We initially visited Cuzco with one goal in mind, to trek to Machu Picchu. However, two days before we were scheduled to begin our 5 day journey via the Salkantay trek, they closed one of the most visited archeological sites in the world. Heavy rains caused severe flooding and entire villages were washed away while tourism took a plunge. We decided to stick around and explore other interesting places around Cusco.
The easiest and most economical way to see all of the following ruins is by purchasing a Cusco Tour Ticket, “Boleto Turístico del Cusco”. It costs $45USD and provides a 10-day window to see a total of 16 different sites, which include 10 ruins. Below are a few of the ones we visited.
I will start with my favorite place, the salt mines of Maras. When you first lay eyes on the thousands of pools sitting in the valley, you think, wow, how could we have ever missed this. It´s visually impressive. The thousands of pools are fed from subterranean salty waters that escape the mountain. The sun evaporates the water and salt is left behind for processing. It is believed that these pools have been used since pre-Inca times.
The most recent archeological theorists suggest Moray was an Inca agricultural experiment station. Each level has a micro-climate making it ideal for crop testing. The most exciting thing about visiting Moray is hiking to the very bottom of the bowl where you realize the temperature change. Be sure to descend with caution, because the floating steps leading down can sometimes be a bit far apart and intimidating. Also, remember that you must climb out, which is challenging at 3,500 m (11,500 ft) altitude.
At first site the Pikillacta Archeological Complex does not seem like much, but once you walk to the top view point you realize how vast the place is. These pre-Inca ruins belonged to the Huari (Wari) culture. The Huari were believed to be very advanced administratively. Their civilization specialized in a vast road network and terraced fields.
Tipon may have been a park for the upper class, priests or an agricultural center for natural medicines. Today, water is still rushing though the channels and the wide terraces are in perfect condition.
Sacsayhumana (jokingly pronounced like Sexy Woman) is just a short cab ride or 45 minute hike away from the center of Cusco city. Here rest massive stones piled on top of each other forming walls and what used to be the base of a giant fortress. Estimates for the weight of the largest limestone block vary from 128-200 tons. The stones are so precisely fitted that a single piece of paper won´t fit between them. Some stones align perfectly along 12 sides. It’s hard to imagine how they were able to cut, stack and fit these stones.
Just a few blocks away from the Plaza de Armas is the Temple of Koricancha. This is the most important temple in the Inca Empire, dedicated primarily to Inti, the Sun God. The walls and floors were once completely covered in sheets of gold, and the courtyard was filled with golden animal statues. Inside are impressive examples of architectural strategies used by the Incas to create such sound structures. All the gold was quickly taken and melted into gold blocks and sent to Spain by conquistadors.
Purchasing a Cusco Tourist Ticket, Boleto Turístico del Cusco
Visit the Municiple Building at the address below:
Av. Sol 103 Of. 102
Sites you can visit with the Boleto Turístico del Cusco
Sacsaywaman, Qenqo, Pukapukara, Santa Catalina, Tambomachay, Pikillaqta, Arte Popular, Tipon, Qoricancha, Chinchero, Arte Nativo, Ollantaytambo, Pisaq, Contemporaneo, Historico Regional, Inka Pachacutec
Click the photos above for more pictures.