Top 5 Incan ruins (that aren’t Machu Picchu)

The Incan Empire was the largest empire in pre-Columbian America. The administrative, political, and military centre of the empire was located in the region of Cusco, Peru. The Inca civilization arose from the highlands of Peru sometime in the early 13th century, and the last Inca stronghold was conquered by the Spanish in 1572. Throughout this era, the Inca constructed many amazing cities and fortresses (many of which were high in the mountains), yet now most have fallen into ruin. That said, it doesn’t stop tourists flocking here in their tens of thousands each year to see some of the most impressive sites. Of course, nothing can top the majesty of Machu Picchu, but let’s examine 5 of the [other] best Incan ruins from around the region.

Incan ruins on the banks of Lake Titicaca
Incan ruins on the banks of Lake Titicaca

5. Chincana Ruinas is situated on Isla del Sol, Bolivia. The main feature of this complex is the Palacio del Inca, which is a maze of stone walls and tiny doorways, also known as El Laberinto (the Labyrinth). Within the labyrinth there is a small well, believed by Inca pilgrims to contain sacred water with which they would purify themselves. Southeast of these ruins, is the Mesa Ceremónica, which is thought to have been the site of human and animal sacrifices and it makes for a good picnic spot. East from here is a large rock known as Titi Khar’ka (Rock of the Puma), which is featured in the Inca creation legend. The name is likely to derive from its shape, which, when viewed from the southeast, resembles a crouching puma.

Choquequirao
Choquequirao

4. Choquequirao is an Incan site in south Peru, similar in structure and architecture to Machu Picchu. The ruins are buildings and terraces at levels above and below Sunch’u Pata, the truncated hill top. The hilltop was anciently levelled and ringed with stones to create a 30x50m platform. Choquequirao is in the spurs of the Willkapampa mountain range in the La Convención Province of the Cusco Region above the valley of river Apurímac. The complex is 1800 hectares, of which less than 40% is excavated. The site is reached by a two-day hike from outside Cusco.

Moray looks like an alien crop circle
Moray looks like an alien crop circle

3. Moray is an archaeological site in Peru about 50km northwest of Cusco on a high plateau at 11,500ft. The site contains unusual Inca ruins, mostly consisting of several enormous terraced circular depressions, the purpose of which is uncertain, but their depth, design, and orientation with respect to wind and sun creates a temperature difference of as much as 27°F between the top and the bottom tiers. It is possible that this large temperature difference was used by the Inca to study the effects of different climatic conditions on crops.

Winay Wanya
Winay Wanya

2. Winay Wanya is an Inca ruin along the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. It is built into a steep hillside overlooking the Urubamba River. The site consists of upper and lower house complexes connected by a staircase and fountain structures. Above and below the houses the people built areas of agricultural terraces, which are still visible.

Sacsayhuaman
Sacsayhuaman

1. Sacsayhuaman is a citadel on the northern outskirts of the city of Cusco, which was the historic capital of the Inca Empire. Sections were first built by the Killke culture about 1100; they had occupied the area since 900. The complex was expanded and added to by the Inca from the 13th century, including dry stone walls constructed out of huge stones. The workers carefully cut the boulders to fit them together tightly without mortar. This site is at an altitude of 3,700m.

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2 thoughts on “Top 5 Incan ruins (that aren’t Machu Picchu)

  1. peru! sigh, so far, so out of reach it seems. been dreaming of visiting manchu pitchu for the longest time. someday i shall set foot in peru. someday.

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