Tambomachay, Pukapukara, Qenqo, Saqsayhuaman and other Archaeological Sites North of Cusco

Cusco was the capital of the Incan Empire and this importance is reflected in the region’s impressive archaeological sites.

North of the city are four main sites, entry to which is included in the main Boleto Turistico del Cusco (Tourist Ticket): Tambomachay, Pukapukara, Qenqo and Saqsayhuaman. Along with smaller ruins, they make a great day hike. I enjoyed exploring the area enough to require two days.

The best way to see the sites is to take a taxi, bus or collectivo up to the furthermost site, Tambomachay, and then hike downhill back to Cusco via the other ruins.


TambomachayTambomachay includes terraced rocks and water features, the historical function of which is uncertain


Girl and Piglet at Tambomachay

A piglet and a girl at Tambomachay



Pukapukara served a military function and is located in a prominent position with view of the surrounding area

Dog and oven north of Cusco

A dog wearing clothing stands near a mud-walled oven between Pukapukara and Cusco

Rooftop symbols, Cusco

Ceramic bulls decorate roofs in the region for good luck

Woman, dog and girl moving sheep, Cusco

A woman, dog and girl move a flock of sheep outside Cusco


On my second day, I began hiking at Qenqo.

Qenqo, Cusco

Qenqo was a holy place in pre-Hispanic times

Qenqo Chico

Nearby Qenqo there are further ruins at Qenqo Chico (Small Qenqo).

Exercising at Qenqo Chico, Cusco

A man exercising next to the Qenqo Chico ruins with Cusco’s stadium in the background

Cactus and barbed wire on mud wall, Cusco

This mud and straw wall between Qenqo and Cristo Blanco is protected by both barbed wire and cacti

Cristo Blanco

Near Saqsayhuaman is the statue Cristo Blanco (White Christ).

Cristo Blanco sign, Cusco


Saqsayhuaman, a citadel originally built by the pre-Incan Killke culture and expanded by the Incas, is the grandest of the four main ruins. Just outside Cusco, parts of Saqsayhuaman afford impressive views of the city.

Saqsayhuaman, Cusco Saqsayhuaman, Cusco Painter and Cusco, Saqsayhuaman

A painter painting the fence with Cusco in the background

Steep hill, Saqsayhuaman, Cusco

I tried to take a shortcut down the front of Saqsayhuaman but ended up needing to turn back as the steepness of hillside made it impossible to go further. At the bottom, some locals told me a tourist had previously died falling down the cliff face.

Woman and Alpaca, Saqsayhuaman, Cusco

A woman in traditional dress and her alpaca earn money by receiving tips from tourists for photos with them; in the foreground is a puma’s head, one of Cusco’s symbols

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