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The Holy Mountains of Ancohuma and Illampu

Listed under Sacred Spaces in Bolivia.

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Soaring majestically above Lake Titicaca and often cloaked by ethereal mists, are the sacred mountains of Ancohuma (20,957 feet) and Illampu (20,867). Archaeological remains found on the summit of dozens of mountains throughout Peru and Bolivia reveal that pre-Columbian people regularly ascended peaks in excess of 18,000 feet to perform ceremonies asking the spirits for life-giving rain. Today people from throughout the Andes still ascend these mountains, continuing an ancient ritual of communion with nature spirits and the weather gods. Great condors, traditionally regarded as messengers of the mountain spirits and able to communicate through shamans, also watch over the sacred peaks.

Far below these resplendent mountains is the lake of Titicaca. Situated at 12,507 feet and covering 3200 square miles, Lake Titicaca is over 1000 feet deep and has more than thirty (mostly uninhabited) islands. Three of its main islands; Amantani, Isla de la Luna (the Island of the Moon), and Isla del Sol (the Island of the Sun) figure richly in archaic Andean myths, and ruins of enigmatic temples are scattered throughout their hills. Legends say that long ago in a forgotten time the world experienced a terrible storm with tremendous floods. The lands were plunged into a period of absolute darkness and frigid cold. Humankind was nearly eradicated. Some time after the deluge, the creator god Viracocha arose from the depths of Lake Titicaca. Journeying to the islands of Sol, Luna and Amantani, Viracocha commanded the sun (Inti), the moon (Mama-Kilya) and the stars to rise. Next going to Tiahuanaco (currently twelve miles inland but once directly on the shores of Lake Titicaca), he fashioned new men and women out of stones and, sending them to the four quarters, began the repopulation of the world.

Photo: Lake Titicaca, the Island of the Moon, and the Holy Mountains of Ancohuma and Illampu

More about the Holy Mountains from Sacred Sites.

Written by  Martin Gray.

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