Everyone’s heard of Machu Picchu but there are other magnificent sites of ancient ruins in Peru that don’t seem to get a look in on the fame front. Yes Machu Picchu is totally amazeballs but if you want to see more Inca and ancient sites in Peru, here’s where you should be heading.
1 Sacsahuaman in Cusco
Sacsahuaman is one of the most mysterious sites of ancient ruins in Peru, for nobody knows what this enormous complex of buildings with its zigzag shaped walled fortifications was used for. Perched high above the city of Cusco, the site may have been a royal home, a fortress or a blend of the two, but archaeologists are still debating this. Each of the huge stone blocks used to construct the site's walled fortifications weighs ca. 300 tons each - how were they cut to such precision and how were they transported to this challenging site?
2 Pisac near Cusco
About one hour's drive to the northeast of Cusco lies the archaeological site of Pisac. Overlooking the Urubamba River, this spectacular site is arranged as a number of concentrically curved terraces, which generations of Peru's farmers used to grow crops. In addition, the complex contains several religious monuments reminiscent in style and architecture of the temples at Machu Picchu. Did these ancient farmers already practice crop rotation based on a lunar calendar? Several carved rocks at the site suggest Peru's farmers used them for tracking astrological constellations.
3 The Palace Complex of Vitcos-Yurak Rumi
This site contains some of the most spectacular ancient ruins in Peru. The palace facade boasts an impressive 200 feet in width with giant doorways fashioned from beautiful and complex stonework arrangements. The explorer Hiram Bingham came to Peru in 1911 specifically to search for this ancient palace complex, where Yurak Rumi remains the focus of interest for visitors. As big as a tourist bus, the enormous granite boulder is covered in elaborate carvings and is mostly likely to have been a holy shrine for Inca worshippers.
4 Scaling the Walled Fortifications of Ollantaytambo
Built to keep out ancient marauders like the Spaniards, the fortified walls at Ollantaytambo once protected an Inca community. At some point in 1536, the Incas defeated the Spanish invaders at this site. The stone walls still standing at this settlement trace an intricate grid of streets. The site was clearly designed for a sizeable settlement, where walled fortifications not only embrace the perimeter but also circle groups of houses and town courtyards for added protection. Archaeologists believe the stone terraces that overlook the town may have been used by military outlooks. Covered in pink granite slabs, they overlook a vast terrain.
5 Visiting the Center of the World at Cusco and the Koricancha
The holy city of Cusco was once considered the center of the known world. Four major roads spread out into every direction, allowing Cusco citizens to reach the four corners of the Incan Empire. Although the Spanish Conquistadores devastated most of this site, the ancient city walls are still standing, as does the magnificent sun temple of Koricancha, which legend has it, was once covered entire in sheets of gold but was stripped of its riches when the Spaniards invaded the Empire.
6 There's Still More to Come at Choquequirao
To reach these ancient ruins in Peru, travelers must first navigate across a steep valley. Once they've managed to get their breath back from scaling this difficult terrain, they are greeted with what most people believe to be the sister city to Machu Picchu, but which may actually be even larger in size. So far only one-third of this enormous city complex has been unearthed. Choqquequirao may have been the strategic base of an important Incan ruler. These ancient ruins in Peru boast some unusual features not found elsewhere, such as llamas carved from stone.
7 The World's Ultimate Agricultural Site: Moray
Incan farmers were masters at their job and they clearly had the engineering knowhow to transform even the most challenging of sites into agricultural farmland. The three huge pits dug at Moray seem to have been built by giants for they are more than 100 feet deep and their perimeters are surrounded by carved earthen terraces that were clearly fashioned by experts. Measured from the outer edges to the bottom of each pit the temperature can vary by as much as 20 degrees, making it possible to grow crops that had different environmental needs such as temperature and moisture saturation of the soil.
Peru is an incredible country and its Incan history is amazing. For travelers who really want to go back in time, there are few places to compare with the ancient sites of Peru. Is it somewhere you want to explore?