Located close to Saqsayhuman, about 6 km´s (4 miles) from Cusco, Qenko is a large rock and intricate lithic complex that was thought to have been used by the Incas for ceremonial purposes. The Spanish gave it the name Qenko after the Quechua word meaning “labyrinth or zigzag.” The name may have derived after the small yet intricate network of underground passageways that make up the site, or perhaps for the mysterious zigzag channels carved into the rock. A large natural cavity in the rock houses a stone altar, where the Incas would have performed rituals and even sacrifices. As for the zigzag channels it is believed that Inca priests poured sacred chicha or llama blood into the channels as part of an annual ritual used to determine the fate of the following year’s crop.
Adjacent to the main rock of Qenko, there is a large amphitheatre type structure. The amphitheatre is formed by an outer wall that has 19 large niches, probably used for ceremonial purposes. At the centre of the amphitheatre is a mysterious upright rock, which may have been carved in to the shape of a puma or another spiritual symbol. It is thought that much of Qenko and the central stone were destroyed by the Spanish conquistadores as they tried to rid Cusco of all iconic Inca shrines.
About 350 meters from the main site of Qenqo is another part of the site. Known as Qenko Chico (small), this part of the ruins has been largely destroyed leaving little for tourists to visit.
Although Qenko may look fairly unremarkable from the outset, on closer inspection it truly is one of Cusco´s finest Inca archaeological sites; a site shrouded in mystery and one not to be missed whilst in Cusco.
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To enter Qenko ruins you will need a partial or full Cusco Tourist Ticket (BTCI or BTCPI). Tickets can be bought at the entrance to the site or at any other archaeological site listed on the ticket during normal opening hours.
How to Visit Qenko
As part of a guided tour
A guided tour is probably the best way to get the most out of your visit to Qenko. Around Cusco´s main square – Plaza de Armas there are many small travel agencies that offer daily tours that include Qenko among other sites. Prices vary, so be sure to check out a few different travel agents before buying.
If you prefer to visit Qenko on your own, a taxi is the easiest and quickest way to get there. From Cusco´s historical centre the journey takes approximately 15 minutes and will cost around 15 Soles each way. Ask the taxi driver to wait if you don´t plan on walking back to Cusco.
From Cusco´s Plaza de Armas the walk to Qenko takes approximately 50 – 60 minutes. See below the location map of Qenko to get a good idea of how to get there. Be warned that the walk is all uphill. We suggest that you might want to take a taxi there and walk back. On your return include a visit to Saqsayhuman which is very close.