Along the southern plateau of the Sacred Valley, past the Four Lakes district, lies the Inca temple fortress of Waqrapukara.
This impressive Inca archaeological complex is less known and more remote than the more famous monuments of Sacsayhuaman, Tipón, Moray or Ollantaytambo.
The destination is, however, gaining attention as a hidden treasure for travelers seeking an alternative trekking and camping adventure.
In fact, it just made the front page of one of Peru’s leading daily newspapers, La República.
Located in the province of Acomayo in Cusco’s Pomacanchi district, the name Waqrapukara means “horn-shaped fortress.”
Getting there involves a 2½-hour drive from Cusco to the town of Santa Lucia, and then a 2-hour trek.
Similar to Machu Picchu, the Inca ceremonial architecture at Waqrapukara melds amazing stone masonry and spectacular natural formations.
Nestled sinuously along a rocky outcrop, built around two horn-shaped, towering mountain peaks, the site features eight Inca terraces with retaining walls and stone stairways.
At one end, it features rectangular stone enclosures with niches and double and triple jamb Inca doorways. At the other end are more enclosures, one of them an E-shaped structure, flanked by a longitudinal wall with trapezoidal niches.
“Waqrapukara is an Inca sanctuary of the first order that denotes immense political and religious power, as-yet undeciphered,” archaeologist Miguel Cornejo told La República. “Four ancient trails lead to the site.”
According to legend, an over-ambitious Inca military officer, T’ito Qosñipa, was amazed by Waqrapukara, located in the heart of rival Qanchis tribal territory. With personal visions of conquest, he became the tribe’s leader and a rebellion against Inca ruler Huayna Capac.
A military force was sent to confront T’ito Qosñipa and his forces defeated in a fierce bloody battle on the flanks of Mount Phiñaypampa.
He and his remaining Qanchi warriors retreated to the high Waqrapukara fortress.
The Inca force pursued, but they could not breach the shear defensive walls. Soldiers fell one after the other into the deep ravine to the Apurímac River valley, and soon they gave up the assault.
T’ito Qosñipa’s rebel force remained hold up in Waqrapukara for 15 days, but the Inca discovered and cut off the underground channel that provided their water. He was forced to capitulate.
He and 100 of his Quanchis warriors were taken prisoner and brought before Inca Huayna Capac. Surprisingly, the Inca emperor did not put his renegade general to death, but instead pardoned him. His Qanchis warriors, in exchange for swearing loyalty to the empire, were also spared their lives, but each had an ear cut off as punishment for the uprising.
Ironically, T’ito Qosñipa went on years later to be become of Huayna Capac’s most celebrated military leaders, as the Inca Empire pressed northward into what is now Ecuador.
Planeamiento Estratético para el Turismo Rural Comunitario en Cuatro Lagunas Cusco, Maylin Vanesa Olivera Lazo, et al (PUCP 2008)
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