Chinchero, a palace in the Sacred Valley of the Incas

Chinchero is one of the most important archaeological destinations in the Sacred Valley of the Incas. A place where one of the most impressive palaces in all of Tawantinsuyo was built. The beauty of the Sacred Valley was crowned with the constructions that today we can visit on the way to Ollantaytambo or during the tours that allow us to see all the Inca constructions in the Sacred Valley. Also, an option is to visit this place on your own. The landscapes that can be seen from Chinchero are truly incredible and allow you to have an unforgettable experience during a trip that is very close to Cusco. Likewise, it is the perfect preamble to visiting Machu Picchu.

View of the Chinchero church

History of Chinchero

Some platforms or terraces found in Chinchero

Exact data on the beginnings of Chinchero cannot be found. Much of the information we have about the Sacred Valley of the Incas comes from chronicles and some anthropological studies and records. In the case of the territorial sector of Chinchero it was possible to establish that before being an Inca domain, it belonged to the Ayarmacas curacazgo. It is believed that several united ethnic groups controlled the entire Sacred Valley. Likewise, it is possible that at first, they were a society even larger than the Incas. The hypothesis is that it was an ethnic group formed by ancient leaders of the Huari culture.

According to this, the first Incas could not extend their domains passing through these places. They only reached dialogues that kept the war quarrels against the Ayarmacas at bay. However, both ethnic groups had a common enemy, which was the Chancas. The Chancas were characterized by being men highly qualified for battle and with an excessive thirst for blood. Their trust was so great that they trusted each other during their confrontations with the Incas, and little by little their trust and war strategies improved.

The Inca victory came about thanks to the cunning and trust placed in Cusi Yupanqui, who would later be known as Pachacutec or “Transformer of the Earth” for the great changes he achieved. Especially by consolidating control of all of Cusco and much of the territory south of it. From there, the expansionist campaigns would begin with greater force and the political changes would form one of the largest civilizations in the entire world. Achieved its dominance by five countries in current South America. An example of this expansion and warlike capacity was that the Ayarmacas joined them.

Thus, Inca rule was established throughout the Sacred Valley and Cusco began to grow considerably. According to Inca tradition, it was necessary to build a temple dedicated to the worship of the sovereigns or Sapa Inca. In this sense, it is estimated that Tupac Yupanqui (son of Pachacútec) ordered the construction of a royal palace, along with beautiful temples that would serve so that he, along with his entire panaca or royal family, could continue the tradition. This Inca also achieved an extensive conquest. Unfortunately, he would later be poisoned by one of his concubines so that he would favor her son in the election of the new Inca. However, he managed to choose Huayna Cápac as his successor.

Later with the arrival of the Spanish; Chinchero received Manco Inca and his army just as he was heading to Ollantaytambo. He had begun resistance to Spanish control and was taking all his forces to Ollantaytambo. On his way through Chinchero, he destroyed part of the citadel and burned the colcas so that, when pursuing him, the Spaniards and ethnic groups allied to them would not find resources. Finally, after absolute control and the beginning of the viceroyalty, the Inca temples began to be destroyed. The palace of Tupac Yupanqui was no exception and one of the first churches in Cusco was built on part of the temples.

Chinchero airport
Currently in Chinchero, one of the largest airports in all of South America is being built. This is with the intention that all tourists arrive directly to Cusco and do not have to go through Lima first. Likewise, this work is planned so that the largest planes in the world can arrive and depart in Cusco. It is estimated that this gigantic work will operate from the year 2025.

The constructions that we can visit in Chinchero

Part of the route to the top of Putucusi mountain

After the different changes that all the buildings in Chinchero suffered. Today, only a few buildings and traces remain of what was surely an extensive place of worship with many beautiful temples. This place was the main compound of one of the Tupac Yupanqui. One of the Incas managed to expand the domains of the Tawantinsuyo to the border of the Maule River in Chile where he had confrontations with the Araucanas.

In this sense, the wealth and achievements accumulated by the Inca would belong to the Panaca. All this panaca or royal family would be positioned in what is now Chinchero. Currently, unfortunately, there are only vestiges of what was the palace of the Inca Tupac Yupanqui and some remains of temples. However, it can be concluded that the entire space occupied for the construction and giving it a citadel appearance is approximately 43 hectares. Part of this extension can be seen in the current town, where some walls and water channels stand out.

Likewise, you can see the imposing terraces that gave a better position to the temples and the location of the palace itself. Currently, you can enter part of what would be the palace, part of which had two floors. Next to where the current Chinchero church is located, the main temples can be found. Of these, only the foundations and some of the stairs that are still in use remain.

Other details that were found but that can no longer be seen are some tombs. Human remains were collected near the main temples. Likewise, in the perfectly carved stones that remained and show that they were important constructions, you can find remains of ash and burned stones. The detail that would prove that Manco Inca caused a fire in the place where fire damage occurred. You can also find one of the stones used as walls that reach 15 meters in height. Finally, you can find buildings that would correspond to the Kilke culture.

How to visit Chinchero with the Sacred Valley Tour?

Taking the Sacred Valley tour is one of the best travel options you can do before visiting Machu Picchu. There are different ways to tour the main places in the Sacred Valley, but the simplest and most beneficial is by using the services of a good travel agency. Normally these agencies enable a series of activities that will allow you to visit Pisac, Ollantaytambo, and also Chinchero.

The Sacred Valley Tour has an average duration of 12 hours. The trip will begin with the departure of Cusco no later than 7:30 in the morning. The trip to the Sacred Valley is quite comfortable since stops are made to appreciate the landscape. The Taray viewpoint will allow us to appreciate all the splendor of the Sacred Valley of the Incas. Later, we continue with the trip through Pisac, have lunch, and continue with the visit to Ollantaytambo. After visiting these two Inca citadels, we continue with the return trip. It is precisely there where you can get to know Chinchero.

Right at sunset, it is possible to appreciate all the Inca construction that was developed throughout these beautiful landscapes. The route is easy to follow, despite the size of the archaeological remains. It is also possible to find some craft centers to buy some souvenirs of any kind. Once the visit to this place is completed, we proceed to make the trip to Cusco. The distance between Chinchero and Cusco is only 1 hour, which in the worst case can be extended by 20 more minutes. But, this rarely happens and has to occur through traffic congestion when arriving in Cusco.

This short distance makes it possible to visit without taking a tour. The short trip also makes it the perfect destination so you can visit on your own. These 23 kilometers of distance can be covered with interprovincial bus services. The buses that must be boarded are those that cover the Cusco – Urubamba route. These are located on Av. Grau with the intersection of Luis Uzategui. There is also the option of traveling by minivan. These transports can be found on Pavitos Street. This minivan will also cover the route between Cusco and Urubamba. The price can vary between 5 to 10 soles.

When is the best option to visit?

Chinchero’s main square, behind, the church on Inca remains

The Sacred Valley and Chinchero have the particularity of being beautiful during any season, month, or day of the year. It is a privileged place due to its incredible geography. During the rainy season, the landscape is completely colorful. The vast fields of corn are constantly growing due to the rains that usually fall during the afternoons. Many times, after the rain the sky begins to clear and due to the rain falling in more distant sectors, you can witness rainbows that give the landscape more color than it already has.

The rainy season is during December and March. The first weeks of March may experience rain, but little by little they will decrease to give way to winter, which is characterized by colder days, but with abundant sun. Ideal for harvesting and better preserving the entire corn kernel. This rainless season will begin in April and will last until the last weeks of October. And so it is, sometimes the rain can come a month earlier or not at all. Lately, the climate around the world is undergoing a terrible change of seasons, which is a serious problem for agriculture.

In this sense, we believe that visiting Chinchero is ideal to visit, any day of the year. As we mentioned, each one will have its benefits and yes, it will depend on each person to be consistent with the time in which they decide to travel. That is, if you travel between the rainy months, don’t expect it to not rain. The probabilities are greater and it is better to go with precautions such as an umbrella or a waterproof poncho. Below, are more tips for a proper visit to Chinchero.

Recommendations for visiting Chinchero

Some souvenirs can be bought on the esplanade of the Chinchero church

  • It can serve as an activity while you acclimatize and learn more about Cusco. That is, it is ideal to do it before going on a hiking route.
  • If you want to visit it as a family, you won’t have a better chance. The route is simple, the trip is comfortable. You will just have to take into account what time of year you are traveling. It may rain.
  • Organize the activities of your trip, so that you can have a trip without rush or unforeseen events.
  • It is ideal for acclimatizing. Chinchero is 3700 meters above sea level. If you feel uncomfortable, try to rest and consume plenty of water.
  • Bring cash, especially to purchase snacks, drinks, and souvenirs.
  • It is possible to visit the Chinchero Site Museum. There you can find some Inca objects and ceramics.
  • You have to visit it before arriving or traveling to Machu Picchu.


By Imachupicchu – Last updated, January 8, 2024

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