Excerpts from the Lonely Planet – Peru:
The four ruins closest to Cuzco are Sacsaywamán, Q’enqo, Pukapukara and Tambomachay. They can all be visited in a day – far less if you’re whisked through on a guided tour. If you only have time to visit one site, Sacsaywamán is the most important, and less than a 2km trek uphill from the Plaza de Armas in central Cuzco.
In a sheltered spot about 300m from the main road, this site consists of a beautifully wrought ceremonial stone bath channeling crystalline spring water through fountains that still function today. It is thus popularly known as El Baño del Inca (The Bath of the Inca), and theories connect the site to an Inca water cult.
Just across the main road from Tambomachay is this commanding structure looking down on the Cuzco valley. In some lights the rock looks pink, and the name literally means ‘Red Fort,’ though it is more likely to have been a hunting lodge, a guard post and a stopping point for travelers. It is composed of several lower residential chambers, storerooms and an upper esplanade with panoramic views.
The name of this small but fascinating ruin means ‘Zigzag.’ It’s a large limestone rock riddled with niches, steps and extraordinary symbolic carvings, including the zigzagging channels that probably gave the site its name. These channels were likely used for the ritual sacrifice of chicha or, perhaps, blood.
Scrambling up to the top you’ll find a flat surface used for ceremonies and, if you look carefully, some laboriously etched representations of a puma, a condor and a llama. Back below you can explore a mysterious subterranean cave with altars hewn into the rock.
KAPOORS ON THE ROAD