The Oldest Continuously Inhabited Cities in South America

The historic center of Quito has been extremely well-preserved.
The historic center of Quito has been extremely well-preserved.

Old cities that have stood the test of time have more than just marks of history; they display the positive and negative influence of human civilization. In South America, the oldest cities show amazing architecture and ancient stories, but few of these cities stand to date. There are some disputes concerning the historical records of some of these towns, but we have, however, included them in our list because of their cultural and religious significance. Below is our list of South America’s oldest continuously inhabited cities.

The Three Oldest Settlements/Cities Of South America

1. Quito, Ecuador

Quito is believed to be the oldest continuously inhabited city in South America, with its foundation dating back to around 980 AD. Its origins are suspected to date back as early as 2000 BCE when members of the Caras culture conquered Quito and founded the Quito kingdom. Quito is currently the capital city of Ecuador and the second most populous city (after Guayuquil). According to the 2015 census, Quito had a population of 2,671,191. The city’s historic centers have been largely preserved and protected from alteration, leading to Quito being ranked highly in the Americas as the city with the best preserved historical centers. It boasts being one of the first ever cities to be declared in 1978 as the World Heritage Sites by UNESCO along with Krakow, Poland.

2. Cusco, Peru

According to Peru's Constitution, Cusco is the official historical capital in the country. The evidence of carbon-14 dating, of the walled complex of Saksaywaman, shows that the fortification was built around 1100. Scars of an ancient temple were discovered in 2008 indicating that the city has a long-term religious history. The city is currently the capital of Cusco Religion and had a population of 435,114 according to the 2013 census. In 1983, UNESCO declared Cusco a World Heritage Site, and this has made Cusco a major tourist destination. Cusco was the capital of Inca Empire that existed in the 13th century.

3. Cumana, Venezuela

Cumana is the capital of Sucre State in Venezuela and is among the first settlements founded in the America’s mainland by the Europeans in 1515. As per the 2011 census, the municipality of Sucre had a population of 358,919 and the current estimates of 2016 are about 423,546. The city has an up to date and well maintained colonial style of architecture. There is an old Spanish fort found on the beach and is open to the public. Castillo de Santa Maria de la Cabeza is an old castle that was built in 1669. Earthquakes destroyed most of the city's 16th-century architecture, meaning that most of the oldest parts of the city are from the late 17th and 18th century.

Other Old Settlements Of South America

The above is a list of cities in South America which have been continuously inhabited the longest. It does not include archeological sites such as Aspero in Peru or Puerto Hormiga in Colombia, which date back to as far as 3700 BCE and and 3000 BCE, respectively.

The Oldest Continuously Inhabited Cities in South America

RankCityFirst Recorded Human Settlement
1Quito, Ecuador980
2Cusco, Peru1,100
3Cumana, Venezuela1,515
4Santa Marta, Colombia1,525
5Sao Vicente, Sao Paulo, Brazil1,532
6Lima, Peur1,532
7Piura, Peru1,532
8Cali, Colombia1,536
9Santiago, Chile1,541
10Santiago del Estero, Argentina1,553

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