Sacsayhuaman, Qenko, Puca Pucara and Tambo Machay
Quinta Lala, our Cusco campground, is right next to the big Inca ruins of Sacsayhuaman. This is just one of four Inca sites that are in a line along the road from Cusco to Pisac. It’s very easy to see all four of these in one day as Collectivos (50c per person) ply the road between the sites. All the sites can be visited using the Cusco Tourist Ticket. Note that there are several spellings of all these sites and I have used the one from the Rough Guide.
The Cusco tourist ticket is an expensive (S/130 each) ticket which covers sixteen destinations both near Cusco and in the Sacred Valley. There are some museums but these are the less interesting ones in Cusco and the better ones have separate entrance fees. You can pay individually at the sites you want to visit so if you will only visit a few its not worth buying the Boleto Turistico General. We were determined to visit as many as possible to get our money’s worth.
Tambo Machay and Puca Pucara are only 200m apart and Sacsayhuaman and Qenko are only 500m.
We decided to start with the site that is furthest away from Quinta Lala, Tambo Machay. This was an Inca baths and as such was an important pace for both ritual and physical cleaning. The site isn’t that interesting and takes only a few minutes to walk around.
Just up the road from here is Puca Pucara which means “Red Fort” and is a relatively small structure with great views down into the Cusco valley. Archaeologists debate whether this was a defensive structure or merely a hunting lodge for the Emperor.
After a short ride in a collective (stuffed in with a lot of children returning from school) we arrived at Qenko. At Qenko a trainee guide approached us and offered to show us round for free as it would help him learn.
Qenko is a massive stone, cut with passages, surrounded by inca walls and seats. On a yearly basis sacrifices would be made at an altar under the stone and based on the direction that the blood flowed would predict whether the forthcoming year would be good or bad.
The biggest of the four sites is Sacsayhuaman. This site, although significantly deconstructed by the Spanish, is still very impressive. The main feature is a massive defensive wall built with enormous blocks of stone.
The wall stands 20m high and some of the blocks weigh up to 300 tonnes. The wall itself is 600m long and zig zags leading the shadows to look like cats teeth but also forcing any attackers to expose their flanks.
Opposite the defensive wall is a large volcanic outcrop which overlooks a large amphitheatre. Here the Inca Emperor presided over large ceremonial gatherings.
At one end of the site there are a large number of tunnels that honeycomb an area of fractured rock. These were fun to explore but pitch black !