Peru's 10 Must-See Ancient Ruins Sites

By: Stuart Smith

While Machu Picchu remains the most visited set of ancient ruins in Peru, many other also exist. All display the marvelous skills of the early civilization. From the array of stones that fit together like jigsaw puzzles to the elaborate water and plumbing systems, these locations continue attracting visitors from thousands of miles around.


1. Machu Picchu 

Lying in the saddle between two peaks approximately 2,000 feet above ground, the ancient ruins of Machu Picchu remain the most famous location in the country. The perfectly carved stones of each community structure fit so neatly together that a knife blade will not pass through. Buildings, ramps, terraces and walls blend magically into the landscape that once served as home to around 1,000 residents. The hundreds of terraces not only maintained the soil used for agriculture, but additionally provided a unique irrigation system.


2. Sacsahuaman

The massive complex stands above the city of Cusco and archeologists ponder whether the location served as a royal home, fortress or a combination of both. Constructed in an unusual zigzag pattern, the walls contain stones amassing around 300 tons each. The massive precision cut stones do not exist in other ancient structures.

Sacsahuaman Peru

3. Vitcos-Yurak Rumi

Hiram Bingham arrived in Peru in 1911 in search of this ancient settlement. The front of the impressive palace measures over 200 feet in width. The doorways boast elaborate stonework. The major attraction here remains the Yurak Rumi, a carved granite boulder approximately the size of a bus. The formation likely served as a holy shrine for the Incans.

Vitcos-Yurak Rumi Peru

4. Pisac

These ruins lie less than one hour northeast of Cusco and stand above the Urubamba River. The features of the area include a number of picturesque concentrically curved terraces used for agricultural purposes. Religious buildings appear similar to the temples found at Machu Picchu. A series of carved rocks were likely used for tracking astronomical constellations.

Pisac Peru


5. Ollantaytambo

Sometime during 1536, the Incans defeated the Spaniards at this location. The historic community bears the original walls that line an intricately designed street grid. In addition to protecting the perimeter of the community, the walls protected groups of homes and surrounded town courtyards. Stone terraces covered with pink granite slabs overlook the town and may have served as a military outlook.

Ollantaytambo Peru

6. Cusco and the Koricancha

Once considered the center of the world, four roads sprawled out from the holy city and divided the Incan Empire into four quarters. Though Spaniards laid waste to most of the buildings, the walls remain standing. The sun temple Koricancha also still stands. When the Spanish invaded, the exterior temple walls bore sheets of gold.

Cusco and the Koricancha Peru

7. Moray

This site exhibits the advanced landscaping skills of the ancient Incans. Here visitors find three gigantic pits that extend more than 100 feet deep and lie surrounded by expertly carved terraces made of earth. Temperatures vary by 20 degrees from the top of the destination to the depths of each pit. The unique design made it possible to grow crops with varying environmental needs.

Moray Peru

8. Choquequirao

Commonly considered the sister city to Machu Picchu, many believe the location actually exceeds the famous site in size. Archeologists have only uncovered around one-third of the site. Possibly the home of an important ruler, the destination has unusual features that include llamas carved from stone. Reaching the ruins requires navigating across a steep valley.

Choquequirao Peru

9. Tipon

The Incans constructed this 500-acre location around an existing spring close to Cusco. The buildings appear similar to those found at Machu Picchu, as each boasts trapezoid shaped entrances. The ingenious engineering skills of the stones become apparent as one explores the irrigation channels and baths that continue functioning. Water still flows through the area.

Tipon Peru


10. Huchuy Cusco

The town name means “little Cusco” and probably functioned as a royal complex. Expertly crafted buildings remain standing and the destination offers spectacular views over the Sacred Valley. From Cusco, authentic Incan stone roads make the uphill journey through scenic gorges.

Sacred Valley Huchuy Cusco Peru