Either hidden within or close to the great archaeological sites of Cusco, you will find these impressive pre-Columbian monuments that will blow you away.
Don’t miss out on experiencing these 5 hidden gems, recommended by historian and travel expert Brien Foerster.
1. Chinkana in Sacsayhuaman
Chinkana, or Chincana, is the name given to a specific stone structure massive in size. This one is located about a quarter mile north of the famous zigzag wall at Sacsayhuaman (whose original name is Sachsa Uma, “the head of the puma.”) The Chinkana has many carved seats and niches in it, and three large “thrones” on the north side. Erosion of the stone surface suggests that the sculpted surfaces are very much pre-Inca; according to Jesus Gamarra, who is a Cusco resident and has studied these sites for 40 years, the Chinkana is several thousands of years old and was adopted by the Inca in the 12th century.
2. Temple of the Condor, Ollantaytambo
Located at the western edge of the Ollantaytambo archaeological site, the Temple of the Condor is a massive, seemingly sculpted structure off the mountain in the shape of a condor. There are many carved niches similar to those at the Chinkana, and stairways that seemingly go nowhere. Again, this monument is dated by Jesus Gamarra at being several thousands of years old.
3. Ñaupa Iglesia, Sacred Valley
This mysterious monument is inside a cave in the Sacred Valley, and is along an Inca trail (not the Inca trail) which goes to Machu Picchu. Its exact location I do not wish to disclose at this time.
4. Temple of the Moon, Sacsayhuaman
This is located east of Sacsayhuaman (Sachsa Uma) by about one mile. It is a single solid stone with carved niches, thrones, and two caves; the cave of the sun and the cave of the moon. Its antiquity matches that of the Chinkana and the Temple of the Condor, so is clearly pre-Inca. It is presently being excavated.
5. Sayhuite monument, Abancay
Though not in the Cusco region, this monolith can be found near the city of Abancay, 3 hours away from Cusco city. Guides and transportation services from Cusco can take you to what was a site of worship focused on water for the Incas. Colonial writings depict the temple of Sayhuite, though what remains is an impressive and enormous stone that has been sculpted with irrigation channels, terraces, rivers, villages and plants. Learn more about the sculpture here.
Cover photo: Rosalee Yagihara/Flickr
This article has been updated from its original publication on December 2, 2010.
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