Inca Ruins near Cusco, Peru: Top Tours & Sights

by on 25th August, 2020

Visit the top Inca ruins around Cusco, Peru on your adventure holiday.

Get our top travel trips about Machu Picchu, Ollantaytambo, Sacsayhuaman and more.

You’ve heard of Machu Picchu without a doubt – but what about Pumamarca, Choquecancha, and Quillatambo? These fabulous sounding names are lesser known Inca sites, all within a few hours travel from Cusco.

The Inca empire was extensive and the remnants are scattered throughout the vast area that once was dominated by the Inca. There are hundreds of Inca sites. A little research will give you some ideas for off the beaten track sites to include in your Inca tour in Peru.

Cusco lies at the heart of the empire. This is a great starting point, the city centre features some of the very best Inca stonework.

Inca stonework wall Cusco Peru

Inca walls, Cusco

Cusco and the Incas 

The fabulous city of Cusco was the religious and administrative capital of the Inca Empire. This is one of the most beautiful and interesting towns in Peru, and top jumping off point for visiting the area’s Inca jewels.  If you are just going to visit one part of Peru then without a doubt the Cusco area is number one choice. 

arches plaza de armas cusco

Cusco, Plaza de Armas

History of the Incas 

Inca legend tells that Cusco was founded by the son of the sun, Manco Capac, and the daughter of the moon, Mama Occllo. It is thought they materialised on the Islands of the Sun and Moon in Lake Titicaca and journeyed together to Cusco, ‘the navel of the earth’. The Inca empire was built on the achievements of earlier cultures, the stone masons, the potters, weavers and astronomers. The Incas were masters of conquest and social organisation. 

Inca Sites around Cusco 

Cusco and the area around is replete with Inca sites. Some sites can be reached by road, but many are best visited on foot. The area is a delight for hikers. Step back in time, as you wander along ancient trails, seeing a rural way of life that has not changed in several hundred years. Women spin as they take care of flocks of sheep, carrying babies in their brightly coloured woven mantas. Flocks of llamas and alpacas eye you warily, donkeys and mules wander by, laden with sacks of potatoes or alfalfa. Much work is still done using the Inca foot plough. 

On the mountain sides and valleys of the high Peruvian Andes you will find the many remains of the mighty Inca empire. Here lie the stone walls and temples of a grace and strength unique in the Americas. The back drop is the vast sweep of the ice-covered Andes mountains. 

Trekkers Choquequirao trek Peru

Trail to Choquequirao


Within walking distance of Cusco and most often visited on a half day tour are the following Inca sites: 


This is one of the most impressive of all Inca sites. It is an extensive Inca temple-fortress overlooking Cusco. Everything that is known about the origin and purpose of Sacsayhuamán is pure speculation.  The giant zigzag walls are one of the wonders of Peru, and the most accessible example of massive Inca stone masonry.  




Qenco (Kenko)

Is just up the hill from Sacsayhuaman. Qenco is a huge limestone rock, naturally eroded, and skilfully carved both on top and within its caves.  


Cusillyuioc (Temple of the Monkey)

Nearby, this is a maze of caves and tunnels.  


Salumpunku  (Temple of the Moon)

Another carved rock. The main features are a carved cave and altar, a very eroded puma shape and a sundial.


Puca Pucara

A small fortress or tambo – a rest house for pilgrims heading into Cusco. 



A a series of Inca baths, They were to do with ritual bathing rather than washing, and this is an excellent example of the Inca fascination with water and their ability to direct it where they wanted. Water is channelled through three stone outlets and is pure enough to drink. 


Tambomachay Inca water channels Peru

Baths at Tambomachay


Inca sites within two hours of Cusco

Once you have explored the immediate vicinity of Cusco within a short drive there are many more beautiful Inca sites. Some are well known and much visited, whilst a little research will show you many more sites that very few people ever get to. 



this is an extensive Inca site 4km off the main road running to Sicuani from Cusco (21km from Cusco).  This was an important site, thought to have been dedicated to the veneration of water.  It is extensive, with a series of stone-walled andenes irrigated by a beautifully channelled stream of water, originating from a spring high on the mountainside. To the west of the terraces lie the remains of various buildings of typical Inca stonework, including an intihuatana. The terraces, similar to those at Moray, may have been some sort of agricultural experimentation centre. 


Inca wall with carving Cusco Peru

High quality Inca walls

The Sacred Valley 

An hour’s drive from Cusco brings you to the Sacred valley, the valley of the Urubamba river. 

Inca terraces Sacred valley peru

Inca terraces above Ollantaytambo


For Inca admirers, the Sacred valley and in particular the small town of Ollantaytambo is one of the best in Peru. The town still retains its Inca layout. Many houses have Inca doorways, windows, wall niches and courtyards showing their Inca origins. Inca traditions are still very much alive here too.  The focus of Ollantaytambo is the magnificent Inca fort and temple above the town.  The Inca stonework here is of the highest quality. Guides always point out the pedros cansadas (‘tired stones’) that were cut but then abandoned en route from the quarry on the far side of the Urubamba river. The Baño de Ñusta (Princess’s bath) and Temple of the Condor shouldn’t be missed.  


Ollantaytambo Inca Site Peru

Ollantaytambo main site


This site is more of an effort to reach, a two hour walk up the hillside. The site is well preserved and a joy to look around. Its exact function remains something of a mystery, like so many Inca sites. It is thought that Pumamarca was an Inca fortress, strategically located to control access to the Sacred Valley from Antisuyo, one of the four quarters of the empire.  

Inca site Pumamarca Sacred valley Peru

Pumamarca Inca site


A popular spot for visitors. A vast site spread across the hill above the town of the same name. The stonework is high quality, there are various sectors, an intihuatana (hitching post of the sun), and many priests’ houses, and extensive terracing. We recommend you start at the top and work your way down over a couple of hours.   

Pisac ruins Lares lodges trek

Pisaq Inca site

Huchuy Qosqo

A a more rustic site, also in the Sacred valley. There are several hiking routes to get here, to be recommended. The views of the valley are spectacular. The site itself is extensive with buildings and terraces. 

Inca entrance, Leon Punku, Huchuy Qosqo, Peru

Walk to Huchuy Qosqo, Inca site


An enigmatic site, thought to be for agricultural purposes. It consists of concentric circular terraces lining four huge natural depressions in the landscape. The terraces are organised into sectors, and apparently experience different temperatures in each level.  

moray Inca site Sacred Valley Peru

Moray Inca site


A popular colourful Sunday market. At the edge of the village is an extensive Inca site with a stone wall lining the plaza, and some wonderful terracing with very fine stonework. The town used to be an important Inca centre and there are many examples of their stone carving. The Spanish colonial church here is built on Inca foundations. Explore the ruins and you will find carved boulders with steps, seats and water channels.  

Inca carving Chincheros Peru

Chinchero Inca site


This site lies off the beaten track, near to the town of Lares. It boasts a 14-niched Inca wall that lines the square of this small ancient village. A glance up the hillside reveals further neglected archaeological remains.  


Inca sites a bit further afield

Within a few hours of Cusco lies the world renown Inca site of Machu Picchu. 

Machu Picchu sunlit peru

Machu Picchu, Inca site

Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu was never discovered by the Spanish conquistadors so was largely intact, though overgrown, when found in 1911 by Hiram Bingham. It is the jewel in the crown of Inca sites and without a doubt worth a visit. Machu Picchu can be reached by train or on any of a number of Inca trails. The trails are a network of Inca pathways and all feature superb, remote Inca sites. Many are rest houses, or lesser temples, all are fascinating. On the Inca Trail you will pass  several sites: Llactapata, Sayacmarca,Phuyupatamarca and, for me, the most beautiful of all, Huinay Huayna.

Huinay Huayna terraces Inca Trail Peru

Huinay Huayna



This is a most impressive Inca site near to Machu Picchu, just across the mountains. This is a site you have to walk to. It is a tough two-day trek in. The reward is well worth the effort. This dramatically located site, 1,700m above the roaring Apurimac river, is far bigger than Machu Picchu. Terraces stretch up and down the mountain side, there’s a row of beautifully carved ritual baths and a central plaza surrounded by fine ceremonial, high status residential architecture. This site is still being cleared and theories abound on its original purpose.  

Choquequirao ruins overview, Peru



We have chosen just a few of the many Inca ruins in Peru, and focussed on the Cusco area only. There are many more and any of our Peru tours can be tailored to particular interests.

The best time to visit Peru on an Inca tour is from March to October, winter in the Andes. You can expect bright sunny days and cold clear nights.

To get the best out of your Inca tour in Peru we can advise on Inca sites to see, how to get there, terrain and the distances involved.  Contact us at Andean Trails and we will help you to plan a your Peru Inca tour.



Pinchaunuyoc on Choquequirao trek

Site near Choquequirao


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