Of course, anybody who wishes to visit Peru wants to see the Machu Picchu. After all, it’s one of the New 7 Wonders of the World. But what about visiting alternative sites ?
A victim of its success, the Inca city was in danger of severe degradation due to over-tourism and measures had to be taken to curtail the number of visitors. Peru is not lacking in pre-Colombian heritage and you can act by choosing to visit them instead. We have chosen 3 Alternatives to Machu Picchu that deserve more attention.
Not far from Cusco and the Machu Picchu, in the Valley of the Incas, you will find the city Ollantaytambo, it’s on of the 3 Alternatives to Machu Picchu. Ollantaytambo has an important historical significance as the fortress city became the capital of Manco Inca, the leader of the resistance to the Spanish colonization after Cusco had been taken.
Before the Spaniards came, the town was known for its farming and as a place of dwelling for the nobility. When Emperor Pachacuti conquered the town and its area, its army razed everything and the emperor rebuilt it with massive structures and implemented the famous terraces techniques of farming. You can still see them today, as well as the Temple of the Sun on Temple Hill. Contrary to other temples, this one was not destroyed but it was still being built just when the Conquista started and was left unfinished. It’s still a majestic piece of work.
No wonder people call it “The Fortress”. You can also walk in the town, the only Inca town whose original street plan still exists and with houses that are still standing, earning it the nickname of “the Inca Living City”.. To visit the site, you will need to buy the famous “boleto touristico” which gives access to different sites of the Valley of the Incas (including Machu Picchu)
For more “off-the-beaten-track” nuggets, don’t hesitate to visit Pinkuylluna where the warehouses are located. It’s a bit of climb but it’s free and if you are spending time in the area, why not go to the ruined ceremonial temples of Ñaupa Iglesia? It’s a short ride in “collectivo” to Pachar. It’s free AND tourist-free as well.
By Wolfgangbeyer, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=996969
In the Vilcabamba mountain range lies one of Peru’s most spectacular site: Choquequirao. If you decide to visit, there’s a good chance you’ll have it almost to yourself because… it takes a two days trek to get there from the town of Cachora and there is no other way to reach your destination. From Choquequirao, you have the choice, go back (add 2-3 more days to the trek) or carry on all the way to Machu Picchu (add 5 to 7 more days).
And what will you discover? First, Choquequirao is a huge place (it’s larger than Machu Picchu). One of the theories behind the building of this city is that it wad a royal estate built for the emperor Topa Inca. Machu Picchu had been built as an estate for his father, Pachacuti and the son wanting to rival the father, decided to go for an even larger place.
Like Ollantaytambo, It was also one of the Incas’ last refuges. It appears to have served as an administrative centre for political, social and economic functions. Its urban design has followed the symbolic patterns of the imperial capital, with ritual places dedicated to the Sun (Inti) and the ancestors. Water also had an important worship here as terrace farming was quite extensive. Temples, warehouses, artisans’ houses, mansions… are left in the solitude of this isolated place.
Hurry to go see it, there is a plan for a cable-car although it’s not implemented yet.
By Ericbronder at the English language Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2201781
From the mountains of the Andes to the Atlantic Coast, here we are, not far from the city of Trujillo, to the largest remnants of a pre-Colombian civilisation in Peru: the city of Chan Chan. Not only Chan Chan predates the Conquista but also predates the Incas.
Chan Chan was founded by the Chimú, a powerful conquering kingdom who ruled the area from the 10th to the 15th century before it was taken by the Incas. Contrary to the Inca cities, Chan Chan is mostly made of mud, which makes it particularly vulnerable, especially with the consequences of climate change. At its height, it’s believed to have hosted 60.000 inhabitants, which is quite impressive. Even more impressive were the efforts put into its planning. The city was divided into nine ‘citadels’ or ‘palaces’ forming autonomous units and reflecting a social and political hierarchy aw well as the remains of the industrial, agricultural and water management systems that sustained Chan Chan.
Water was particularly important for the Chimú of Cha Chan. The city’s name means “Sun Sun” and is located in a quite arid area. An intricate system of irrigation and canals was created to improve farming and supply the city with fresh water. The sea was also a source of riches, so much so that the Chimú used plenty of maritime motifs to decorate their buildings (fishes, crabs, shells, pelicans…) both in very realistic et more abstract forms. No wonder it’s on the UNESCO list!
By Jim Williams – This place is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, listed as Chan Chan Archaeological Zone., CC BY-SA 3.0-igo, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=58155405