Cusco South Valley was a very important place for the development of the Inca Empire; It is the perfect route for people looking to experience archaeological sites and magnificent landscapes, without so much company and in a short period. This territory was one of the first inhabited places in the entire Cusco Valley. The first inhabitants of the culture known as Marcavalle populated this place, 1000 years before Christ.
The circuit through the Cusco South Valley will allow you to enjoy the beautiful landscapes of the Andean highlands; you can see the magnificent hydraulic architecture of Tipón, pre-Inca constructions in Pikillaqta, and beautiful works of art of the Cusco school in the temple of Andahuaylillas. On the way back, you can visit a variety of restaurants; in the village of Scylla the specialty is "chicharrón", but if you want to taste the delicious "cuy" (guinea pig), take advantage of the weather in Tipón. The best way to do this tour is on a private tour, but you will also enjoy being part of an organized tour.
The picturesque setting of stone canals, terraces, and stairways that make up Tipón are said to be part of a royal hacienda built by the eighth Inca ruler, Wiracocha, as a refuge for his father. According to experts, it was once a place of agricultural research and worship. Water is channeled through stone structures, underground aqueducts, and decorative waterfalls, showcasing the Inca´s grasp of hydraulics.
For a reminder that civilizations existed in this region before the Incas, head to Pikillacta, a vast city of 700 buildings from the pre-Inca Wari culture, which flourished between 600 AD and 100.
Little is known about the Wari culture, although the empire once stretched from near Cajamarca to the border of the Tiahuanaco empire based around Lake Titicaca. It´s clear, however, that they had a genius for farming in a harsh environment and like the Inca built sophisticated urban centers such as Pikillacta (which means the "place of the flea").
Pikillacta, meaning the City of Fleas, was one of the pre-Inca cities built at the peak of the Wari culture. It was so named because of numerous 13-ft (4-m) enclosures that formed a protective garrison. Over a 2 km site, you'll see what remains of what was once a vast walled city with enclosing walls reaching up to 7 meters (23 feet) in height and many two-story buildings, which were entered via ladders to doorways on the second floor. The complex has hundreds of mud and stone two-story buildings. Pikillacta has an almost perfect geometrical design, divided into big rectangular blocks with long, straight streets. Walls were originally covered with mud and whitened with gypsum, indicating that the city was once all white. Traces of this can be seen even today. Across the road lies a beautiful lagoon, Lucre Lagoon.
A short distance away are the remains of two imposing Inca gates called Rumicolca. Built on Wari foundations, the Inca blocks are much finer than the original Wari work. These gates acted as a checkpoint for people heading to Cusco, much like a customs office. For the people of the Quechua-speaking world, visiting Cusco was almost like making a religious pilgrimage. An enormous 12-meter- (39-foot-) high gate stands at Rumicolca. It served as the border checkpoint and customs post at the southern entrance to the Wari empire. The Inca enhanced the original construction of their predecessors, fortifying it with andesite stone and using the gate for the same purpose.
The town´s name is a corruption of Antawaylla, Quechua for "copper prairie". The main attraction of the small town of Andahuaylillas, 8 km (5mi) southeast of Pikillacta, is a small 17th-century adobe-towers church built by the Jesuits on the central plaza over the remains of an Inca temple, The contrast between the simple exterior and the rich, expressive, colonial baroque art inside is notable: fine examples of the Cusco School of art decorate the upper interior walls.
Nicknamed the Sistine Chapel of the Americas, the simple mud-brick facade of this 17th-century church gives no hint of the lavish treasures within. These include a shimmering gold-leaf ceiling, a mural by 17th-century painter, Luis de Riaño, depicting the paths to heaven and hell, Cusco School paintings illustrating the life of Saint Peter, and a painting of the Virgin Asuncion by Murillo. The Baroque high altar is carved in cedar and covered with gold leaf, and the tabernacle is awash with silver plates. Strategically placed mirrors reflected lighted candles.
Trunks that were used to keep the priests´expensive vestments, along with jewelry, are kept in the vestry. To the left of the entrance, five, languages - Latin, Spanish, Quechua, Pukina, and Aymara - proclaim "I baptize him in the name of the Father, and the Son, and Holy Spirit."
The ruins of this large temple in the ancient town of Raqch give little indication of their original purpose, but if size counts, then they are truly impressive. You´ll be forgiven for thinking that the place was once an Inca version of the Colosseum or a football stadium. Legend has it that the Temple of Raqchi was built in homage to the god Viracocha, to ask for his intercession in keeping the nearby Quimsa Chata volcano in check. The ploy worked only some of the time. The site, with its huge adobe walls atop a limestone foundation, performed multiple duties as a temple, fortress, barracks, and storage facility.
A day South Valley tour in Cusco makes it possible that people without a lot of available time to overlook the South Valley, but if you are already on your way to Machu Picchu and have an extra day in Cusco, make the day trip to the Cusco South Valley. There are few people and several wonderful places to visit. It is one of the ways to enter the heart of Peruvian culture.
First, you will visit Tipón, a set of terraces and water channels that are believed to have been used by the Incas as a ceremonial center to worship the liquid element. The current city of Tipón has several vendors next to the main road, especially on weekends, when all the restaurants open their doors so you can taste one of the favorite dishes here: the Guinea pig oven.
The pre-Inca ruins of Piquillacta are different from the previous site, it is a pre-Inca city. This adobe complex was built by the Wari culture, which at one time dominated the central and coastal regions of Peru. It is considered the first culture that made use of the terraces (agricultural terraces) superimposed. In addition, many of the administrative practices of the Incas were adopted from the Wari civilization.
Also, during the South Valley tour of Cusco, you can take a short walk to the Huacarpay lagoon. This wetland has been declared a site of international importance due to the large number of migratory birds that stop here. Every October thousands of birds from the northern hemisphere, use this place as a point of passage to the south. Then, when the northern winter ends, in April, they stop on their way back to the northern summer. In addition, birds that avoid the harsh winter in the Andean mountain range, migrate to this place to take advantage of its relatively lower altitude and enjoy better temperatures and a large amount of food. This is a beautiful place to enjoy your lunch.
Finally visit the "Sistine Chapel of the Americas", situated in a beautiful and quiet square. The works of art inside have made this baroque church famous. It has beautiful paintings made by the school of religious art of Cusco School.
Back to Cusco, you can make a small stop in the town of Scylla and try the delicious cusqueños pork rinds and get some bags of roasted pork skin.