Inca Trails Above Cusco

Our plan for today is to follow the old Inca pathways from Tambo Machay to Sacsayhuaman  to visit the many Inca sites in the hills just above Cusco.

We jump on a packed collectivo and head off to…

Tambo Machay

Also known as Los Banos del Inca – the Inca Baths) – a spa retreat for the rich and famous? The site is quite small consisting of a few Inca buildings built around a stream. On the way up we noticed the change in altitude as we have now ascended some 400m to 3800m. We are soon surrounded by people disgorged by a tour bus so, having seen what we want to see, we continue down the road to…..

Puka Pukara

Once a working fortress, this place is way more impressive superb views over the valley to the snow-capped mountains beyond. We spent a lot more time here exploring the rooms and walls and drinking in the views before moving on.

In open countryside and armed only with a pencil drawn map, we quickly get lost. We stand debating which way to go next and a couple of French girls ask us for directions. We see the right path and end up walking with them for a lot of the way.

The countryside around here, just a few kilometres from Cusco city, is beautiful. Sprinkled with farms, Inca ruins and a few lakes, it makes great walking country. The old Inca pathways, still in use today, crisscross the countryside and most lead to Cusco, so even if you do get lost, it is no big problem.

Eventually we find our way to Zona X a big rock riddled with tunnels and caves, beloved of hippies as a mystical site and of local couples keen for some “alone time”. We see some of each! We stop briefly to eat our picnic and move on to the next site of…


Housing and amphitheatre and temple and even more impressive than the previous sites. There is a sacrificial altar where sacrifices where you can still see the channels carved into the rock to drain away the blood! Judging by the size of these channels, there must have been a hell of a lot of blood flowing! The site has a number of caves inside the rock, inside which are yet more altars.


Closest to Cusco of all the Inca ruins of all the sites on this trail, this site has some of the most impressive Inca architecture in the Sacred Valley. The experts don’t seem too sure whether this was a temple, a fortress or both. Whatever it was, it is certainly imposing, high on the hill overlooking Cusco, the views of are breathtaking.

The Inca block work used to construct the site is precisely fitted together without the aid of cement. Some of these blocks are 4 metres high and weigh 120 tons. How they got them into place is an incredible feat of engineering. Fifteen minutes down a very steep hill and we are back in San Blas and relaxing with a cold Cusquená beer.


A great day out from the bustle of Cusco. The total cost for our day out is 22 soles, 3 for the bus, 11 for dinner and 8 for beer. Not bad for an excellent day out!


One thought on “Inca Trails Above Cusco

  1. Love the post! Cusco was one of my favourite trips in recent years. People want your business so it has a bit of edge to it (which is great) but can also be relaxing and cultural. Throw in yhe hiking at it was an amazing time.

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