Hike to Cusco, Q’Enqo, Sachsayhuaman, & Mirador de San Blas. Needs editing
For a tourist, Cusco is an opportune stop because of how much the city offers both internally and externally. You can spend days exploring the markets, museums, plazas, bars, and restaurants. This blog will focus more specifically on the hike to Cusco to the two ruins: Q’Enqo and Sachsayhuaman, which are right outside the city. My family and I gave ourselves a full day (not necessary, but we did want enough time to explore the ruins without feeling rushed) to hike to Cusco the ruins directly outside the city on a roundtrip loop from Plaza de Armas. You will need the boleto de turistico if you want to see all of the ruins. An advantage of doing this Hike to Cusco with the boleto de turistico, especially if you have limited time, is that it is packed with ruins. The trail can be difficult to follow at times so I do suggest bringing a guidebook with you to keep you on track and add significance to some of the ruins. You will need to have your boleto de turistico to get into Tambomachay (as well as Pukapukara, Qenqo, and Sacsayhuaman).
You can start the Hike to Cusco from the city center but a significant portion of the trail is on the street so we took a cab for 6 s/. (we fit five in a cab with five seats) up to the entrance of the Tambomachay ruins. You can grab a colectivo or bus to Pisac that will drop you off at the Tambomachay entrance for only s/.1. You can also hire a tour company that will take care of transportation, guide, and inform you throughout the day for about s/. 30. We aimed at getting to the Tambomachay ruins around eleven, so if you are hiking the entire loop I would start your day earlier simply to avoid a crowd.
We did not end up walking up to the Tambomachay or to Pukapukara (these share the same entrance) mostly because two of my family members had expired tickets, but started downhill towards the Puca Pucara ruins. There are a few vendors there at the entrance with souvenirs and some snacks or juice. Right away you need to refer to the guidebook or ask someone nearby where the trail- it can be tricky to find. It starts just down the road on the left hand side near a standing of eucalyptus trees (which, interestingly enough are not a native species but brought over from New Zealand). In a few minutes we were walking behind a town and futbol pitch. The town is called Wayllarcocha, where we squeezed by some mules on the path. Be attentive to the path and staying on it so you do not walk on any crops.
After passing the town the path becomes less distinct, take the trail to the right that descends into the valley. This took us away from the road and down into a quarry. Again, the path will split and, again, take the path on the right. Take the left if you would like a view of the valley but the path to the left ultimately is a dead end. The path to the right lead us up looking down on a granite outcropping. If you look closely at this first outcropping you can identify terracing and water channeling. We followed the trail to the right another kilometer or so through a marshy valley and then up and along a ridge overlooking what is known as the temple of the moon. Supposedly there should be a sundial and carved puma but we could not identify either, there were some interesting carvings, and I would suggest climbing down to see it from below.
We continued on the trail to find another outcropping with interesting rock structures, and a cave with an altar inside. According to our guidebook this was called Temple of the Monkey. That was also difficult to believe, it was hard to believe monkeys had ever been present at such an altitude.The name is attributed to the fact that there are monkey carvings (which explains the name), but this we also could not find. Be wary of the marshes, depending on the time of year. One of my travel partners ended up with drenched joggers.
Not too far ahead, more ruins are in sight. I am unsure what the name is for these particular ruins but we made the climb to the top for a fantastic view. There is a small village to the left of the ruins that the path will continue onto. The landscape flattens out on the way to the village with saddled horses grazing, waiting to be claimed. When we walked up the road, with the village to the left and the road heading downhill to the right a man pointed us to the right toward Q’Enqo. We strolled through the village only to walk up on a group of boys and men of all ages practicing a dance. The village is small and after walking the main street we backtracked to take the road down to Q’Enqo. You will be on the road for a while now, but it is only a short walk to Q’Enqo.
If you decide to walk through, Q’Enqo is fascinating, after you get your ticket stamped. It is primarily limestone. The site is split up into two sections; there is Uchoy Q’Enqo (little Q’Enqo) and Q’Enqo Proper. There are caves and tunnels to crawl through, and a grassy area down below with Inca stonework. Many of the corridors and caves have been exposed to intense weathering, but there is still evidence of vitrification (the stone was heated to an extreme heat creating a glassy, reflective layer). The main cavern we walked through was supposedly used for funerary purposes. There are also bathrooms free of charge. We continued on the road for a short amount of time keeping our eyes peeled for the connecting path across the street (opposite Q’Enqo) and get on a small path that leads up and away from the road and then back on it. The road splits, the road to the right leads to the Cristo Blanco statue which we decided to save for another day and instead took the road to the left to walk through a small town that continues on to Sachsayhuaman. To our left there was a park full of people playing music and soccer. A row of stores and homes stood to the right. On our way down the street we came across a pond with bumper boats and a restaurant called Laguna para los ninos. A short distance down the road the path continues on the left, it is an unpaved road passing fields and homes. It bends to the right at which point we were able to see the Sachsayhuaman ruins.
The remains reminded me of sand castles you make at the beach. The architecture here differs from the previous structures. The boulders are much larger and stacked meticulously where in contrast many of the ruins had been destroyed or were rock outcroppings chiseled or carved to indicate any certain shape or structure. The boulders are granite, Porphyry and andesite and appear to have been molten before filled into place. It is impossible to imagine how they fit these stones into place some weigh more than 250-300 tons. There is evidence of vitrification where the stones are protected from exposure. The joints and the contact surfaces were exposed to vitrification for what archeologists believe was a functional purpose instead of aesthetic.
You must get your ticket stamped in order to enter the ruins or the bathrooms. On the way to the entrance is flat grassland scattered with alpacas big and small. The city is only a twenty minute walk from here and the path is obvious, it is a steep cobblestone path that leads down to a road that bends to the right. We followed the path down into the San Blas neighborhood where we stumbled upon Mirador de San Blas which gave us a panoramic view of the city. We continued down towards Plaza de Armas to stop again at a smaller plaza with fountains and a church. This view was not as expansive but there is a beautiful view of the mountains with the outline of the churches intricate steeples and rooftop in the foreground.
From there we found our way back to Plaza de Armas (around 4:30pm) and went on a search for some dinner. We stumbled upon a vegan restaurant (which is not usually popular with the fam but it had come recommended) so if you are alright with skipping out on any meat for dinner the food was delicious. We sat on cushioned benches low to the ground, colored, and played cards while we waited for our food. The meal was delicious with fresh juice and kombucha (very strong). All of it was reasonably priced and generous portions (especially the juice, I have never seen a cup that big). Over all, the day was well worth it and at a very leisurely pace
took us about five hours. The proximity of the ruins and the hike to Cusco itself gave us a new