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Archaeological Sites near Cusco

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There are approximately 500 archaeological sites in the area directly outside of Cusco. Many of these are well known and receive many visitors. However, many of the lesser-known ruins receive virtually no visitors. Besides Sacsayhuaman, the main sites of interest are Qenko, Puca Pucara and Tambo Machay, which are easy to reach from the city.


The site of Qenko contains the most impressive carved rock in the Cusco area. This giant rock has been etched away to create many shrines. There are many zigzag channels on the top of the rock, probably used for pouring sacrificial chicha. (Qenko means zigzag.) There are also the carvings of several animals, including a puma and a condor, although they are rather difficult to make out. Inside the rock there are a number of caves and passageways, carved by the Incas. These were probably used for ceremonial purposes, and an altar is clearly visible, as are niches. One of the entrances to the cave is shaped like a llama's head.

Puca Pucara

This small site was probably a tambo, or resting place, for travellers. Although Puca Pucara means red fortress, the site does not appear to have any defensive purpose. The buildings are interesting, with fine stonework in many places.

Tambo Machay

This very beautiful site was probably a temple dedicated to water. There are some very fine water channels and waterfalls at the ruins, and the stonework is very fine.

Temple of the Moon (Salumpunku)

This temple consists of two caves in a hill. There are cracks in the rock above the caves, letting sunlight, and moonlight, enter. The caves have altars and niches inside. One of the caves has carvings of a snake and a puma at the entrance.