If you mention the word “Peru” to a person, the first image that comes to their mind is going to be of Machu Picchu. Rightfully so: the Machu Picchu ruins are a sight to behold, and was the Holy Grail of numerous Spanish explorers trying to chart the area. It’s a destination that deserves all the hype and sensation, for sure, but those are not the only ruins Peru has to offer.
The Incan civilization was vast, and complex, and the ruins left behind by the civilization are equally enchanting and unique. Here are a few ruins you should definitely explore, along with Machu Picchu.
Winay Wayna (above image)
Winay Wayna is located on the Inca Trail, so if you’re visiting Machu Picchu, you will be able to visit this ruin along the way. This is a complex set of ruins built on the side of a hill. Alongside the ruins flows the Urubamba River, making the place look idyllic and majestic. It is believed that this site used to provide shelter and rest for travelers coming into Machu Pichhu. While here, make sure you explore the houses on the upper slope, and the terraces surrounding them.
Kuelap lies further north of Machu Picchu. It is huge in size, and is perennially surrounded by cloud mist. This rival city was built by the Chachapoya people between 900-1100 AD, but not with the same finesse as Machu Picchu. Not a lot is known about this site, and that makes this cloud city even more mysterious. Fancy beating Google at its own game!!!
To get to Kuelap, you will have to travel quite far, as you’ll have to trot through the dense mountains to get here. It’ll take about one day from Peru to reach the ruins, but it is definitely worth the trip!
Choquequirao literally means “Cradle of Gold”, and this place definitely a hidden treasure. Surrounded by lush green mountains, and thick vegetation, it is only accessible by foot or horseback. The trek takes about 3-4 days from Cachora, which means these ruins remain largely unexplored. However, if you are looking for an adventure, this is definitely the place for you to be. There are 180 agricultural terraces and palatial houses in Choquequirao, which is actually bigger than Machu Picchu itself!
The beautiful, fertile valley surrounding Cuzco is known as the Sacred Valley. It’s one of the most important destinations in Peru, as it is scattered with hundreds of Incan ruins. Ollantaytambo is a small town in the Sacred Valley that allows travelers a space to rest before they continue on their trail. This town has been alive since the 13th century- some of the roads you will use were actually built then! If you’re visiting Ollantaytambo, climb up the Pinkuylluna Mountain to get the best view of the town, the two mountains towering over the valley, and the hundreds of ruins you will be exploring in the future.
Marcahuamachuco is a site straight out of an Indiana Jones movie. It requires a lot of patience and dedication to get to. First, you need to get to Trujillo city by car, or flight. Then, you will have to get a guide, or take a personal car from Trujillo to Marcahuamachuco, which is about 4 hours away. Once you get there, you will be greeted by a domineering castle, surrounded by unique double-walled structures. This used to be a site of political and economic power when it was built, between 400-800 AD. To this date, a number of locals still live among the ruins.
This is a site that is oft ignored by visitors, which is a pity. If you are one who loves traveling to secret and secluded locations, far from the reaches of the crowds, this should definitely be on your list.
Are you ready for your adventure? Take the road less traveled this time. We assure you- you will never regret it!