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Cusco Beyond Machu Picchu

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.

Plaza de Armas Cusco Peru

Plaza de Armas, Cusco Peru

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. 

Salinas Maras

Salinas Maras Salt Mines

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. 

Salinas Maras Near Cusco

Moray Ruins

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. 

Archeological Site Near Cusco

Pikillacta Archeological Site

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. 

Ruins Near Cusco

Tipon Ruins

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. 

Ruins Near Cusco

Sacsayhuaman Ruins

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. 

Temple of the Sun In Cusco

Koricancha, Temple of the Sun

Purchasing a Cusco Tourist Ticket, Boleto Turístico del Cusco

Visit the Municiple Building at the address below:

Av. Sol 103 Of. 102
Galerias Turisticas
Telefax: 051-84-261465

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.

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Steve says:

Thx for these good tips – i’m about to plan my peru iternerary at the moment. I guess i have to plan a few days just for cusco now 😉

Lori says:

Wow – it looks amazing. It’s one of the places I want to travel at some point – in several years. It seems you had a great time and quite an adventure!

Jason says:

Lori, we had an incredible time and Cusco is a beautiful city to experience.

Dan Thompson says:

Very cool! My wife and I thoroughly enjoyed Cusco as well. Beautiful town… wish there hadn’t been so many people trying to sell you stuff so you could actually sit and just chill; but cool just the same.


Jason says:

Yes, there was a lot of that. Takes a while to get used to. Did you ever get the massage? Lol, we never did, but were tempted after our trek.

Jason says:

Nice post guys…there is a ton of stuff to do in Cusco. I havne’t seen Tipon so next time I return I’ll have to check it out.

Jason says:

Thanks Jason. Cusco is an incredible place, as I am sure you realized while volunteering there. It’s one of our favorite places in South America. Touristy? Yes, but still a unique experience.

jeronimo says:

I remember having paid 130 dollars for the big bolleto turistico, you could also buy a small one for 75 dollars (which was also the sutdent rate)
didn’t visit Tipon and thos eother things you show here, ap ity…but we did the other sites in the sacred valley an arouhd cusco, really worth it too

Jason says:

It was worth it for us too. It was a pleasant surprise seeing all that Cusco offers beyond the most common visit of Machu Picchu. It was an educational experience for us. We learned to look beyond the obvious tourist destinations, which offer more insight to the Pre-Colombia empires.

Sofia says:

It’s quite exciting with ruins when you know the history behind it I think!
Wonderful pictures, very harmonic!

Nomadic Matt says:

great pictures! I like the one with all the rings. reminds me of a crop circle.

ayngelina says:

What a great tip, definitely bookmarking this on delicious.

Sonya says:

Cool post! Thanks so much for the excellent travel tips on Cusco.

Shaun says:

Great post! We’re in Cusco for another 6 weeks or so and haven’t decided when the best window is for getting the 10 day pass – these pictures make me want to do it all sooner rather than later!

corina says:

great post Aracely. On our recent trip to Cusco we missed some of these sites so I enjoyed your photos and commentary.

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