Sacsayhuaman is the most significant ruin in the Cusco area and is also the closest to the city. It is possible to walk or drive to the site which is just outside the city on the road to Pisac.Sacsayhuaman is thought to have been a fortress, with both military and religious significance. Cusco was designed in the shape of a puma, with Sacsayhuaman forming the pumas head. Three ramparts of zigzagging defense walls extend for almost 300 meters forming the teeth of the puma.Although this is a huge site, what visitors see here is only about 20% of the original complex. Up until the 1930s blocks from Sacsayhuaman were being hauled away to use for construction in Cusco. Most of the largest stones, which were more difficult to move, were left at the site.Some of the largest stones measure over 8 meters high and weigh 361 tons. Despite the massive size of these stones, they are fitted together so perfectly, even engineers wonder at how the Incas managed such a feat.
Tipón is said to be a royal garden commissioned by Wiracocha. It is one of the most elaborate examples of agricultural terracing created by the Incas. These tall terraces which run up the narrow valley are irrigated by an aqueduct from Pachatusan, the mountain above the site.In addition to the terracing there are also some other structures at Tipón, including baths, a temple complex, canals and aqueducts.Tipon is definitely one of the lesser visited sites in the Cusco area but it is equally as impressive as those in the Sacred Valley. The Tipon Archeological Complex is located 24km southeast of Cusco.
Located much higher than the rest of the Sacred Valley and Cusco, the small town of Chinchero is at an elevation of 3,800m / 12,500ft, and provides great views of the surrounding mountains. The main attraction in Chinchero is the Sunday Market, which draws a large crowd, including tour groups. If you are not there on market day there are a number of other attractions worth checking out. Some of these include the town's Plaza de Armas, an adobe colonial church built on top of Inca foundations, and some Inca terracing in the surrounding area. In the Plaza de Armas is an Inca Wall with the traditional Inca signature of trapezoidal niches.The Museum at the end of the Plaza de Armas is small, with a few Inca artifacts.
Qenko, which means zigzag, is a small shrine 1 km past Sacsayhuaman. It is a large limestone rock outcrop with symbolic carvings and steps which lead to nowhere. Zigzagging channels, that Qenko is named for, are carved into the rock and were probably used for draining llama blood in ceremonial rituals.Etchings of puma, llama, and condors can be seen at the top of the rock. Below are a series of caves and tunnels with altars cut into the stone. This is likely where mummies of lesser nobility were once kept.Although Qenko is a smaller site, its proximity to Sacsayhuaman makes it a convenient place to visit and it is worth the stop.
Puca Pucara, across the road from Tambo Machay, is the least significant site in the Cusco area and perhaps the least impressive as well. Puca Pucara means "red fort" but was more likely a storage area, hunting lodge, or stopping area for travelers rather than a fort. It is supposed to look pink in some lights, which contributed to the name. The site consists of a number of rooms, waterways and aqueducts enclosed in a wall. The lower level has a number of chambers. The upper level offers some great views over the Cusco Valley and glaciers to the south.
Tambo Machay (Tambomachay)
Tombo Machay, 7 km northeast of Cusco, is believed to have been built around 1500 AD.This site, sometimes referred to as Inca's Bath or El Baño del Inca, is thought to have been used for religious functions. Some theories suggest Tombo Machay was involved in an Inca water cult. Fountains or waterfalls fed by spring water were used to channel water to a ceremonial stone bath. The fountains are still functional at this well preserved site. Above the baths is an Inca wall.Tombo Machay is located in a sheltered area about 300m off the road to Pisac.
Pikillacta is the only pre-Inca site in the Cusco area. This adobe complex was built around 700 to 900 AD by the Huari. Pikillacta is one of the less impressive archeological sites near Cusco but draws some attention due to the fact that it is included in the Cusco Tourist Pass. If you are in the area, there is a small Inca site just a short walk from Pikillacta, known as Rumicolca, a travel checkpoint for the Incas.There is public transport to Pikillacta which leave from Urcos.