From Cusco to TambomachayFrom Cusco to Tambomachay TambomachayTambomachay Puka PukaraPuka Pukara ChuspiyoqChuspiyoq Temple of the MoonTemple of the Moon Temple of the MonkeyTemple of the Monkey Q'enqoQ'enqo QochapataQochapata SaqsaywamanSaqsaywaman
OK, look. When we say visit the Inca ruins near Cusco City , this can mean anything from fully immersing yourself amongst old ancient rocks and stone, to putting your camera’s zoom feature to good use. Either way, we thoroughly enjoyed our 7 hour hike and felt extremely satisfied with our successful visit to 6 out of 8 Incan sites and temples, for only €2 each.
How? We snuck in, and we snuck close.
Some people may not agree with us here. Surely looking at such history from afar isn’t the same as inspecting from up close, walking amongst it, or even touching it, and they’re right, it’s not.
However, for us, not all ancient sites are jaw-dropping, not all will have the same impact, and certainly, not all of them are worth paying the ‘boleto turistico’.
The tourist ticket allows you access to 16 sites, including the ones found deep in The Sacred Valley, but at the price of 130sol (€35). Not bad we hear you say, but for us, that €70 is a weeks accomodation and so, little hard to justify.
There is a partial tourist ticket for 70sol (€19) but considering it’s only valid for two days, allowing access to only four ruins, we find it impossible to get your money worth.
Not wanting to seem cheap, obviously with Machu Picchu being the “biggie” and most expensive, we just couldn’t stretch the budget to pay to visit additional ruins. So we looked for an alternative. Let’s be ninjas and try sneak in, we decided.
Starting with the local ruins that reside in the hills overlooking Cusco city, we were delighted we opted in for the rough and ready way of visiting. Upon inspecting the ruins from both up close and afar, our opinion is, the ticket price just isn’t worth it. SORRY INCAS!
Hey, remember that’s only our opinion.
The best part of our 5km hike was just that, the hike. And while we oooh’d and aaah’d at such genius construction, honestly, we’ve seen better for cheaper.
Here’s a simple breakdown to each site, any questions or anything to add, feel free to pop a comment below. Massive shout out to Along Dusty Roads for introducing us to this method.
From Cusco to Tambomachay:
Start your day off early and catch the minibus to Tambomachay from Puputi Terminal. The small station, also known as ‘Estacion de buses Urubamba y Calca” is located in the Wanchaq neighbourhood.
You could grab a cab for a few sol but why not warm up the quads and enjoy a brisk morning walk? During our time in Cusco city, we stayed in Wanchaq and do highly recommend a stroll through this busy district. It is an easy 15 minute walk from the Plaza de Armas.
Collectivos leave when full, the journey takes 20minutes and costs 4sol (€1.05).
Off to a great start (can you sense the sarcasm?), we tried to find a way into Tambomachay but failed miserably thanks to our nerves and a hidden guard. Still though, give it a go! We went on a Sunday and something told us that he isn’t always perched along the path we took.
The collectivo will drop you outside the entrance. With your back to the entrance, head back along the main road, the one you came in on.
After 100m, on your right hand side, you’ll see a small pathway that leads up on the hill, follow it and walk back towards the ruins.
Our plan was to keep walking until we found a way in, but our guard stopped us in our tracks. Literally!
Sure let us know if your mission is more successful.
Spoiler alert! These ruins rest on a hill thus are easily seen from the roadside.
For the best view, there is a hill adjacent. Climb as high as you can for that stunning shot. Even from the slight distance, it’s clear to see that, although very impressive, it would not be worth the cost of the boleto.
You won’t miss these ruins, hidden in plain site you eill find them around 200m from the Tambomachay entrance. Again, down the main road you drove in on.
Now walking away from Puka Pukara, yes… along the same main road, after 5 minutes the next village will be in sight. About 300 metres before the village, there is a dirt-path leading left, take it.
Walking behind houses, beside a mini-reservoir, past llamas and donkeys; follow the dirt track straight, over a wooden bridge and pass the football field.
Continue along the same path (that may slightly disappear under moss), there should be a line of towering eucalyptus trees on your left. Don’t forget to grab a leaf, rub it between your palms and inhale. SEXY!
The now non-existing dirt road will veer to the left. Easiest way is to follow the trees and bushes on your left, all the way around (to your right will be open marsh land).
Eventually you will reach what looks like an open valley, with a downward hill. Head down the hill and continue straight, under the watchful eye of the looming rockface.
You might see some people walking on top of the hill to your right, but stick to your own path and keep going straight until you reach the foundations of old ruins, hidden behind a barbed wire fence. You’ve just reached the Chuspiyoq ruins. Climb up the stony steps and enjoy a lil rest ontop of the rock.
The Temple of the Moon:
There is a worn out pathway leading from Chuspiyoq straight across an open-field. Keep walking and you’ll soon see the Temple of the Moon, straight ahead atop a rock. You won’t miss it!
Follow the path right up to the top, and enjoy that view. Don’t forget to look down!
There is a small cave, should you wish to take a break from the sun, under said rock on the opposite side, facing away from the city.
The Temple of the Monkey:
At the Temple of the Moon, while facing the city, you’ll see a number of orange rooftop houses closeby, on your left. Head towards the houses and as you approach there will be a grassy path aligned with stones, on your right. Follow this path.
Congrats, you’re officially on the Inca trail.
After no more then 7 minutes, you will arrive to the Temple of The Monkey aka Kusilluchayoq. Go forth, get lost in the monkey maze and search the rocks for carved monkeys, the reason why it got its name.
Monkey Spoiler: There is only one rock that features carved monkeys. To find it, enter the ruins where the signpost is. Straight ahead you’ll see a large hole with rocks the shape of an arch over it. There is a tall pointed rock sitting over this arch. That’s where you’ll find the monkeys.
From the Temple of the Monkey, head back towards the grassy path, aligned with stones i.e. the Inca Trail and follow it down towards the city.
You’ll eventually come to a main road. Cross the main road and climb up onto the facing hill. You’ll see a worn out track that leads up and left. Stay on this path and veer to the left, behind the small stone building, it has a red door and graffiti all over it. You won’t miss it.
Now you should see a perfectly formed hill ahead of you, walk towards it and follow the path leading up. Up, up, up ya go!
At the top, you’ll see Q’enqo Chico, the small ruins beside a beautiful forest full of lanky an cartoon-like trees, overlooking Cusco. This is the perfect place to lunch.
While perched on Q’enqo Chico, look up towards the right to see another path and small green/wooden bridge. Post-lunch, follow the path to visit more of Q’enqo, including the caves.
While we did see some tour guides and staff officials, no one batted an eye lid and we weren’t asked for tickets, so explore with ease.
From the Q’enqo Chico grounds, with the forest on your left, head towards the main road up ahead. You will see cars parked along the barbed wire fence. Here you will find a main road.
Directly across the main road is a signpost and path leading to Qochapata. This is a ‘no ticket required’ site. Nothing hugely special but, compared to Q’enqo, it is higher up thus offers even better views of the city.
For sight of Saqsaywaman (hilariously pronounced ‘sexy woman’), the last ruins of the day, and the toughest to enter.
From Qochapata, head back to the main road, swing a right and head straight until you see the sign for Saqsaywaman. Take the road to the right hand side of the sign and continue on.
You’ll pass a line of shops along the way, avoid them. All prices have been hiked.
Oh! It might be worth mentioning that the Cristo Blanco (the big white Jesus that hugs the city) is up towards the left. You won’t miss it. Some nice views and photo opportunities here. Take one for your Grandmother.
Continuing on the road to Saqsaywaman, when you see another set of shops and a small “freak show animal” museum on your left hand side, pass them, and you should then see a small break through the wooden fence. This opens onto a large field, where you’ll find a number of llamas grazing and full view of Saqsaywaman.
Cross the field to not only get a closer view but to bypass the ticket booths and arrive at the stone path.
Unfortunately, this was as close as we got. Along with a local lady, we all tried to hope a nearby fence but failed. Although you can literally touch the Saqsaywaman stone, entering the site fully may be difficult.
Alternatively, you can walk the entire Saqsaywaman perimeter, firstly heading back across the field and out to the main road. Along this traffic ridden road, there are a number of breaks along the fence that offer good photo opps.
To head back towards Cusco, follow the Saqsaywaman stone path, walking the away from the entrance and ticket booths.
The path will eventually turns into steps, ones that lead straight back to Plaza de Armas.
Usually you need a ticket to walk down this way, but no one should approach or ask you for one since you’ve skipped the ticket office. We weren’t asked!
When the steps stop, just continue down the main road and across the church grounds. You should see a narrow left turn which leads to more steps and, eventually, back to the Plaza de Armas.
See! A fun little adventure! Major claps, lads. Wasn’t that, as we say in Dublin, “bleedin’ deadly”. Slightly thrilling and it cost you 4sol. Major claps.
Any questions, or something to add? Pop a comment below. We would love to hear from you!