We used to joke that after several months in Latin America, we were 'ruined-out'. Temples, military bases, burial grounds and more than a few pyramids - the great ancient civilisations that once ruled these lands left an indelible mark and many form part of your guidebook recommendations.
No more is this true than in Peru, a country that holds some of the continent's most impressive ruins.
If you're anything like us, crumbling buildings lose a little of their shine after the fourth or fifth, and it can sometimes lead to feeling underwhelmed and tempted to miss out on some. However, if you're travelling Peru, we think you'd be crazy not to visit a few - so here are 6 awesome Peru ancient ruins that you simply can't miss!
Perched on a hill overlooking Cusco, are the spectacular ruins of Sacsayhuamán (say 'sexy woman' and you've pretty much nailed the pronunciation). Built in the mid-15th century, there is little remaining of the complex internally, but the sheer size of the triple-tiered defensive walls have maintained their structure remarkably well.
This is one of the many ruins that can only be visited with a Boleto Turistico, but is certainly one of the most impressive in the Sacred Valley. It can get very busy, so for the best experience either visit early or in the late afternoon.
Entrance | You need to buy the Boleto Turistico - find out the essential information on where to buy it and what it includes here.
Further information | We’ve shared information on how to get to Sacsayhuamán for free in our Cusco city guide.
Located just outside of Trujillo, in the north of Peru, are the impressive ruins of Chan Chan. Built in 850AD (that makes it nearly 1200 years old!), this huge sandstone city was once the largest city in the Americas, but has not been inhabited since the 15th century.
Remarkably, despite being a city made of sand, these ruins have retained much of their structure and it is only now with climate change that concern has arisen as to their fate.
If you're in the region, we'd definitely call it a must-see - especially as it may not even exist in 50 years time!
How to get to Chan Chan and entrance fees | See this post for more information.
Built atop a mountain in northern Peru's cloud forest is Kuelap, a pre-Colombian city that's three times older than Machu Picchu. This sprawling site visited by only tiny numbers of international tourists often proves to be a huge highlight for those that enjoy off the beaten track experiences.
How to get to Kuelap | Either take an early morning collectivo from Chachapoyas to Tingo (7 soles, 2 hrs) and then hike the 9km to Kuelap (4 hours) or take a taxi all the way to the entrance (approx 150 soles).
Update 2019 | There is now a cable car up to Kuelap, so it’s definitely a less off-the-beaten-track option. However, as it’s not really on the main Peru backpacker trail, it still sees a fraction of the visitors that the Sacred Valley ruins do.
Entrance fee | 20 soles
Yeah, we know - this one kind of goes without saying. But still, we could hardly mention Peruvian ruins and not include Machu Picchu, a world wonder that is often the sole reason people venture all the way to Peru in the first place!
Read next | The most magical way to arrive at Machu Picchu is with the Inca Trail - read about our experience here.
Like Machu Picchu, this huge Incan complex was never discovered by the Spanish. Even now, archaeologists have uncovered only 30% of the impressive complex.
Yet whilst Machu Picchu is swarming with thousands of tourists daily, Choquequirao remains delightfully quiet, with the gruelling 4 to 5 days hike into the site (plus camping as your only option) acting as a deterrent to all but the most adventurous.
Unfortunately we are yet to visit Chiquequirao, but news that the Peruvian government has horrid plans to create a cable car between Machu Picchu and here means that we absolutely need to get there soon!
At the very edge of the Sacred Valley, 45 minutes north of Cusco, you will find Pisac. Part city, part religious temple, and part military complex, these sprawling ruins that creep up the hillside provide stunning views of the valley below.
How to get there | Whilst you can get a taxi from Pisac, the best way to reach the ruins is on two feet, along the steep path the leads from the town. This should take around an hour.
Entrance | This is either with a ‘Boleto Turistico‘ or partial tourist ticket that you can buy at the entrance to the ruins. This partial ticket for S/.70 includes the Pisac, Chinchero, Moray and Ollantaytambo ruins.
Further Information | We’ve written a guide to Pisac and the ruins here, including how to get there from Cusco with public transport.