While Machu Picchu is the best known of Peruvian ruins, Cusco is filled with a plethora of worthy sites to visit – perfect for days spent acclimating in the city. You can purchase your Boleto Turístico (tourist ticket) as you enter a set of ruins. There are multiple ticket types to choose from and if you plan ahead you can assure you’re picking the best deal for what you want to see. There are 16 attractions included in the full Cusco tourist ticket, sites and museums around the city ranging into the Sacred Valley – it is good for 10 days. If you plan on visiting a couple of ruins in the city and the popular day trip spots such as Pisac, Ollantaytambo, Chinchero & Moray, this is a great deal.
The first site we visited was Saqsaywaman, everyone will tell you to pronounce it as ‘sexy woman’ – quite easy to remember.
It is located up on a hill (12,000+ ft) so you can take a cab or take it slow walking. It’s a beautiful hike, stop to marvel (and catch your breath) at gorgeous vistas like these.
There is no signage at the sites, so it’s best to do your research beforehand to get more out of your experience. Many people believe that the Incas were the culture to create all of the magnificent structures around the country. However, traveling around and visiting archeological sites we learned that there were predecessors who laid many of the foundations. Saqsaywaman was built by the Killke who occupied the region in 900AD, when the Inca conquered the area they simply expanded the temple.
The Incas called Saqsaywaman House of the Sun, but the Spanish believed this place of worship to be a fortress due to its location and structure. Once again, marveling at the Peruvian architecture – how they shaped these massive stones into precise rounded corners like jigsaw pieces (with no mortar!) was baffling.
Some of the largest stones weigh up to 125 tons each. Climbing to the top of the temple you will be afforded heavenly views into the city.
You will spot a large statue of Jesus across the way.
There are also wonderful natural elements to visiting the ruins. Llamas graze on the green grass, birds were abundant, and wildflowers wowed me.
We did visit during a rainy time and the skies unleashed quite a storm. There aren’t many places to seek shelter, so a bunch of visitors huddled under a narrow archway. After every hailstorm….there is a rainbow.
And a majestic llama.
…Or there should be. Next stop on the list was Qenquo Chico, a short walk away.
It was completely empty except for a local family playing soccer on the lawn. I loved the quite feel of this peaceful site.
Quenquo means labyrinth and you’ll walk through a zigzagging path to get to the top which shows off a different side of the city and a lovely juxtaposition.
Qenquo is the larger site, once again – a short walk down the road. This was a temple dedicated to Mother Earth.
It too is a small site, but very unique.
There are subterranean pathways cut into the rocks, a very cool place to explore.
Leading down from the ruins we found a very interesting road which would take us all the way back to San Blas. It was a very steep grade, but luckily we were heading down. I don’t know how cars could actually make it up this cobbled hill! Once again the view was incredible
and we even stumbled by a secret little square, totally silent, it felt like an oasis. That’s San Blas for you,
and the sunset as we were just about home was a perfect ending to our long day exploring the city.
There is so much to see in Cusco, next time I would love to see the other ruins of the city – Pucapucara and Tambomachay!