Humantay Lake : What you Need to know about a paradise of turquoise waters

If you ever visit Peru, one stunning attraction that you should not miss is the Humantay Lake. A visit to the lake will leave a memorable mark in your life. I can testify it’ll be a day trip from Cusco Peru you’ll never forget.

Booking a tour guide to Humantay Lake

Humantay Lake is easy to access from Cusco Peru. The best way to take a trip to the lake is by the help of a tour guide though you can still visit on your own or in a company of friends. In Cusco, you’ll find lots of tour Agencies that can offer a tour guide at an affordable fee.

The average fee for hiring a tour guide for a day trip stands at 80 soles ($24). There’s no need to book for a tour, just visit a tour agency a day before the trip. A majority of the tour agencies are located at Cusco main square (Plaza De Armas).

The best time to visit the lake

It takes approximately 3 hrs. to drive from Cusco to the Humantay lake trailhead. And in about 1-1.5 hours you’ve hiked to the lake. Most people touring the lake visit in the morning hours and by noon they’re leaving.

Thus if you what to find other tourists in the lake, you should leave Cusco at around 7.00am. If you want to have private time in the lake, make sure you’re there in the afternoon.

Details about hiking to Humantay Lake

Terrain

Though the hike to Humantay Lake is shorter compared to hiking at Rainbow Mountain, its steeper. It took me 45 minutes from the trailhead to the lake. I didn’t take any breaks in my hike but I maintained a slow pace since the route is steep and some places are slightly slippery. You’ll need waterproof shoes for the hike to be safe.

Altitude

Humantay Lake Altitude
Humantay Lake Altitude

The hike to Humantay Lake begins at 12,700 feet and ends at the lake at 13, 900 feet.

Where the hike starts

If you take a taxi from Cusco, it’ll drop close to where the trial begins — vehicles can’t go past this point. You’ll have to trek for close to five to ten minutes to the trailhead. After alighting from the vehicle, use the dirt path that will take you across the wooden bridge over the creek.

When you have crossed the bridge, the glacier and the trail are visible on the mountain.

You can locate the Humantay trailhead using the GPS.

humantay-lake-trek-soraypampa

Useful tips if you plan to hike to Humantay Lake

Humantay Lake Tour
Humantay Lake Tour

Don’t forget food and snacks

If you want to have an easy time hiking to Humantay Lake, it’s essential to make sure you have some food or snacks. You may decide to take your breakfasts at Cusco and carry along some snacks. Fortunately, those using the services of a tour agency are lucky to get breakfast and lunch.

Toilet paper and cash

You’ll need to pay about 10 soles to an entry fee for hiking. If you need to use the bathroom, you’ll also pay for the service. Note that the toilets are only available at the entry, thus make sure you have tissue paper.

Organize a picnic lunch

I can’t imagine a perfect site for picnics beside the Humantay Lake; thus if you’re visiting this place, it’s essential to organize for a picnic lunch.

Wear sunscreen

Since it’s easy to get sunburns at high altitude, I advise you to wear sunscreen and pack layers of possible. A cap will also be an added advantage.

You’ll need water

You’ll probably need at least 1 liter of water for the hike. Additionally, you can reserve some more water in your vehicle to quench your thirst after descending the mountain.

Humantay Lake Peru
Humantay Lake Peru

Cusco, Peru – Cusco Day Tour – Things to do in Cusco, Peru

One of the easiest ways to see Cusco and its surrounding attractions is to hop on one of the Cusco day tour. The group tour is typically 5 hrs., runs 1:30pm-6:30pm, and is led by 1 guide and 1 driver. Typically cost for the group tour is s./20-40 (US$7-$15) per person, with tour size of 15-20 people. The tour will pick you up from your hotel in a mini bus, which will then take you to various places in and around Cusco (Cathedral of Santo Domingo, Qurikancha Temple of the Sun, Sacsayhuaman, Q’enko, Puca Pucara, and Tambomachay). Private tour cost approximately US$120-130 (2-6 person), but this isn’t necessary as the typical group tours are very good. Tours can be in Spanish, Japanese, Chinese, or English, and can be arranged at any hotel/hostel concierge. (Tips: We found the tour desk at Milhouse Backpacker and Hotel to have a very reasonable group tour price of s./20-30 per person)

For those who have a lot of time, self-guided tour can be done by walking and taking local buses/taxi. For the reasonable of s./20-40, why bother.

Entrance Fees and the Boleto Turistico

In addition to the tour cost, you are required to pay for the admission of the various sites separately. It is recommended to just buy the Boleto Turistico (s./130 or $47 USD, s./70 for students, free for children under 10), which allows you to visit most the sites in Cusco and Sacred Valley (including but not limited to Ollantaytambo Temple, Pisac ruins, Sacsayhuaman) in the 10 days timeframe. A partial BTG is available for s./70 or $26, which is valid for only 1 day. Note that you will still have to pay separate the entrance fee for Cathedral of Santo Domingo (s./25) and Qurikancha Temple of the Sun (s./15). The Boleto Turistico does not cover Machu Picchu and the salt mines.

You can buy your Boleto Turistico from the COSITUC office and tourist information point on Avenida El Sol 103, and from selected tourist offices and authorized travel agencies. The Boleto Turístico is also available at some of the major archaeological sites in and around Cusco. You should just buy it from the travel agency or hostel/hotel concierge when you book the day tour.

Typical Itinerary and Places the Tour Visits

Most tour will go through Plaza de Armas, Cathedral of Santo Domingo, a walk through portion of the city to visit Historic Walls and Masonary, Qurikancha Temple of the Sun, Sacsayhuaman, Q’enko, Puca Pucara, Tambomachay, a gift/Alpaca store, and end at Plaza de Armas (See details below)

Plaza de Armas – Dominated by the magnificent Cathedral, this graceful square is considered the heart of Cusco and is characterized by covered walkways, colonial arcades and houses containing numerous shops, restaurants and travel agencies.

Plaza De Armas Cusco
Plaza de Armas – Cusco, Peru

Cathedral de San Francisco – Also known as Cusco Cathedral, is the mother church of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Cusco. The building was completed in 1654, and was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site under the City of Cusco listing in 1983. The Cathedral has become a major repository of Cusco’s colonial art, holding many archeological artifacts and relics, including gold, silver, and the famous last supper painting of Peru. The interior is one of the most beautiful, but cameras are not allowed (put it in your bag or purse). It is a trip highlight and a must visit.

Ancient Inca Walls in Cusco, Peru

Historic walls and Masonary – The tour will take you through a short walk through the city and give a history of its historic walls, built 500 years ago. The stones are neatly locked together to perfection. Not even a piece of paper or a tooth pick can slide through. This interlocking system is the reason the walls have lasted through numerous earthquakes over the years.

Historic Walls And Masonary
Historic Walls and Masonary

Qorikancha Temple of the Sun – It was the most important temple in the Inca Empire, dedicated primarily to Inti, the Sun God. The walls and floors were once covered in sheets of solid gold, and its adjacent courtyard was filled with golden statues. The Spanish colonists built the Church of Santo Domingo on the site, demolishing the temple and using its foundations for the cathedral. Yet most of the bottom part of the temple is fairly well preserved and makes the site worth several hours of your time. The site is one of the best in Cuzco, containing both Catholic and Inca heritage with stunning views of the surrounding area. Looking at the outside from Avenida del Sol, you get a perfect view of the church standing on the temple and you see the differences of the Inca and the Spanish way of building.

Koricancha Things To Do In Cusco
Koricancha Temple of the Sun

Sacsayhuaman – Located on the hill overlooking the city of Cusco, Saksaywaman (pronounced very similarly to “sexy woman”) was an Incan fortress, vital to the protection and control of the city. The size of the stones at this fort is impressive, many are bigger than a car and the biggest is estimated to weigh in 200 tons. Yet, despite the sizes of the stones, they fit together so perfectly that you can’t fit a piece of paper between them. The inward leaning walls, rounded corners of the blocks, and variety of shapes used in building the fortress is said to have helped the fortress survive numerous earthquakes. This is where you want to take pictures of your little body next to these gigantic stones.

Sacsayhuaman
Sacsayhuaman – Cusco, Peru

Q’enko – Located on a hill, the site was historically used for funerals and other rituals related to death, including sacrifice. On this little site, we find the remains of the celebrations to the gods, including the Sun God ”Inti”. On the roof of the edifice is found a stone sundial, and cut stones as often found on the sites, which show through their shadows: the solstices, the equinoxes, or the proper periods for agricultural plantations! Under the stone perfectly cut, there is an altar for sacrifice! According to historians, usually Lamas were sacrificed, although sometimes, men and children were sacrificed in great occasion!

Qenqo Cusco Peru
Qenqo – Cusco, Peru

Tambomachay– The site consists of a series of aqueducts, canals and waterfalls that run through the terraced rocks. The function of the site is uncertain: it may have served as a military outpost guarding the approaches to Cusco, as a spa resort for the Incan political elite, or both. Covering a limited expanse of just over one acre, it comprises 4 large terraces and two aqueducts that carry water, presumed to be from an underground spring higher up the mountain, to waterfalls descending to a basin below.

Tambomachay Cusco Peru
Tambomachay – Cusco, Peru

Gifts Shop/Alpaca Store – The final stop is the Alpaca store/ gift shop. Here, the store representatives show how to tell the different between a real or fake Alpaca, the difference between Alpaca and Vicuna. We do not know whether the Alpaca or Vicuna furs in the store are real or fake, but they were very expensive. Most of the visitors in our group bought small gloves and magnets, etc.

Tours end back at Plaza de Armas, just in time for dinner. For s./20-40, the trip is well worth it. Do shop around for best pricing, and often the lowest prices are not online!

Cusco Day Tours

Chicha Incas beer – Peru’s Saliva Fermented Corn Beer

Peru is famous for its corn or choclo. Many things can be made from corn but the most infamous has to be the corn-based beer, chicha. Chicha is peru’s local beer. Like it or hate it, you have to at least try it if you are in Peru.

There are 2 kind of Chicha:

Chicha Morada
Chicha Morada

Chicha Morada is the purple, sweat, non alcoholic drink that many restaurants in Peru serves. It is very good.

Chicha de jora is the fermented corn beer that used to be fermented with saliva but now malted barley is used. It tastes like sour beer.

In the towns and villages of the Andes, getting drunk on chicha is a popular pastime – particularly during the holidays. Chicha can be found all over peru, in any door that has a red flag or red plastic bags. It is very cheap and to our surprise, a glass of Chicha in the Sacred Valley area cost only S./0.50 or around USD $0.20.

As is common in other parts of the world, Andean people realized they could use saliva to activate the fermentation process, making the partial chewing & spitting out of corn kernels the first step in the chicha brewing process. In ancient time, small group of women would chew the corn, mixed with saliva in the mouth and then spat out and stored for fermentation. In modern time, malted barley is used for fermentation as common with other beer brewing processes. But perhaps this old technique may still be used in remote and rural area (and perhaps in the one Chicheria we tried).

To many, Chicha may take sometime to get used to. We think it tasted nothing more than sour beer. A few more glasses of it will start getting you drunk and you will then surely have acquired the taste. Often the local fermentation processes may be unsanitary, so try it at your own risk.

But if your stomach are strong enough, Chicha is one of the best way to make new friends with the locals and to experience the genuine Peruvian culture.

Use the comments box below to tell us about your Chicha experiences, or any questions you have!

Coca leaves for preventing altitude sickness in Peru

What is coca leaves?

Coca leaf is sold in supermarkets, open-air markets, and on the streets in Cusco. It is commonly known for helping people both Cusco residents and foreigners who visit the country to cope with the altitude in this country.

Coca leaf works well when it comes to altitude sickness treatment. The properties in the leaf are believed to be a mystical medicine, which is very efficient in any symptoms resulting from altitude sickness. Though the leaf is a primary ingredient in making cocaine, the coca leaves do not make somebody feel high neither are they addictive.

Coca leaf and altitude sickness

Altitude sickness refers to the changes in body functioning when one moves to high altitude from the sea level. The body starts t reacts differently due to changes in levels of oxygen. As one move to a higher elevation, the air becomes thinner hence, each breath contains less oxygen.

The body responds by producing extra red blood cell. Since this takes more than a day, you may experience some abnormality. Some common symptoms of altitude sickness include:

  • Nausea
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Poor appetite
  • Dizziness
  • Vomiting

Tips to avoid or overcome altitude sickness

When preparing for a holiday in Cusco, you need to carefully consider the issue of altitude sickness. Below are some tips that can help you to adapt with Cusco’s high altitude.

The first thing you need to do is to remain calm. Minimize physical activities like trekking during the first few days. Otherwise, you might suffer a lot.

Avoid taking alcohol during the first two to three days. Alcohol worsens altitude sickness symptoms. You should take a lot of water Instead of liquor.

When the effects of high altitude are so strong for you to bear, try moving to lower altitude regions to allow the symptoms subside.

Take a lot of coca tea which you can add sugar in case you dislike the taste though it is best when taken without adding any sugary thing. Drinking coca tea will help you cope with the change in altitude.

Most hotels in Cusco have oxygen supply so in case you need more air you can request from the hotel receptionist. The luxurious hotels have plenty of oxygen pumped inside the rooms. If you have money, it is advisable you go for a five-star resort where oxygen is readily available on tap.

Before leaving your home country, it is always good to ask for altitude medication from your doctor. You would rather have it and fail to use that need it when you don’t have.

The chemical composition of coca leaf

Coca leaves have alkaloids ranging from 0.7 to 1.5%. These alkaloids come from the following derivatives:

Ecgonine ( cocaine, alpha & beta truxilline, and cinnamylcocaine)
Tropine ( valerine and tropacocaine)
Hygrine ( cuscohygrine and hygroline)
Apart from the alkaloids, there is also an essential oil (0.06-0.13%) contained in coca leaves, methyl salicylate being the chief constituent.

Coca leaves chewing

Many visitors are interested in the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu (heights between 3680 masl to 4200 masl) and the problem of altitude is not indifferent to this walk, although the cooks offer every morning coca tea upon awakening, it is suggested to chew the coca leaf while walking, this helps mitigate tiredness, and cancel the effects of altitude.

The takeaway

Cusco is a great city, which together with the valleys around used to the home for the vast Inca Empire. The neighboring towns have amazing temples, and beautiful plazas and the imprint left by the Inca is still visible to date. It is, therefore, one of the most beautiful cities you can think of visiting during your holidays regardless of altitude sickness challenge.

Ollantaytambo ruins, the last living Inca city

Exploring the Ollantaytambo ruins, the stop between Cusco and Machu Picchu

The religious, military and agricultural center of Tahuantinsuyo, and later the Fortress of the Incas Rebels, the city of Ollantaytambo, preserves in its structures one of the clearest examples of how it was lived during the empire’s time.

Ollantaytambo is one of Peru’s unique and surprising archaeological parks. Because of the variety of architectural types and the uniqueness of each one of them: we have not fully understood the techniques used to build huge walls, with megalithic parts that match irregular polyhedra in shape and are excellent in their finish.
Each worked stone is a work of art that is independent of the others, with different sides, angles and volumes.

Ollantaytambo main ruins

How to get from Cusco to Ollantaytambo

Ollantaytambo is located at the western end of the Sacred Valley of the Incas. To get there, take the paved road that leads to Quillabamba. The village is in km. 78. The train to Machu Picchu also stops in the village.
It is located in the same district in the province of Urubamba in the department of Cusco. About 60 km. in a straight line in the northwest of the city of Cusco.

Ollantaytambo Train Station

By train the Ollantaytambo Station is km. 68th
By car via Chinchero-Urubamba the distance is 75 km. On the road that goes through Pisaq, the distance is 93 km.
The mantle’s tambos were many, each singularized by a name before the word Tambo; for example Ollantaytambo, which means Tambo de Ollanta.

What to see in Ollantaytambo

  • Templo del Sol
  • Inkapintay
  • El fuerte de Choqekillka
  • Punku Punku o Llajta Punku
  • La Avenida de las Cien Hornacinas
  • La plaza Mañay Raqay (Kuychipunku)
Six Monoliths templo del sol ollantaytambo peru

In the Sun Temple: gigantic blocks of red porphyry, crafted with masterful surfaces as if it were a soft and malleable material. In which the sides of the pieces had to be joined, moldings or protrusions appeared which could fit in the furrows of the pieces with which they were assembled.
Inkapintay: It’s the whole place, including the strong took the name east, hybrid word probably assigned to the last century, the old highway forward in Choqana, which breaks the front and the last part of the orogenic spur.
Choqekillka Fort: It was another pukura or barracks of characters similar to Choqana, it is formed by districts, incomplete aqueduct, paths and short platforms.
PunkuPunku or LlajyaPunku: located at the eastern end of the town of Ollantaytambo, where the road takes the final turn. PunkuPunku means door of the doors and LlajtaPunku the door of the people.
The Avenue of the 100 Hornacinas: They call this road the current street where pedestrians and vehicles enter after passing the LlajtaPunku bend.

Remains of the long wall with many niches or cabinets, walls show no inclination towards the street, but solidify inside for support in the transverse walls building, lockers were located on the front sides of the walls and not on the street, today commented the wall to the Road and cabinets, the quality of flagstones and clay mortar.

Ollantaytambo town Peru

The place MañayRaqay also called Kuychipunku; Mañay means request, raqay request, is interpreted as the Plaza de las Peticiones. This square is located on the right side of the river Patakancha, corresponding to Araqama Ayllu, a rectangular shape. The walls that bound it have many doors. On the eastern side of the square runs a small creek Patakancha arm at the center of the west wall is the large gate that allows passage into the castle.

Ollantaytambo map

Ollantaytambo Map

Ollantaytambo things to do

The lively city of Inca (Ollantaytambo) is becoming a strategic place for various activities, of which we can mention:
– Outdoors: hikes through the valley, mountain biking, horse riding, paragliding, canoeing through the Vilcanota and off-road.
– Cultural experiences. Demonstration of the Andean weaving, pottery workshop, theater, dance, music, stories, Chacras routes, Peruvian cuisine, etc.

Ollantaytambo Hotels

  • Pakaritampu / Av. Ferrocarril s/n / Reservas Lima: 445-2803 / [email protected]
  • Hostal El Sauce / Ventidero 248 / T. (084) 20-4044 / [email protected]
  • El Albergue / Al lado de la estación del tren / T. (084) 20-4014
  • Ollantaytambo Lodge / Quinta Cruz Esquina s/n / T. (084)20-4141 / [email protected]

Ollantaytambo Restaurants

Killawasi, the restaurant owned by the hotel Sol y Luna offers a real proposal of local cuisine using fresh organic ingredients from farms in the area and the garden of the hostel. The menu was designed by the renowned chef Pedro Miguel Schiaffino and Nacho Solís, who try on their plates to reflect the value of the products of the Sacred Valley.

How can I buy the tourist ticket to enter Ollantaytambo?

The tourist ticket of Cusco can be found in tourist offices in Av. El Sol or on the Plaza de Armas in Cusco. You can buy the full or partial ticket by selecting a specific group of places you want to visit.

Hours of operation: From 7:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., every day of the week.
Entry fees:
Tourist Ticket of Cusco:
General: S / 130 soles (36 EUR or 47 USD) / Reduced: S / 70 soles (19 EUR, 25 USD)
Promotional ticket for Domestic Tourism:
General Admission: S /. 70 soles (19 EUR, 25 USD)
Reduced Rate: S /. 40 soles (11 EUR, 15 USD)

Note that purchasing tickets separately for each site is a higher expense.

Ollantaytambo History (brief review)

Manco Inca Yupanqui, also known as Manco Cápac II, was one of over 500 children of the HuaynaCápac and the first of the four Inca rebels of Vilcabamba. When he fled from the armies of Atahualpa to Cusco, he worked with the Spanish conquistadors and believed to get rid of the atahualpistischen troops in this way. Although the Spaniards crowned him the Inca emperor, he did not have many privileges and was also the victim of a series of abuses and humiliations. On April 18, 1536 Hernando Pizarro dismissed him on the condition that he did not leave Cusco. Manco Inca gave him golden objects, silver bars and offered him a royal gold statue of Huayna Capac. Pizarro, who believed it, released him, but Manco Inca immediately invaded the city of Calca, where his captains were already waiting for him.

From the fortress of Ollantaytambo in 1536, the Inca rebel was only one step away from liberating Cusco from Spanish rule. It is this citadel that Manco has managed to fend off the Pizarristas’ attack and to attack the Spanish troops. Manco Inca, however, had to flee to Vilcabamba when he had to leave his troops due to the excessive wartime. He was eventually killed in 1544 when he was cheated by an almagist group.

This is a guide to the Ollantaytambo ruins in Peru, the stop between Cusco and Machu Picchu. If you have question ask them in the comments below. And don’t forget to pin this article!

Pinterest Ollantaytambo ruins Peru

CUSCO TRAVEL TIPS

How to get to Cusco?

By air:   Domestic flights from Lima (1 hour) and from Arequipa (30 minutes) to Cusco.

By land: Lima – Arequipa – Cusco 1650 km (26 hours by car)

Lima – Nazca – Puquio – Abancay – Cusco: 1131 km (20 horas by car)

Puno – Cusco: 389 km (07 hours by car)

By train: Regular service Puno – Cusco: 384 km (10 hours).

Where to go at Cusco?

Cusco and its surrounding area breath itself history; there are many places that is worth visiting them, streets and Inca temples, through all over the city, It’s amazing how the stones insert themselves perfectly. With this architecture, one can walk for hours admiring the splendor of the city, you can also do it by bus or hiring a car or a motorcycle, the best option is to hire a professional guide. Inform yourself clicking in travel agencies at Cusco and you would find many offers for your trip:

Here, we present you a list of the places which can be visited not just at Cusco but in its surrounding area:

The main square with the amazing Cathedral, La Compañia de Jesus, some blocks form La Merced. You have to visit also San Blas Quarter, well known as the craftsman quarter, and where you will find a church with the same name, Santo Domingo Convent where Qoricancha is found (The Sun Temple in Inca times).

In the surrounding area, you can visit many Inca archeological remains such as: Saqsaywaman, Qenqo, Puca Pucara, Tambomachay (dedicated to the cult and to the agriculture), As well, the amazing places like Machu Picchu, Ollantaytambo, Piquillacta, Tipon and Pisaq.

Suggestions:

  • · Eat light food, the first days. One has to be careful, to avoid breathing problems or discomfort because of the altitude.
  • · At the moment you arrive to the airport or to the bus station, we recommend you to have a clear idea about where you are going to stay. There taxi drivers who try to confuse the passengers taking them to other lodgements that are not like the tourist want and taxi driver take advantage of it.
  • · If you are an experienced traveler, before beginning your trip, buy your tourist ticket…

What to do?

Adventure sports

Cusco has geographical areas and appropriated climates to practice these kind of sports. Lakes, rivers, mountains, circuits and lands are much appropriated to practice rafting, parachute jumping, hang gliding, mountain bike, trekking and motocross and many others.

Purchases

Cusco has many shopping centers and handmade stores, as well as specialized stores. The tourist can buy souvenirs, fabrics, different kinds of vicuña and alpaca wool clothing.

Night Life

There are always going to find opened bars and discotheques all night      where you will enjoy the music, dancing with our pretty females and    taste the most exotic international and national drinks. Many of them         offer live shows with musical groups; national, regional or international groups.

Cuisine

You will find an assorted list of main dishes at the restaurants of Cusco (good meat, red trout or pejerrey of Titicaca Lake), delicious sauces, delicious dishes  cooked by the chef and Peruvian Creole food like the Seco de Cordero,  ceviche, lomo saltado, anticuchos or a Cusquenian cuy. You will also find  international dishes as Argentinean meats, Chicken Curry, red trout at the    florentina style.

The fortress of Sacsayhuaman

The site is located just outside of Cuzco/Cusco, at a height of 3.555 meters above the sea level, higher than Machu Picchu. The ruins are located where the districts San Cristobál and Cuzco meet (both of them parts of the Cuzco province and department).

Sacsayhuamán used to be an Inca fortress, battles between the locals and the Spaniards took place here.

The immense fortress was put together with huge stone blocks, but nobody knows how these components were cut, moved and put into place. Sacsayhuamán’s architecture reflects great skills, knowledge. From the point of view of construction, it is more impressive and mysterious than Machu Picchu (which is rather admired for its beautiful location, remoteness and little known past).

Many travelers who travel to Machu Picchu also take the time to visit this wonder of the Incas. It is so close to Cuzco that you can go visit on foot.

Visiting this marvel of the Incas can be a unique experience, if you’re in Cuzco, then this is a “must see” attraction.

Interestingly, the Incas have built Cuzco in the shape of a Puma, which was a holy animal in the belief of the ancient Incas. While Cuzco was the belly of the Puma, this fortress was its head.

Muyucmarca, the remains of a tower at Sacsayhuamán

Often mentioned as Muyuq Marka (most correct in Quechuan), Muyuqmarca or Muyucmarka, Moyoc Marca is a small Inca ruin consisting of 3 concentric circular walls, all connected with radial walls. It is located within the Sacsayhuamán archaeological site.

3 water channels were constructed which were probably used to fill a reservoir in the centre of the site. Not much is known about Muyucmarca, there are a multitude of theories, speculations around what its purpose might have been.

Chronicle writer Garcilaso de la Vega wrote that there were 3 towers at Muyucmarca, at the top of the walls. The towers were constructed at equal distances from each other, forming a triangle. The main tower was erected in the centre and it was a cylindrical-shaped one, this was called Muyuq Marca/Muyuqmarca (or the other variations of the name, as you wish), the other 2 were: Paucar Marca and Sallaq Marca or Sallacmarca/Sallaqmarca, these were both rectangular shape.

Why was the main tower round and the other 2 rectangular remain unknown. Round towers are less stable, allowing lower maximum heights. If one wants to construct high structures, then rectangular shapes are ideal, because they offer more stability.

The mysteries around the construction of Sacsayhuamán

Sacsayhuamán used to be a huge fortress of the Incas, which was said to have has high towers and could hold over 5.000 people. Today the structure is in ruins, but still impresses with its size and architectural mysteries. Some of the stone blocks that were used to construct it are as large as a medium-sized truck and are still in place today.

Without any sort of mortar, these immense blocks, some weighing over 50 tons, are still tightly stuck together like puzzles.

The biggest stone block of the fortress weights around 120 tons. For comparison: this is twice the weight of an M1 Abrams tank. Imagine, how did the Incas move such an immense piece of rock with precision? No to mention, how did they cut these blocks so that they perfectly fit together.

Sacsayhuamán, called the “House of the Sun” during Inca times was overrun by Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro’s army and much of it destroyed.

Francisco Pizarro’s younger brother, Juán Pizarro was seriously wounded in a battle here and died the next day.

Sacsayhuamán is one of the most impressive structures that you’ll ever find in Peru. The Spaniards were shocked to discover how the Incas have constructed such an immense fortress. In military technology the Spaniards were far superior to the Incas, a culture which the invaders considered inferior to theirs (of course, the Incas didn’t deserve to be degraded in such a way). Some Spanish priests and chronicle-writers, among which Cieza de León, Garcilaso de la Vega, Bernabe Cobo, Sarmiento de Gamboa, Pedro Pizarro have labeled the fortress as one “built by demons, evil spirits”.

Garcilaso de la Vega wrote about Sacsayhuamán:

“This fortress surpasses the constructions known as the seven wonders of the world. For in the case of a long broad wall like that of Babylon, or the colossus of Rhodes, or the pyramids of Egypt, or the other monuments, one can see clearly how they were executed. They did it by summoning an immense body of workers and accumulating more and more material day by day and year by year. They overcame all difficulties by employing human effort over a long period. But it is indeed beyond the power of imagination to understand now these Indians, unacquainted with devices, engines, and implements, could have cut, dressed, raised, and lowered great rocks, more like lumps of hills than building stones, and set them so exactly in their places. For this reason, and because the Indians were so familiar with demons, the work is attributed to enchantment.”

Some people believe, even today, that the structure was not constructed by the Incas, the ancestors of today’s Quechuans. Their fantasies revolve around extraterrestrials that could have arrived to our planet and either build the huge fortress or have taught the Incas how to do it. Writers like Erich Von Däniken have a multitude of theories around such places (like the Nazca lines in Peru and Tiahuanaco in Bolivia).

A simple analysis of the style of the construction, the materials used are considered to be proof enough by specialists that indeed, Sacsayhuamán was erected by the Incas.

Specialists argue about what the builders of this marvel had to do in order to cut , move and lift the stones in order to put them into the right places.

Some estimate the necessary working force for building Sacsayhuamán at around 20.000-30.000 thousand men. the necessary period to complete the work should have been around 60 years.

Specialists put the probable year of completion of Sacsayhuamán at 1508. Which means it was not finished long before Pizarro first reached Inca land (which happened in 1526, but did not implicate any conflicts between the Spaniards and the locals).

Interestingly, the initial structure (not the ruins we see today) was described by the Spaniards as having high “towers”.

Specialists say that Sacsayhuamán was more than 3 m higher that it is today. Above the large stone blocks lay smaller stones, probably the size for those that were used to build Machu Picchu, for example. The upper layer comprised of these smaller pieces of stone was demolished by the Spaniards who used those stones to build themselves homes and Catholic churches.

At the time the Spanish forces arrive to this part of the Tahuantinsuyo, none of the Incas seemed to know how the structure was built.

Some specialists conclude that the theoretical year of completion of 1508 was in fact the year when the Incas placed the smaller stone layer on top of the bigger blocks. This is why some doubt that the Incas placed the big stones.

The Incas didn’t use wheeled vehicles (such as chariots) and to the Spaniards they seemed technically behind.

Visiting Sacsayhuamán

You can get to Sacsayhuamán by one of the 2 roads that lead there: one starts from the old neighbourhood of San Cristobál and the other one from Avenida Collasuyo.

The San Cristobál has 1,5 kms, while the Avenida Collasuyo one 4 km.

Other, less frequented paths can get you there on foot, these are the Sapantiana (which starts at the Choquechaca street), has a length of 1 km, there another one from the San Blas district, which reaches the Kusilluyog temple, through an old Inca road (which connects with Collasuyo).

You can walk to Sacsayhuamán or rent a bicycle, it’s not so far.

20 Fabulous Things to See and Do While Visiting Cusco Peru

Things to do in Cusco

Cusco – This amazing city was once the ancient city of the Inca Empire and is now considered the Archeological Capital of the American and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The elevation of the city is quite high at 3,400 meters, but that does not discourage the more than two million people who visit every year.  Of course, those two million plus people need something to do while in Cusco, and they are all amazed at how much there really is to see in this spectacular area of the world.

Here are 20 of the most fabulous things to see and do while visiting Cusco, Peru:

1.    Plaza de Armas

This plaza is in the center of this historical town and it is the most recommended place for every visitor to begin their Cusco experiences.  There is not a lot to do in the square, but the views of the buildings are quite the sight and visitors will enjoy walking around.

2.    Cathedral of Santo Domingo

This was Cusco’s first cathedral and construction began on this building back in 1560.  The red granite blocks on the outside may be impressive, but the inside offers even more beauty with colonial gold.  Not too many visitors are aware of the fact that this cathedral, like many of the other buildings in the area, were designed and constructed to withstand the effects of mother nature’s earthquakes.

3.    Iglesia de la Compania de Jesus

This cathedral is right next to the Cathedral of Santo Domingo and was originally supposed to be more magnificent once it was completed.  However, the people in charge of the construction were forbidden to even try to make it better than the Santo Domingo.

4.    Qurikancha and the Convent of Santo Domingo

This was once the most important temple of the Inca Empire and was called the House of the Sun.  The walls were covered in golf at one point in time and there were gold statues in both the niches and the courtyards.  All the gold is gone now, but the foundation has not been changed over the years, despite the fact that the church addition is quite new.

5.    Sacsayhuamán

The hike to this ancient military fortress is slightly difficult, but the views that visitors see during the walk are breathtaking.  This area was most likely phenomenal a long time ago, and while it is still nice to see, not much remains except a few foundation stones.  The best time to visit this area is when the Festival of the Sun takes place from sunrise to sunset during nine days around the winter solstice.

6.    Cristo Blanco

This statue was designed by a local artist named Francisco Olazo Allende and while many people think that they need to go to see the statue up close, that is not the case.  The statue is best viewed from a distance, but the best views of Cusco are from the statue’s platform.

7.    Barrio de San Blas

Many visitors stop in the San Blas quarter after their visit to Sacsayhuamán, because it is quite close by.  This area is full of craft shops where local artisans create authentic souvenirs and other items.  Anyone who doesn’t love to shop will still want to stop by, so that they can see the steep cobblestone roads.

8.    Iglesia de San Blas

While in the San Blas quarter, people should stop at the little church to see an amazing wooden pulpit that has an intricate baroque design.  Audio guides are available to visitors which explain the multiple myths of the construction of this pulpit.

9.    Museo de Arte Precolombino

This is one of the few museums in Cusco and it is the one that is most recommended.  The museum has many modern displays that are filled with high-quality pieces of art as well as a lot of gold.

10.    Archbishop Palace

The inside of this palace has numerous spaces, but none are as fascinating as the Golden Hall.  This room has been used as a reception area by the archbishop of Cusco.  The entire interior has a colonial feel and yet, the courtyard is charming and intimate.

11.    The Twelve Angled Stone

The Twelve Angled Stone can be found within the Palacio Arzobispal and this palace is a wonderful way to see how many of the old palaces looked back in ancient times.  While the Twelve Angled Stone is one of the sights that many people see, no one should discount any of the other areas of this palace, because they will miss a really spectacular setting.

12.    San Pedro: Cusco Market

This market is authentic and takes up an entire quarter of the city.  There is no item that is not available within this market and people will need to spend quite a bit of time exploring everything that is within the stalls and booths.

13.    Museo Inka

The exhibits within this museum are a little dated, but it is inside an old palace, which makes it worth the time.  Some of the ancient palace walls have survived over the years, so visitors can see authentic Inca construction firsthand.

14.    Day Trip to Machu Picchu

A day trip to Machu Picchu is possible for those who want to quickly see one of the seven wonders of the world, but no one will get the best experience that way.  However, it is a great way to see the lost Incan city when a person does not have much time in the area.

15.    Tipon

Tipon is a ritual water garden that is still unknown by many tourists, despite the fact that it is only a couple miles away from Cusco.  There are twelve terraces to explore before reaching a water temple at the top.  The water is channeled throughout the terraces and turns it into a sight of amazement.

16.    Maras Salt Evaporation Ponds

These salt ponds have been around since the Inca times and while they are not easy to reach, people can get to them through the Urubamba Valley.  Once a person arrives at the ponds, they will be greeted with spectacular views of the water that glitters in the sunlight.

17.    Other Inca Ruins

There are numerous Inca ruins in and around Cusco, and while seeing too many of them is not recommended, there are a few that people should consider.  Those ruins include Ollantaytambo, Tambomachay, Q’Enqo, and Piquillacta.  They are all different, which is a good thing, but most people will want to choose one or two and leave the others to the rest of the tourists.

18.    Planetarium Cusco

This planetarium offers tours where people can go and look for stars in the all-expansive sky.  The stars are fabulous in this area, because the ambient lighting in the city is low and the sky brightens the nighttime sky.

19.    Ride the Luxury Train

There are two luxury trains that depart from Cusco and while they are a little expensive, the views and the experience is worth the cost.  One of the trains goes to Machu Picchu and the other goes all the way to Puno and Lake Titicaca.

20.    Ausangate

Hikers will want to visit Ausangate to trek along the Willkanuta mountain range.  The views and the history of Incan mythology will only add to the experience.

This city is vibrant and busy, even on a rainy day, which is a good thing for every tourist.  Visitors will want to be ready to do a lot of walking while they are visiting Cusco, so that they do not miss out on any views or attractions that they have to see.

The Sacred Valley of the Incas

The Sacred Valley of the Incas, located between the towns of Pisaq and Ollantaytambo, was very valuable during the Tahuantinsuyo times for its geographical and weather characteristics that favor the production of the best corn in Peru. Crossed by Vilcanota River, it is one of the most visited places by tourists as it includes de archaeological sites of Sacsayhuaman, Qenko, Tambomachay, Moray, and Ollantaytambo. Its handicraft markets in Pisaq and in Chinchero are also well known.

It’s impressive geography includes terraces, ravines,snow-capped mountains and ruins once built by ancient Peruvians turning the Sacred Valley of the Incas into an ideal place for various aoutdoor activities such as mountain biking, rafting along the Urubamba river or experiencing an alternative tourism called “turismo viviencial”.

Cusco street food

Cusco Food Tour, Peru

#6 Chicha Morada

Chica Morada
The chicha Morada is a drink from the Andean region of Peru. However, now its consumption can be found at a nacional level. Its history and consumption
reaches back to the pre-Hispanic era. It’s the drink of the Incas, made from purple corn.

#5 TamalesTamales
Although it they are popular in Mexico, tamales are also important in Peruvian cooking. According
to ancient records, tamales came to Peru by the way of African slaves. It can be eaten sweet or unsweet
with meat.

#4 Huevos de Codorniz
Quail eggs are characterized by their size and brown/blue color. They are like a glass of milk: they are very nutritious.
They contain vitamin A,B,C,D,E, and other minerals.They are also low in cholesterol.

#3 Anticuchos
It’s a pre-Columbian tradition that can be found on most street corners in Cusco. The term is derived from the Quechua language
antikuchu, anti=Andes, kuchu=cut. In 2005, the Association of Anticucheros presented the largest anticuchu in the world. It was
considered by the Guinnesss Book of World Records.

#2 Queso Helado
Dessert of the gods! But it doesn’t contain cheese, it has the ingredients of cheese.It’s made from a mixture of milk, cocoa, vanilla and after cinnamon and cloves are sprinkled on top. It can be found on Avenue Cultura.

#1 Churros
FOOD OF THE GODS! Churros are the most popular of street foods, and the best. They are made from fried dough rolled in sugar. The best in Cusco
can be found at the intersection of Matara and Meson de la Estrella.