Cusco, Exploring the four suyos of the Inca Empire

There are three main routes that depart from Cusco. The first, a northeast route, takes you to the Chinchaysuyo territories: the Valley of the grand Apurímac and the cities of Abancay, Andahuaylas, and Ayacucho. Once the hills that overlook the city are passed (crossing the area known as Inti Punko or ‘Doorway of the Sun’), the first section allows you to descend through eucalyptus covered hills to the localities of Cachimayo, Chinchero and Urubamba. The left side takes you through a great plain to the city of Anta, called the “granary of Cusco” because of its large and productive wheat and barley fields. Further ahead, you find Izcuchaca with its landscape adorned with hundreds of pisonay trees and old rural mansions. An ancient Incan road is found in Izcuchaca that leads towards Huarocondo and Maras, natural balconies that face the Vilcanota Valley. Leaving the pampas of Anta behind, you climb to the Huillque Pass, 4,280 m.a.s.l., and afterwards begin a new descent.

Limatambo and Mollepata are two picturesque villages where it is possible to visit various eighteenth and nineteenth century houses in good states of preservation. Very near to Limatambo are found the Tarawasi ruins, an interesting display of Incan architecture whose structure combines traces of a fort and a palace. Little by little, the types of vegetation change significantly, and as the descent continues, you feel the warm air of the lowlands of the Apurímac River Valley.

The Collasuyo route runs in a southeastern direction and connects Cusco with Puno and the small, Altiplano communities, moving through the high part of the Vilcanota Valley and its dreamy villages. Using this same road you may enter, by way of a northeasterly alternative route in the area of Huacarpay, the Sacred Valley (Písac route) and the Manu jungles – after passing through the attractive village of Paucartambo and the spectacular descent through the mountain jungle to the Kosñipata Valley. An alternative path separates itself at the outskirts of Urcos and moves eastwards and permits you to scale the mountains around Ausangate Peak and descend to the jungle city of Puerto Maldonado and the Brazilian border (Iñapari).

San Sebastián and San Jerónimo are two districts of the city of Cusco located at the beginning of this route. In San Sebastián, you can visit a small church with a baroque façade built in the sixteenth century to celebrate the victory of Pizarro over Almagro. Further ahead, the valley widens to display colorful fields of corn and barely.

Very close is found Saylla, a city known for its kiosks that sell fried pork rind with hominy grits (very popular traveling food among the inhabitants of Cusco). At the outskirts of Saylla, you can take the bypass to Choquepata, a small village that serves as the access point for the Tipón ruins, an Incan settlement that is composed of ceremonial enclosures, irrigation canals, and the remains of a surrounding, protective wall, twenty meters high and made of carved stone. Returning again to the highway, further ahead you can take the turnoff to Oropesa, a traditional bakers town, gifted with old adobe ovens that still make the bread for the city of Cusco.