How did they build this thing without metal tools?
This lovely walking tour is a superb introduction into the Inca heritage of Peru. At 3650m this is also a perfect acclimatization hike for any one planning to do the Inca trail or other longer hikes in the area.
Start the tour by visiting a most stunning ruin called Sacsayhuaman. Although the smaller stones of Sacsayhuaman were used to build modern day Cusco, the remaining stones are up to 8.5m high and weigh over 360 tones. The distinctive zig-zag ramparts that form are attributed to being puma teeth, lightning & also fortification. This major centre obviously had many functions with storehouses, administration buildings, reservoir and play area. It was also site of a crucial battle between the Incas & the Spanish.
Start hiking about ten kilometres out of Cusco at the Inca ruin of Tambo Machay. This is popularly called the Inca’s Bath due to its finely preserved waterfalls, carefully diverted through fine stone channels. The Incas acknowledged water as one of the principal elements of life and revered it accordingly.
A few hundred metres back towards Cusco, visit the site of Puca Pucara. This delightful ruin on a small prominence is believed not to be the ’red fort’ its name suggests but a ‘Tambo’ – a rest house for travelling animals, goods and travellers.
Next, cut across country following the old Inca road from Cusco to Pisac. The traditional farming methods and highly adapted Andean crops are a treat to see still functioning.
You next stop is at a large ‘waca’ or outcrop of rock known as Salumpuncu, or the Temple of the Moon. This demonstrates the Incas affinity with rock as they improve the naturally occurring features of this huge rock into caves, seats, carvings, mummy-niches and an altar that is supposed to be bathed in moonlight on the full-moon of the Winter solstice. Time permitting the settlement of Cusillyuioc known as the Temple of the Monkey just below is an interesting lay-out of caves & tunnels. En route we will enjoy a delicious picnic lunch.
With Cusco now in our sights, visit the fascinating Qenqo. This waca contains some of the finest examples of Inca carvings in-situ. The eroded limestone fissures have been artfully carved into zig-zag channels (from where Qenqo derives its name), pumas, condors, snakes and houses. Bountiful Mummy Niches in the caves, an amphitheatre and the central phallic column all add to the mystery of its multi-functional use.
Down an old Inca road brings you to San Cristobal church built on top of Inca Manco Capac’s Palace and a fantastic view point of Cusco. The final steps down the streets of San Blas bring us to the Plaza de Armas and the end of the tour.
Distance: 12km Altitude Gain: Negligable Altitude Loss 600m
- Casa Andina Private Collection (or similiar)