A huge factor in to my decision of why I chose to come to Peru was the rich history and culture the country holds. The preservation of Pre-Colombian Indigenous Population sites in Peru is simply amazing. But when I finally came, I quickly learned that Macchu Pichu is only one of the many breathtaking sites built by Inca and Pre-Inca populations. Here’s a run-down of the top 10 ruins I’ve enjoyed during my time in Cusco. If you ever have the chance, I highly recommend the trek to these amazing places–while the altitude might slow you down, viewing these literally breath-taking archaeological sites will surely rejuvenate your lungs.
Just about an hour and a half bus ride outside of Cusco is the Inca archaeological site of Rumicolca. It’s believed to have been built as an entrance to Cusco and might have had the functions of a customs post. If you’re willing to hike a ways up a hill near it, you’ll be rewarded with an awesome birds-eye view of the structure.
In the city of Cusco is what used to be the most important temple in the Inca Empire. It’s said that it was once covered in gold complete with golden statues in the courtyard but unfortunately was ransacked by the conquistadors who then built a Christian church on top of the ruins. While earthquakes have damaged the church, the Inca stone walls still stand strong, further proving the advanced architectural skills of such an amazing ancient culture.
Located a short taxi or bus ride outside of Cusco, this huge complex holds arguably the most amazing view of the city. The area is believed to have once been a fortress or retreat for royals during Inca times. Walking around you’ll see huge stones that fit tightly together like puzzle pieces to create walls and structures that have stood the test of time.
Standing just a 20-40 minute hike (depending on your reaction to the altitude) from Tipon stands the smaller but equally breathtaking site of Pukara. Gorgeous views of farmland and ancient Inca ruins make great scenery for an afternoon.
Created around a spring nearly an hour bus/taxi ride outside of Cusco is the amazing site of Tipon. I could have spent an entire day just sitting and staring out at the masterpiece of Inca style stone structures and water management pathways. I even took a chance and drank the water that ran through the irrigation channels which some believe to have healing and cleansing powers.
One of the main stops in the Sacred Valley about an hour outside of Cusco is the town and archaeological site of Pisac. It contains beautiful terraces and artfully crafted structures that are believed to have been used for the military, religious temples and individual dwellings.
Also located in the Scared Valley is the site of the Inca’s military victory over the Spaniards circa 1536. With its original stone walls, terraces and pathways, the views of and from Ollantaytambo are breathtaking. You can definitely feel the strong historic energy of the people that once roamed the same stairways.
Though I didn’t have the time to take the short drive to Moray, many of my classmates raved about this site of Inca landscaping. Huge pits of curved staircases that measured to more than 100 feet that the Incas may have used for experimental crops make for a great day hike and some amazing photos.
Nearly 18 miles outside of Cusco is the ancient town of Chinchero. With Hispanic architecture built upon Inca construction, this area holds centuries of history in its walls. The people of Chinchero conserve many Inca traditions and although I personally didn’t have time to visit the town, I’ve heard there are countless opportunities to obtain history and culture lessons in this amazing pueblo.
10. Machu Picchu
The crown jewel of Inca ruins has to be the “invisible city” of Machu Picchu. Although it’s become the top destination for Peru tourists, the views and history of this city in the clouds is worth the navigation of thick crowds. Bonas points for those who are brave enough to trek up Wayna Picchu- the view of the valley and Machu Picchu from this high mountain is indescribable.
The world awaits…discover it.