After Cusco, Peru’s most important Inca city is Wilcashuamán, the administrative center founded by Inca Pachacútec after the defeat of the Chanca. The present village of Wilcas- huamán, site of horrific massacres during the Shining Path revolution, is built entirely on Inca ruins.
There are the ruins of a fine sun temple, on top of which is the colonial church of San Juan Bautista with its carvings of serpents, monkeys, and pumas. According to the chronicler Pedro Cieza de León, this three-level sun temple was decorated inside with sheets of silver and gold, along with another, now disappeared, moon temple.
A block away is an ushno, a four-level Inca pyramid that can be found nowhere else in Peru and is the main reason for making the Wilcashuamán trek. A trapezoidal doorway and stairs lead to the upper platform, where the throne with two seats was probably used by the Inca administrator and his wife (coya).
This ushno originally had a clear view of the temples through a single, gigantic plaza and is surrounded by three sacred mountains, or (apus). Consequently, it is not surprising perhaps that President Fujimori often brought TV cameras to this place to make important announcements.
The festival of the sun, or Vilcas Raymi, is celebrated here during the July 28 weekend, but lodging is almost nonexistent. The best accommodations are at Willka Waman (US$5 s, US$7 d, with private bath).
Getting to Wilcashuamán
Combis to Wilcashuamán leave from the main bus station for the bumpy five-hour ride. A private car and driver to can be rented for US$100 for a one-day round-trip, but the best, and easiest, way is to go with an agency. This way you can visit Lago Pumaqocha and Wilcashuamán, along with the Puya raimondii along the way, in a single day.
© Ross Wehner and Renée del Gaudio from Moon Peru, 3rd Edition