Photograph by Ian Wood, Alamy
This unique archaeological site is one of the best examples—along with Machu Picchu—of what might be called extreme Inca landscaping. Three enormous pits, each with beautifully curved sides that staircase down like the interiors of titanic flowerpots, have been carved out of the earth to depths of up to 100 feet and more. Air temperatures between the top and bottom layers can differ by more than 20 degrees, which has led some researchers to theorize that Moray was an Inca agricultural site where experiments on crops were conducted.
Photograph by Jason Rothe, Alamy
Often referred to as Machu Picchu’s sister city because of its striking similarity to the more famous site, Choquequirao may in fact be the larger of the two. (Only 30 percent of the original complex is believed to have been uncovered; in 2005, several sets of ancient agricultural terraces decorated with stone llamas were found.) In addition to its fascinating ruins around a central plaza (as at Machu Picchu), Choquequirao offers the most breathtaking views of any Inca site. The arduous two-day walk to what was probably the estate of an Inca emperor is slowly gaining in popularity as an alternative to the Inca Trail, but to reach the ruins one must walk up and down the steep sides of a valley almost a mile deep.
8. Isla del Sol
Photograph by Karl-Heinz Raach, Laif/Redux
According to the creation myth of the Inca, this island in the middle of Lake Titicaca is where the waters that once covered the Earth receded and the all-powerful sun god, Inti, first emerged. Today the island—which is located on the Bolivian side of the lake—is still home to dozens of Inca and pre-Inca ruins connected by hiking trails (no cars are allowed on the island). Among the most impressive sights are the labyrinth-like structure called the Chincana (above) and the sacred Titi Khar’ka—Rock of the Puma—which gave the lake its name.
Photograph by Linda Whitwam, Getty Images
The Inca were brilliant engineers who strove to integrate their architecture with its natural surroundings. Tipon, a 500-acre site built around a spring near Cusco, has been called their masterpiece of water management. Because the waterworks were constructed as part of a country estate for Inca nobility, Tipon has beautiful stone structures akin to those at Machu Picchu, built in the imperial Inca style, with trapezoidal doors, and serviced by finely cut stone fountains. The intricate baths and irrigation channels still function five centuries after the Spanish conquest, which provides Tipon with an endless, soothing soundtrack of running water.
10. Huchuy Cusco
Photograph by Rebecca J. Spurling
This Inca town, whose name means “Little Cusco” in Quechua, is believed to have been constructed by an early Inca emperor to mark the conquest of a nearby rival tribe. Today, it’s best known for its impressive number of stone buildings and commanding view of the Sacred Valley. What makes the ruins especially appealing, though, is that they are accessible only on foot, and can be reached from (Big) Cusco in less than a day, making them a popular overnight trip. Much of the scenic uphill journey is made through winding gorges and on original stone Inca roads.