The most famous Peru ruins near Cusco are the Inca ruins of Machu Picchu. What are the other Inca sites in Cusco to see? Read my list of 7 interesting Cusco Inca ruins to explore in the Sacred Valley. I explain about Sacsaywamen and Ollantaytambo, but also Cinchero, Maras and Moray and not forget Pisac and Raqchi.
Interesting Inca Ruins in Peru (that are not Machu Picchu)
While I was planning for my 4,5 weeks travel through South America, I planned a lot of things to do.
I wanted to visit Peru, San Pedro de Atacama in Chile and Bolivia before I would return to Peru. My plan was to travel to Cusco and visit the Inca ruins of Machu Picchu.
I didn’t really know much about the other things to do in Cusco, besides hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu.
Luckily, I had a few extra days and managed to explore some very interesting Inca ruins near Cusco and learn about Inca civilization.
As they are well worth your time, money and effort, I’d like to highlight my personal favorite Inca ruins in Peru, so you’ll include them on your travel to Cusco Peru!
Read more: My experience in Machu Picchu Peru.
1. Sacsaywamen: Closest Cusco ruins of the Incas
Sexy-hu-men (that is how you pronounce it- remains funny), is the closest of the Cusco ruins. It is basically in Cusco and used to be the heart of Cusco. You can visit the ruins of Sacsaywamen independently or on a small tour.
The Cusco ruins of Sacsaywamen show you the ancient capital of the Inca Empire in Cusco. Situated high on a hill overlooking Cusco, it served to great military advantage. Find more things to do in Cusco for $10 or less.
Things to see in Sacsaywamen:
- Giant stone blocks showing Inca masonry
- View overlooking Cusco
- Picnic in the park, like all the locals do.
Peruvian celebrate Inti Raymi and people gather at this Inca site near Cusco to celebrate the winter solstice and to welcome the new year. This is one of the most active places to celebrate the ancient Inca civilization.
You need the Cusco Tourist Ticket to enter Sacsaywamen, read more information below.
2. Chinchero: Inca Ruins and Small Village Life
I joined a day tour to visit the Inca ruins near Cusco and Chinchero was the first stop. At 7.00 am I had not even had breakfast yet. The grass was still wet from the dew and there was nobody on site.
The green hills of the Vilcabamba mountains in the distance resembled a bit with the image I had in my mind of what Machu Picchu would be like. The white peak of Salcantay showed itself from behind the morning clouds. Besides the amazing natural surround, history tells us the royals used Chinchero as an outhouse but it had also very fertile lands.
Things to see in Chinchero:
- Green hills and terraces of this Inca site
- the adobe church
- Chinchero market and weaving demonstration
You need the Cusco Tourist Ticket to visit Chinchero, read more information below.
3. Maras: Salt Mines in the Hills
Then we continued our tour to the Cusco Inca ruins of Maras. These salt pans in the hills are owned by locals. Each family owns one or more salt pans and is responsible for the irrigation of the pans and the collection of the salt after it dries.
Maybe the Salinas de Maras isn’t the most historic of Inca ruins in the Sacred Valley, but it makes for spectacular views across the canyon. I stood in the middle of the white pools surrounded by all different shades of brown with the sun burning down on me fiercely. The patterns of salt pans flooding down the hill fascinated me and I didn’t want to leave!
The salt pans of Maras are not included in the Cusco Tourist Ticket. You need to pay 10 soles at the entrance.
4. Moray: Alien or Inca Ruins?
Moray, on the other hand, is definitely one of the most interesting and intriguing Inca ruins in Peru! Imagine a giant circle in the ground, with terraces going down into the circle. Each circle goes down deeper and deeper, forming a giant terraced cone sunken in the earth.
Stories about the origin of the Inca Ruins of Moray
There are many stories about the origin and purpose of the Moray ruins. I list my two favorites:
- During ancient Inca civilization, the Incas used the Moray site to cultivate and grow new crops. Each level had its own micro-climate which enabled the Incas to farm crops that could not be farmed on their lands in the hills.
- the Moray ruins show us the works of aliens. Just like circles in the farm fields, these circular depressions in the ground are the works of aliens from outer space!
Which of these stories do you think is possible?
You need the Cusco Tourist Ticket to see Moray, read more information below.
5. Pisac: Market and Inca Ruins close to Cusco
At the end of the day, while it was already getting dark, we visited the Inca ruins of Pisac. Pisac is also known for its lively market and trade (on Tuesday, Thursday, and Sunday), but outside the village, you can find the Inca ruins of Pisac.
Things to see at the Inca ruins of Pisac:
- the religious part with the temple of the sun and a ceremonial plateau
- a citadel with great views of the city of Pisac
- the terraces used for farming (or the aliens again)
You must buy the Cusco Tourist Ticket to visit the Inca ruins of Pisac, read more information below. You do not need the ticket to visit the Pisac market.
6. Raqchi: Religious Inca Ruins near Cusco
I stumbled upon this Inca ruin 110 km outside of Cusco on my cultural bus trip from Puno to Cusco. The Inca ruins of Racqi show the remains of the Temple of Wiracocha, the main Inca god of creation in ancient times. He was the god of the sun, the moon, and Inca civilization.
You can see the guard’s huts and the remains of the ancient temple. The farmlands around the Inca sites are also very interesting. In the mountains, you can spot parts of the ancient Inca trail leading towards Cusco.
You need to buy an entrance ticket for 15 Soles.
7. Ollantaytambo: Machu Picchu’s Smaller Brother
You might have heard of Ollantaytambo, as most train journeys to Machu Picchu start here. Ollantaytambo is also the starting point for almost all Inca Trails to Machu Picchu.
But it is also the village with the Inca ruins of Ollantaytambo. I strongly believe, if Machu Picchu wasn’t discovered, Ollantaytambo would be at the top of everyone’s travel bucket list for Peru ruins.
The Incas built Ollantaytambo against a hill, with a spectacular view of the adjacent mountain and the Sacred Valley of the Incas. The Incas used Ollantaytambo for religious and royal purposes and in the end as a stronghold.
Things to see at the Inca ruins of Ollantaytambo:
- Terraces of Ollantaytambo, they are higher than you and go all the way to the top
- Temple Hill with a chiseled seat and the Sun Temple.
- Storehouses above the city of Ollantaytambo
- View of the Sacred Valley of the Incas from the top of the Inca site
You need the Cusco Tourist Ticket to visit Ollantaytambo, read more information below.
Visit the Inca sites near Cusco with the Cusco Tourist Ticket
If you are interested in the Inca civilization and history and you want to see more Cusco Inca ruins besides Machu Picchu, the above 7 are a very good start to explore! But isn’t that a bit much I hear you think?
Yea, at the end of my day, I was pretty tired of all things Inca and I couldn’t look at any more rocks and stones! (Because of this, I decided to visit the Chocolate Museum in Cusco by the way!). So why did I visit so many?
Because of the Boleto Turistico, or the Cusco Tourist Ticket!
The Cusco Tourist Ticket is a way of the city of Cusco to make some more money off the tourist visiting the Sacred Valley of the Incas.
Uhm, strike that. You need the ticket to visit some key Inca ruins in the Sacred Valley of the Incas in Peru. If you want to visit Sacsaywamen, you must buy the Boleto Turistico. If you want to see Ollantaytambo, you have to buy the ticket.
What is included in the Cusco Tourist Ticket?
A lot! Many Incas sites and ruins in and around Cusco. Museums in Cusco, cultural sites and information centers, etc. For more information, check the website (Spanish).
In general, you can buy 4 different types of tickets. One general ticket that includes all (130 Soles/ 38 USD) or 3 different partial tickets (each part costs 70 Soles/ 21 USD). Discounts may apply for children and students.
Part I of the Cusco Tourist Ticket
This includes the Cusco Inca ruins of Sacsayhuaman, Puka Pukara, Qenqo, and Tambomachay.
I visited these on a half-day tour. These are all smaller Inca sites near Cusco. You can visit them independently and only buy this part of the Tourist Ticket. Or you can join a tour for 10 Soles. Either way, you still need to buy the Cusco Tourist Ticket yourself.
This part coasts 70 Soles (21 USD).
Part II of the Cusco Tourist Ticket
This is best used for the Inca ruins in the Sacred Valley of the Incas. Further away from Cusco, you need 1 to 2 full days to explore them all.
I loved each and every one of them. They could easily substitute for Machu Picchu if MP hadn’t been discovered. I did a day tour and visited all of them, including the salt pans of Maras (which isn’t included in the ticket- you need to pay 10 Soles entrance separate.)
This part of the Cusco Tourist Ticket is also 70 Soles (21 USD).
How to visit these Inca Ruins? Book a tour
I joined a tour of Cusco and I did a full-day Sacred Valley tour, to see as many Inca ruins around Cusco. Like the full-day Sacred Valley Tour or the Maras, Moray and Chinchero Tour.
Do you want to visit all the Inca sites near Cusco?
Because I wanted to visit the Cathedral and some other museum in Cusco, I bought the complete Cusco Tourist Ticket for 130 Soles and was able to visit all the above mentioned Inca sites around Cusco.
Read more about Cusco: Visit the Chocolate Museum in Cusco.
You can buy the Boleto Turistico at the main Cusco Tourist office in Cusco and at the entrance of all the sites. For more things to do in the Inca valley, here are 10 more options by the Savvy Globetrotter.
- Read more about my adventures in South America here.
- Catch up on your reading before you go with this Lonely Planet South America travel guide.
Which of the mentioned Inca sites in the Sacred Valley would you like to visit? Have you been to Cusco and Peru? Which one was your favorite? Share your story in the comment section below.
Estos lugares son muy increíbles para visitar
Hola Naomi , te agradezco los comentarios y las fotos de Cusco, mi tierra y me da gusto que lo hayas disfrutado, solamente quería comentarte algo sobre el boleto turístico y la finalidad que tiene , el dinero recaudado por este boleto es para el mantenimiento y el cuidado de los mismos , para pagar el personal y guardianes que están en esos parques arqueológicos como te habrás dado cuenta y también para promover la investigación de nuevos lugares por descubrir. Un saludo cordial.
Wonderful highlights and thanks for the details on the sites you visited and the time spent. We are planning a trip this June and i am curios as to (1) how long did you need to spend to get acclimatised and what sites do you recommend to go while doing so ? ( 2) we have 4 full days allocated for the Sacred valley and MP what would be your suggested itinerary. MP is not to be missed of course.
Great plans Tiny. It all depends where you’re coming from. I already spend some time at high altitude so I had no problems. Actually MP is lower in altitude than Cusco. I’d say spend 2 days in Cusco and tour the Cusco sights. Then 1 day in the Sacred Valley and go to MP on day 4. This way you save the best for last, learn some things about Inca culture before seeing the main event and Cusco is a really nice city to be in! Either way, have loads of fun and enjoy!
Hi! Great guide to sacred valley. I was wondering how much did you pay for the tour? And how many are you in the group?
Hi Jona Lyn, I paid 55 soles for the tour and we were with a mini van, so I’d say max 8 people + guide? We did run into the same tour groups at all the stops but overall it was managable for sure. You need to add the costs for the Boletico turistico to this price too. For me it was a bargain as you get the transportation and the information. I hope you’ll like it.
HI! This is a great guide on the Sacred Valley. I’ve been looking into it and want to visit all these sites but only have one day. I see you did them all in one day? Which tour did you do? Did you book in Cusco? I’m wondering if I should wait until I get there to book anything as I’m sure it’s cheaper.
It is a great idea to do them all in 1 day. It was a long day and we didn’t spend as much time as I’d wanted at each place but it was a great way to visit them all. It was the extended sacred valley tour. Most tours go to maras-moray and the others go to Pisac and Ollantaytambo. It is not advertised everywhere but I found a few agencies off the plaza the armas who did this. I definately recommend booking when you get there. Arrange as quickly as possible once you get there and you’ll be fine.
Awesome, thanks for the info! I have one more question. Did the tour visit Ollantaytambo last? I was thinking of bringing my stuff and staying there for the night so I’ll be closer to Machu Picchu. But if they don’t stop there last, that won’t be an option. Just wondering if you remember!
Yea I remember these kind of things. We didn’t visit Ollantaytambo last but went to Pisac instead. I’d skip this and arrange for a drop off in Ollantaytambo because it saves you so much time and Pisac that late in the evening was a rush visit and then an hour in a shop. Definately stop in Ollantaytambo and go to MP from there. This can easily be arranged on booking the tour.