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Sacsayhuaman & more | A guide to Cusco’s archeological circuit

Four archeological sites, Sacsayhuaman, Q’enco, Puka Pukara and Tambomachay sit above the wonderful city of Cusco.  They are included on the Cusco Tourist Ticket.  The nearest one to the city, Sacsayhuaman, is famous for it’s walls constructed from interlocking giant blocks.  The other three are smaller and less significant but still make a pleasant visit, especially as you have paid in advance for the privilege.  In this post we will give a little information about each site, how to get to each site from Cusco.

sacsayhuaman
Sacsayhuaman

Sacsayhuaman

Archeological Site, Cost – 70 to 130 soles included on the Cusco Tourist Ticket

Sacsayhuaman can be seen above the city of Cusco and is the closest of the four sites.  It is a steep uphill walk to the entrance but it’s not too far, so we’d say it’s manageable for most. Ideally, you want to get to the entrance as early as possible as it soon fills up with the tour buses.  It doesn’t seem too crowed however as it’s a massive set with lots of open spaces.

Sacsayhuaman construction is believed to have commenced in the fifteenth century for the then ruler of the Incan empire, Pachacuti.  The fortress is made up of drystone walls using giant blocks that have been worked to fit together in an interlocking pattern which is thought to have helped them resist earthquake damage over the years.

We spent about an hour here just wandering round the site, amazed at the workmanship and wondering just how they managed to move these great rocks into position and also make them fit together so precisely.  When you’ve had a good look round, if like us,  you are visiting all four sites by public transport, then head to the exit towards the back of the site past the carpark.

Q’enco

Archeological Site, Cost – 70.00 to 130.00 PEN included on the Cusco Tourist Ticket

The next site of the four, Q’enco, is about a fifteen minute walk up the main road in the direction of Pisac.  If you have exited Sacsayhuaman as above just follow the road up past all the gift shops, continue up the road staying well clear of the traffic.  You will see the sign for Q’enco on the opposite side of the road, you can’t miss it.

Q’enco is believed to be a holy place where mummification and sacrifices took place. It’s carved into the bed rock where a series of passages take you into a cave which contains an alter believed to be dedicated to the Pachamama or Mother Earth.  It used to be a favourite picnic spot frequented by the locals where the kids would scramble around on the rocks.  This is no longer allowed as the upper parts are fenced off.  It is never the less a good place to spend half an hour exploring the cave and passages.

Q'enco
Q'enco

Puka Pukar

Archeological Site, Cost – 70.00 to 130.00 PEN included on the Cusco Tourist Ticket

The last two sites of the four are about seven kilometres up the road so you will need to find transport.  At Q’enco you can walk the few yards back to the main road and flag down a passing bus for one sole per person or get a taxi from the carpark which is what we did and it cost us 5.00 PEN and dropped us right at the entrance to the site.

Puka Pukara is believed to have been an Incan military base defending the road into Cusco.  It’s made up of rooms and terraces built on a small hill which gives views in all directions. Again it’s a good place to spend a few minutes wandering around but it doesn’t have the majestic walls of Sacsayhuaman.

At the back of the site looking further down the road you will see the entrance to the final site on this route. There are several paths heading in that direction that avoid the main road for most of the way.  It’s not far to the entrance, only about three hundred metres downhill.

Tambomacha

Archeological Site, Cost – 70.00 to 130.00 PEN included on the Cusco Tourist Ticket

Walk through the carpark to find the site entrance.  There are toilets here just before the gate where you get your ticket stamped.  It is then a very pleasant short walk up to the ruins.  There’s not a lot here but what there is, is very nice and the place has a good vibe with the sound of falling water.

It consists of a series of terraces with canals cut into the rock channeling water from near by springs.  The purpose of the site has been lost to history some believe it to be the remains of another fortress others a site of worship or even a spa.  Other contemporary Incan sites appear to have similar features associated with religious practices.

When you’re done exploring you can get the bus back into Cusco right at the entrance to the carpark. They pass every ten minutes or so.  If you’ve not yet been to the Cristo Blanca Mirador you can hop off the bus right next to the entrance.  The giant white statue of christ looks down over Cusco and so can you.  It’s then a short walk down a slightly rough path back to the entrance of Sacsayhuaman and you can retrace you steps back down into town.
Puka Pukara
Puka Pukara

Alternative ways to visit the Cusco Archeological Circuit?

The way we visited the sites is the cheapest and in our opinion the most fun, we always like to do these things independently if we can.  That way you can spend as long or as little time in each place as you want.  If you don’t fancy the hassle however there are other modes of transport you could use. 

The Hop on Hop off  buses visit the sites, we didn’t use them so I’m not sure how much it costs to get one in town.  You can book through a third party here which is convenient but may cost a little more than booking direct.  You can also book a group tour that visits all four sites again you can book online here.  If you want a bit more flexibility but don’t want to walk you can speak to your accommodation and they will arrange a private taxi for you, this is however the most expensive option.

Tambomachay
Tambomachay

Our view

The ten day tourist ticket is great value for money if you have the time to use it.  If you’re short of time you can get a ticket that just covers the four sites on this post for 70.00 PEN and if you’ve paid for the ticket you may as well do the full circuit.  We really enjoyed using public transport and mixing in with the locals but if it’s not your cup of tea there are other options to suit.

Booking resources for your stay in Cusco

Flights

You can compare cheap flights on the Expedia platform or here on the Aviasales website.  Both will give you a good idea of how much its going to cost you to get to your chosen destination.

Accommodation

We have always tended to use Booking.com having said that if your on a tight budget another good site to try as a comparison is Hostelworld, If your looking to compare different sites you can do that on Hotellook, we tend to look on here first to make sure we are getting the best deal.

Tours & Tickets

You can book your visits as you go at the entrance to your chosen attraction or site.  Or you could use the following links to book in advance or just to find out what your choices are in the area. GetYourGuide and Tiqets are our go to choices you could try Viator to see how they compare.

For a full list check out our resources page. Don’t forget always shop around to find the best deal for you. What works for us should be good for you but it’s always reassuring to check.

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