Peru is undoubtedly famous for its Incan site, Macchu Picchu, and the Inca Trail that takes visitors there. However, there are a wealth of sites just outside of Macchu Peru in Cusco, that are well worth a visit with fewer crowds.
One of the biggest and most popular sites in Cusco is Sacsaywaman (don’t worry, I giggled at the name too). Cusco was once the capital of the Incan Empire, and Sacsaywaman was one of its most important ceremonial centres. Today only 20% of the sprawling site remains, but it is easy to spend an entire afternoon exploring the site, and having a ride down one of the natural slides.
By purchasing a day ticket at Sacsaywaman, it entitles visitors to entry to four other Incan sites, the furthest located approximately 6 km away. Grab a taxi and head to Tambomacahay, an ancient temple to the water cult in Incan culture. The site remains in surprisingly good condition and is an excellent example of the Incas’ engineering and architectural feats. For the best view of the temple, make sure to climb in the hills nearby, which contains a path that will take you all around the site. Keep your eyes peeled for other Incan remains nearby – unnaturally straight lines of foliage and scatterings of rock are a telltale sign!
Only five minutes’ walk from Tamboamchay lies Puca Pucara, once an Incan stronghold before the Spanish took over. The site sits on a hilltop with panoramic views of the surrounding mountains and the valley below. The defense system is believed to have been related to the protection of Tambomachay, as well as supervising and protecting the Incan trails leading to Cusco and the nearby forests.
If you are feeling brave, walk along the road from Puca Pucara to Qenco. The scenery on either side of the road contains remains of other Incan ruins, or evidence of Incan masonry in the landscape that can’t be seen from the window of a car. Not to mention, the road passes through the local villages that offer hefty lunches that are cheaper than anything offered in Cusco. Qenco itself is another important religious site to Incan culture, and stands out with its massive stone monuments and precise masonry. If you follow the narrow, zigzag passages, you will arrive in a cool, underground chamber, with a giant stone slab where the altar for human and animal sacrifices were made.
Do you know of any Incan sites you would like to share? Comment below!