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Cusco’s Boleta Turistica: Tipón and Pikillacta

by Jessie Kwak | 4 May 2010 No Comment

This is the second installment of our many-word treatise on the sights included in Cusco’s Boleta Turistica. What’s the Boleta all about? Check out Part 1, where we take you on a walk to see the Inca ruins above Cusco.

Some of the Cusco area’s most interesting sites lie east on the road to Puno, but Tipón, an experimental agricultural site, and Pikillacta, an extensive pre-Inca settlement of the Huari culture, are probably the least-visited sites on the Boleta Turistica circuit, due to their relative inaccessibility.

They’re much more difficult to get to via public transportation, but so long as you don’t mind some waiting, some walking, and maybe a mad dash or two it’s entirely possible to visit these sites without booking a tour.

While you’re out there, check out Rumicolca, an aqueduct that blends Inca and Huari architecture, and the beautifully-painted church at Andahuaylillas.

For more photos, as always, check out Rob’s flickr page.

The easy way

Hire a taxi for the day. This will probably run you between S/.50-100 ($17-35), although make sure to ask a local what the going rate ought to be before agreeing on a price. You’ll probably be able to get recommendations through South American Explorers, travel agencies, or the iPeru office. We had plenty of taxi drivers offer their services for tours just while we were on routine inner-city trips with them–we don’t recommend taking anyone up on an offer like that. Although most guys are probably just looking to make a few extra bucks for a day’s commission, you can never be sure. We don’t condone our being responsible for your rash decisions.

The other way

Tipón and Pikillacta are located out on the road to Puno, about 25 and 30 kilometers away from Cusco, respectively. Buses pass by frequently on their way to Urcos, and they’ll drop you off at either site for just a few soles. Be prepared to get a lot of looks from the locals.

Buses leave frequently for Urcos from a terminal on Av. Huaruropata across from the “Estadio Garcilazo de la Vega” (#4 on the Cusco Nuts and Bolts map). The bus probably won’t be too full (or, at least it wasn’t on a weekday morning in January of 2010), and you should be able to catch it at any bus stop along the Avenida de la Cultura. Look for a card reading Urcos or Tipón in the window.

Tipón

Tipón was easily one of our favorite places on the Boleta. You’ll get off in the little town of Choquepata, a muddy little town full of cuyerias and cows. Don’t plan on eating lunch here unless you’re in the mood for cuy, roast chicken, or chicharron de cerdo (each dish S/.15 in every restaurant along the road). You can buy bananas and bread at the little grocery store near where the taxis wait if you don’t want barbecued flesh.

We had read in Exploring Cusco by Peter Frost that Tipón was only 5km from the road. We began to walk, uncertain of how else to get there, but then a collectivo taxi stopped for us and talked us into taking a ride with them. We were hesitant at first. It’s very far, we were told. At S/.4 apiece, though, it didn’t seem like a bad deal, and after a 20-minute ride straight uphill, we were grateful for the lift. Along the way, the collectivo also picked up a young guide who offered us his services for S/.20.

Tipón in the early morning was quiet, with amazing view of the valley below (the little town looks much more interesting from above). At the site there is a small ticket booth, where you can buy individual entries for S/.10, and a building with nice bathrooms.

A group of workers were playing football in one of the terraces, with two stationed on the terrace below to retrieve the ball. We watched them play for a while, but they split up as the first small tour group arrived.

Tipón is a fantastic example of the ingenuity that the Inca have in integrating water and other natural resources into their settlements. If you want to know exactly how cool they were, check out Tipon: water engineering masterpiece of the Inca empire, which you can read on Google books if you’re nerdy in that way like me.

Water is used playfully in Tipón. It’s irrigation, it’s ceremonial, it’s a relaxing garden. Water pours from a spring down the vertical irrigation slots in mini waterfalls–one of the few places that the Inca used this technique.

Hike up to the buildings on the ridge above, which the signs call “Intiwatana.” Peter Frost says it may be a fortress, and between the hike up to it and the view from it, I can believe that. An aqueduct runs through Intiwatana, bringing water from the mountain spur above it down to the Tipón terraces. You can hike along the aqueduct–apparently to another settlement a few miles away.

To get back down, either wait for a collectivo, or start walking. There’s a trail that cuts through the road’s switchbacks, and if you’re lucky you might be overtaken by a taxi. (We found one that charged us S/.2 each for the way down.).

Pikillacta

You can catch a taxi to Pikillacta for S/.10 (they wait at the intersection that leads up to Tipón), or wave down another bus. It’s a short ride and should only cost you a sol. These are the only ruins on the Boleta Turistica circuit that aren’t Inca, instead from the Huari culture whose empire spread throughout the Andes 500 years before the Inca.

The site is about a 1km walk from the road. Stop in the museum to get your ticket punched, and to check out the giant armadillo fossils that were found locally. There’s also a bit of information and some artifacts from the site.

After all the Inca ruins we’d seen, it was almost surprising that anyone would bother to build with such little rocks. We stared at the Huari walls, little stones piled precariously one atop the next, weak and fragile. Compared to Inca stonework it seemed to be child’s play.

The ruins are of a Huari administrative city, row after row of housing, walls crumbling into jagged peaks rising above the tall dry grass. Unlike most Inca sites, it’s built in the valley amid barren grasslands, rather than clinging to the peaks of the mountains, the city plan a rigid grid dropped onto the hill without any thought to following the natural curves of the terrain.

Additional sites

Rumicolca

You’ll be able to see the Rumicolca ruins from Pikillacta, on the other side of the road and up a little farther. You can’t miss it: a 12-meter-high gate which served as the southern border checkpoint for first the Huari, then the Inca. It’s an interesting blend of architectural styles.

Andahuaylillas

Andahuaylillas is known for its church. Built by the Jesuits in the late sixteenth century, it’s covered with beautiful murals and embellished with gold leaf, and said to be one of the finest examples of Peruvian colonial art.

Don’t miss the small coca museum right next to the church, which has an interesting collection of displays about Andean religion, both historically and contemporary.

Written by Jessie Kwak

I am a farm girl who moved to the big city, and then just kept right on moving. I love camping, hoppy beer, and good conversations. See all posts by

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