in fact the largest of a series of 18 city sites that stretches up into the Río Supe Valley, beginning with the Aspero pyramid (near the town of Supe on the coast).
Although Caral’s pyramids were discovered in the 1950s, excavations did not begin until 1996, when a puzzling lack of ceramics tipped archaeologists off to the site’s antiquity. Subsequent digs atop one of the oldest pyramids unearthed a 10-year-old boy wrapped in a cane mat, which scientists carbon-dated to 2900 B.C.
Visitors are few, as the site is well off the highway and few people know about it. For the moment, the elaborate courtyards, amphitheater, and 12-meter-high pyramids with views over the valley must be explored with a guide. These guides, who are often students, can be contracted at the entrance and charge about US$6. The site serves as an excellent introduction to later, but related, cities such as Sechín , Chan Chan , and Sipán farther up the coast.
To arrange a guide in advance, contact the Lima- and Huaraz-based Miguel Chiri Valle (tel. 01/423-2515, www.angelfire.com/mi2/tebac ). Miguel, a fluent English speaker, will arrange transportation and accommodation to and from Lima  or another northern city.
Caral is most easily reached via a dirt road that begins on the Panamericana about three kilometers north of Huacho. There is another bumpier though more scenic road up the Río Supe Valley that begins about three kilometers south of Supe. The latter road crosses the Río Supe at one point and becomes impassable during the mountain rainy season October–May.
The best way to reach Caral is to contract a round-trip taxi in Huacho or Supe for US$14, though cheaper colectivos also run from Huacho. It is about 45 minutes on either route. Allow 1–2 hours to see the ruins.