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Cusco: "Machu Qolqa"

Updated on May 24, 2013

Machu Qolqa

Sahuarisay 5,818 msnm in the background
Sahuarisay 5,818 msnm in the background | Source

"Machu Qolqa"

Peru has an abundance of history and ruins from the Inca period, but if you ask anyone what places they visited while in Peru, you will be guaranteed to hear Machupicchu, Cusco or Iquitos. These are all fantastic places to visit. Maybe no one would be impressed if you were to say, "I visited Machu Qolqa", but if you are interested in Inca life and history, and love the chance to see a spectacular view, then I would suggest taking an hour out of your day to check out this archaeological site in between visiting other nearby places of interest. You will not be disappointed


Places close by to visit

  • Moray: The Inca greenhouse for adapting plants for use in the Andes. Huge circular terraces that look like UFO landing spots. You feel the difference in climate from mountain to jungle as you descend into them.
  • Salineras: Salt pans, some from inca times and others formed more recently.
  • Chincheros: Ruins, Ancient church & Sunday market in a beautiful market town with views of the snowcapped mountain range.
  • Route to Urubamba & Ollantaytambo

Machu Qolqa is a Quechua word meaning "Old grain deposit".

These ruins are situated just some 34km from the city of Cusco, on the road that takes you past a town called Chincheros. Many tourists visit Chincheros on a sunday to see the array of products available at the local market and the colourful traditionally dressed locals. Just some 5 mins further down the road, heading towards Urubamba, you arrive at a sharp bend where there is viewpoint called "Huayllabamba" overlooking the Urubamba valley and spectacular views of the snow capped mountains.

In front of you are the peaks from right to left, Sahuarisay 5,818 msnm, Sirihuani 5,350 msnm, Chicón and far left the impressive Veronica 5,682msnm.

Its from this viewpoint that you can take a roughly 15 minutes walk to arrive at the ruins of Machu Qolqa.These ruins are in clear sight of the viewpoint, set into the hillside. This is not a hard walk, but it is challenging if you struggle with the altitude. Take your time and enjoy the wildlife and fauna on your way up. Look out for the bright green hummingbirds clicking away as they extract pollen from the andean plants.

If you prefer, we suggest that instead of being taken by your guide to Urubamba to eat, as everyone seems to do, get a picnic ready and sit at the top of these ruins, enjoy the snow capped mountains for a while ( you really do get so much better a view up here, the difference is remarkable), and enjoy the absolute peace. You will see hawks and hummingbirds and get a real sense of the sacred valley.

Salineras Inca salt pads
Salineras Inca salt pads | Source

Travel Tips

  • Always wear a good pair of shoes that you find comfortable and have good grips.
  • NEVER, leave your valuables in your transportation even if you are just getting out to take a quick photo, EVEN if the guide says it's ok, don't leave your stuff. Better to be safe than sorry.
  • Keep with you a good supply of sunscreen and water, remember in the altitude you are a lot closer to the sun. In the altitude you need to reapply your sunscreen often.
  • Visit between may-august to avoid the rainy season.

The old grain store

Machu Qolqa was used by the Incas as store houses for grains and corn and a few ruins of homes can be found here as well. It is very easy to see where the old Inca terraces were on the mountains around this area. look closely, they go on for as far as your eye can see. What is amazing is how they used the mountains to maximum effect, cultivating to the very edge of the cliffs.

Not too far away from Machu Qolqa was the cultivating ground of Moray, which was basically the Inca green house for the area, where they modified plants from the coast and were able to adapt them for growing in the altitude of the Andes.

So all in one day you could visit Moray (and the salt pans of Maras) where the plants were modified, the Sacred Valley, where they were sown and cultivated, and then the ancient Inca storehouses at Machu Qolqa where everything that was produced in the valley was kept for distribution.

Like most ruins in the Cusco region, it's not really the ruins that are impressive on their own, but more about where they are situated. Machu Qolqa is no exception to this rule, the Incas picked their building sites very well.

Long store houses and Inca drainage canals
Long store houses and Inca drainage canals | Source
Click thumbnail to view full-size
Just follow the only sign on the siteView onto the Urubamba valleyThe site of Machu Qolqa from the entranceSnow capped mountainsVery few tourists tread the route to these ruins. View from the top looking down to the entrance.
Just follow the only sign on the site
Just follow the only sign on the site | Source
View onto the Urubamba valley
View onto the Urubamba valley | Source
The site of Machu Qolqa from the entrance
The site of Machu Qolqa from the entrance | Source
Snow capped mountains
Snow capped mountains | Source
Very few tourists tread the route to these ruins.
Very few tourists tread the route to these ruins. | Source
View from the top looking down to the entrance.
View from the top looking down to the entrance. | Source

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