We begin the hike by taking Procuradores St, north of Plaza de Armas. In this pedestrian only street you can find a variety restaurants and small souvenir shops. This continues to Teqsiqocha St to the west where bars spill over the streets during happy hour. Head back East to start our climb to the Sacsayhuamán hills.
Iglesia de San Cristobal Cusco (10-minute walk)
Located on the skirts of Sacsayhuamán hills, this area is one of the stops we take to get to the archeological sites from the city. It was constructed by Paullo Túpac Yupanqui, an Incan prince who helped the Spaniards against the army of his brothers. This church comes to life during processions on the feast of Corpus Christi.
El Cristo Blanco (25-minute walk)
It is right from the main highway called Avenida Circunvalación but the climb to get there is not a joke. From the city, we start easy on inclined streets that turns to flights of thigh burning stairs (dashed lines on Google Maps). If you prefer the easy route, taxis and Ubers can always take you there for about S/. 20 ($5.00).
We will occasionally rest and hydrate as we go higher. The steps take us right at the main highway, from here the trail to the statue (Subida al Cristo) is around the corner.
Cristo Blanco is almost 30 feet. You can’t miss it! Being that it is a frequent stop for most tourist, there are vendors all over the place that sell snacks, photos, souvenirs, and handicrafts.
Benches are available right at the parking lot where you can hear mirabus (tour buses) honking at their customers who wants to sneak a few more selfies. This is another option to see Cristo Blanco and most attractions in the Historic Center, especially for those staying in Cusco for just a day or two. Just follow vendors whispering “mirabus?” all over Plaza de Armas.
Sacsayhuamán Archeological Site (10-minute walk)
Our next stop is one of the Inca empire’s most important military complex, Sacsayhuamán. Its name was derived from Quechua words meaning a place where the “falcon satiates.” Strategically located overlooking the Cusco Valley, Pachacútec, the 9th Inca thought that this site would complete his vision of Cusco being the Puma City, being that this site resembles the head of this beast.
The archeological site of Sacsayhuamán is part of Cusco’s Boleto Turistico Integral (General Ticket) that includes 16 attractions that you can visit 10 days from purchase. It only costs s/. 130 ($35) and it is good for those staying longer, visiting ruins, or doing daytrips outside of Cusco.
Take the path across the parking lot and down the hill from Cristo Blanco until you reach a gravel pathway beside a creek. From here the north path takes us to the entrance and ticketing office and the south path is the hike back to town.
There are tour guides right at the entrance that cost about S/. 30.00 ($8.00). They would walk you around the ruins and provide you information on different zones in the complex. Good option, but I downloaded the Wikipedia page for Sacsayhuamán and this gives us a little bit of background of the place to do a self-guided tour.
The place is massive. Just imagine how large the temples, palaces, and warehouses were from what remains of the foundation that you see. After Cusco was conquered by the Spaniards, they ransacked most palaces and complexes such as Sacsayhuamán not only of its treasures but for building materials to construct houses and churches all over town.
Notice the open space (esplanade) at the center of the massive structures. The belief is that aside from being a military fortress this complex served as a site for festivals and ceremonies.
There is a lot of walking and a few stairs, but we won’t need hours to visit all the zones. Let’s start by visiting the ruins on the south part of the complex passing the 3-leveled zigzag walls. There are signs that you could follow to make sure you don’t miss a spot. We head on west to the remnants of a cylindrical tower (Muyumarca) then down the steps on the other end of the wall.
Qenko Archeolgical Complex (20-minute walk)
About a mile east of Sachsayhuaman there is a small archeological complex dedicated to sacrifices and rituals for the dead. Qenko is considered one of the holy places for the Incas, but apart from rituals it is believed to had been used for astronomical observations. In this site they formed calendars, predicted the seasons of the year, and too worshiped the sun, moon, and other celestial bodies.
The site is part of the Boleto Turistico Integral. Since it is quite a hike from town, I should say that it is only a small site and not many tourists go here.
After seeing most of Qenko, we will head back down the road to visit Qenko Chico, that is still part of the same archeological complex. There are ruins on top of a hill and a huge space around it that is surrounded by tall trees up to the cliff that has a viewpoint. On a good day, people gather here to play football, have a picnic, and even camp with family. Let’s sit on top of the hill, rest, and appreciate the views of the valley.
Mobile reception is sparse in this area so ordering a rideshare would be difficult. There are taxis that could take you back to town at the parking lots, but we don’t have cash on us, so we’ll just walk back for about 30 minutes back to town.
We hoped you enjoyed our hike of the Sacsayhuamán hills. Now it is time to look for a nice café or restaurant and enjoy the rest of the evening. Remember happy hour should be starting soon!
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