Yesterday I was bored after just a day (!) without hiking, so I decided to visit Llaullipata — a quiet spot along the Rio Chacán hidden in a canyon surrounded by towering eucalyptus trees.
The first part of the hike is not an easy one if you come up from the Plaza de Armas. My Fitbit watch says it’s the equivalent of over 100 floors of climbing, but you can take a taxi for a handful of soles and save all the hard work by going to the Cusco Planetarium.
Follow along the stone paved road until you get to the hacienda Llaullipata which was once home to an Inca princess Yupanqui who married the Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro.
The walk along the road is a nice break from the hustle and bustle of Cusco just a short distance below. You’ll likely hear the sounds of city life coming up the valley, but once you get amongst the towering eucalyptus trees those sounds will likely fade away.
Yesterday was a breezy day so the trees were swaying up high in the wind. The sounds of the eucalyptus — which are not native, but were brought from Australia in the early 20th century — can be soothing, but often disconcerting, too.
I’ve never heard so many different sounds coming from one type of tree on a windy day. I’ve heard them sound like birds and other times they sound like horns. Generally the creaking of the trunks rising straight into the sky makes you think they’re all about to break and come crashing down up your head, but I promise you’ll be safe!
Keep your eye out for wildlife, too. One time I spotted a tiny deer grazing along the trail. He was so small compared to deer I’m used to seeing in Texas and was seemed little concerned about my presence.
The hike to the ruins only takes about 30-40 minutes with very little climbing or descending until you reach the stream, but you should be aware of one potential danger along the way.
About half way there you will notice a home on the right side of the trail. I’ve never seen him, but in the past a 3-legged dog we’ve nicknamed “Tripod” lives here and has been known to attack passing hikers.
I’ve been up this trail almost ten times and never seen him, but I know of others who have and one young woman was actually bitten when he rushed out of the grass and got her from behind before she could react.
For this reason, I always carry a stick when passing by and I tend to be quiet so I can hear him coming. (Sorry, I can’t tell you where my sticks are hidden near the start of the hike. I’ll need them next time I’m up there!)
When you get to the canyon itself, all you need to do is go downhill to the left once you reach the rock piles and you’ll see the ruins very soon. Be careful when going downhill as the eucalyptus leaves can make the trail as slippery as loose rock. There are numerous paths and they’ll all get you there.
Keep your eyes open and you’ll soon see the large stones that make up the Llaullipata site. It’s remoteness makes it a very unique place in the area to visit. It’s likely you won’t see another person there, though occasionally local teens visit on the weekends to drink or smoke or make out.
The purpose of the stones are likely related to water, but, like most Inca sites, the actual purpose is not known. They are carved in a myraid of ways that look like seats, but were probably ceremonial platforms of some kind.
This was obviously an important site as indicated by the quality of the stonework. Water and sun were the two most important resources to the Incas because, without them, there was no life. Large stones were especially revered and their presence near water gave them even greater importance.
The Llaullipata site is on the Rio Chacán which joins with the Rio Saphi a little farther down the canyon which was one of two rivers that flowed through Cusco.
[Little known fact: the Rio Saphi still flows next to Cuscos Plaza de Armas, but it is now underground! It is channeled below far up the canyon from the Plaza and emerges far to the south.]
The most interesting carving is on the “back side” of the main stone where a large step pyramid has been carved into the rock alongside the stream. This is a favorite spot for those wanting a unique photo of themselves!
You can go a little farther down stream (about 50 meters) to find another massive rock and some Inca stonework, but it does have the carvings that the first stones have.
Even without a taxi ride up, this is a short, relatively easy hike to little known Inca ruins just a short distance from the center of Cusco that is a good combination with a visit to the well-known ruins of Sacsayhuaman.
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