Hello everyone, hopefully you enjoyed my friend Lyle’s first post about some things I missed on my trip to Machu Picchu. Here’s part II, and be sure to check out Lyle’s B&B if you’re ever in the area! Take it away Lyle!
Well here it is, the much anticipated pat 2 of my accounting of the places that Andy missed on his trip to Cusco. For those that may have missed part one and my be wondering just who I am, let me introduce myself. My name is Lyle and Andy has asked me to provide some additional information about the Cusco region to all of his readers, and more specifically, cover some things that he missed. For more information on me, please refer back to Part I.
Here in part two I will cover some of the less visited locations around Cusco as well as a few jungle locations, that are easily accessible from Cusco, for those that might have some extra time that they are trying to decide what to do with. I hope that everyone finds this information helpful and interesting.
Western Valley is another term that we use, and not a common term that locals or travel agencies might know, but as these sites are all located to the West, we figured that is was an appropriate name. The sites to see that are in this direction are the Andenes Zurite, which are mainly just terraces, but there is also an old colonial home that was built on one of the higher terraces. This area contains the largest single terraces in Cusco, if not in all of Peru, with the larger terraces stretching as long as 1km and being up to 30m deep and 3m in height. Currently the Ministry of Agriculture uses this as a testing area, so if you happen to be visiting during the growing season, you will see a wide variety of crops on these terraces.
The next site is Killarumiyoq, this is believed to have been a site dedicated to the moon and contains a large rock with a half moon cut out as well as terraces, the remnants or buildings and some carvings inside of a small cave. This site is also where the Killarumiyoq Raymi is held on the last Sunday in August which is a festival that honors the moon and is the counterpart to the much larger Inti Raymi, but far lees visited by tourists. These two sites are close to Cusco and can make for an easy day, but if you continue to the West about 2 hrs, you can descend to Limatambo, a town that is much lower and the location of Tarawasi, another seldom visited Inca site that is small, but does contain some nice stone work.
This is another site to the Southeast of Cusco and although it is a regular stop for the tourist buses that go between Cusco and Puno, it is also a site that you can reach by car. This is a full day trip and if you decide to hire a driver for this route, be prepared for a long drive, Raqchi itself is about 3 hours from Cusco, but when do this route with guests we also make a stop at the Qeswachaca rope bridge. The Qeswachaca rope bridge is the last remaining “Inka style” bridge in existence, the bridge ends or abutment’s are original Inka constructions, but the bridge is rebuilt every year by the people of the local towns. The rope bridge is a place that is almost never visited (except when they are actually replacing it), and as such we think it is a worthwhile stop, but it does take a little over 3-1/2 hours to get there from Cusco. After visiting the rope bridge the site of Raqchi is only about another 15 minutes down the main road, so we will usually make a stop there as well. Raqchi is the site of the building that likely had the largest single roof in the whole Inka empire, the temple to Wiracocha was 92 meters long and 25.5 meters wide and was covered by a single roof.
This is a site located high above the valley that runs between our town of Huarocondo, and the town of Pachar (near Ollantaytambo), this is a good ½ or ¾ day hike with the trail head being about a 10 minute drive from Huarocondo. The hike up to the site takes about 3 hours from the road and the return takes about 1-1/2 hours. The site itself is small and information on it limited, but I have read that it may have been a burial site as the main wall contains niches that may have held mummies in the past.
This site can be accessed by a number of trails, but the one I like starts near lake Puray, a lake close to Chinchero, and the town we start at is called Taucca, which is probably 1 hour or so from Cusco. From Taucca the trail climbs to a pass that is about 4,300 meters in elevation, and then descends to the site which overlooks the Sacred Valley. After visiting the site you then descend into the Sacred Valley ending either in Calca or Lamay, depending on which trail you follow. The overall combined hike and visit time is just about 10 hours and the distance covered is about 21km.
This is another full day activity and while the two above are easily done on your own, this day hike is much easier done through an agency and should run between $60 and $80 USD per-person. This is another full day as the hiking distance is again right about 21km, but the start point is about 3 hours from Cusco, so with this hike the agencies generally start picking up people around 3:00 am in Cusco, and don’t return to Cusco until around 7:00 pm. One nice thing with using an agency is that most everything is included, transportation, 2 or 3 meals, guide, and some include the entry as well. An important thing to be aware of though is than many of the photographs that are out there at the moment, have been taken with filters or have been photo shopped, so the colors look more brilliant. Due to these photos I was a little disappointed once we reached the mountain as the colors are more pastel and muted, but the hike and the view from the top (5,000 m) are beautiful despite this.
There are 2 jungle locations that people normally visit from Cusco, and this is one of them. The big advantage of the Manu tours are that they can easily be done from Cusco, and tend to be the cheaper option as bus transportation is included in the price. There are generally 2 options for Manu tours, the standard 4 day which should run around $350.00 USD per-person, and will include everything except alcohol and carbonated drinks. The second and less commonly booked tours run around a week and can run around $1,500.00 USD per-person, but these get you much further into the jungle, thus increasing the amount of wild life that you might see. The biggest down side of the Manu tours is that the road over the mountain has some places that can be prone to slides and washouts, so it is not generally a good option during the rainy season.
Tours into the jungle from Puerto Maldonado can be much more flexible as there is an airport in the town so once there, boat transportation is all that is needed. Because of this you can find tours from Puerto Maldonado anywhere from 1 day and up, and generally prices are similar with a 4 day PM tour costing about $350.00 USD per-person as well, but transportation from Cusco is not included. Most people visiting PM will opt to fly in as it is easy to book a flight from Lima to PM to Cusco, but there are also buses that run between Cusco and PM so if you are on a tighter budget, you might want to consider taking a bus. As with Manu, the more days you have, the further into the jungle you can get and the more wild life you might see, but getting deeper into the jungle will also cost more.
I will wrap things up now as I think this will provide enough information for most, and again if you want more information on the Cusco region, check out my blog “A Gringo’s Life in Cusco”, and if you are in the planning stages and are interested in staying in a small typical farming village, then I invite you to check out our bed and breakfast “GringoWasi B&B”. Of course if you simply have a question on any of the above feel free to post it in the comments below.