Before we traveled to Peru, I’d never heard of Tipon. My introduction came when we bought the Cusco Tourist Ticket and I saw that it was one of the sites we could visit. To be honest, the only reason we did the day trip to Tipon was because it was part of the Cusco Tourist Ticket. We made a commitment to do everything on that list so we could tell you about it and speak to its value through experience.
Now that we’ve seen Tipon, we’d be so disappointed if we missed it. It was one of our favorite places to visit in Peru during the two months we spent in the country.
In this post, we’ll explain your options for how to do a day trip to Tipon. Actually, more like a half-day (though we’ll also let you know how to make it a full day). We’ll also tell you a bit about Tipon, suggest a place where you can try Guinea Pig (if you’re adventurous), and let you know the best way to get there.
We’ll also tell you about a (sort of) hidden place in Tipon that not a lot of people visit!
This post also makes the assumption that most of our readers will be visiting from Cusco. We want you to know that Cusco is more than just Machu Picchu and has so many different things to do. You won’t get bored, especially if you like to do day trips.
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A brief introduction to Tipon
Tipón Archaeological Park, as its name suggests, is 22 kilometers east of Cusco near the town of Tipon. Archaeologists believe that it was once an experimental farm due to the several microclimates at the site.
It contains one of the most intact irrigation systems in the Inca world, with canals and even a working fountain fed by water melting from the ice far above the complex.
How to make the most of your visit
Perhaps we were at an advantage because we spent a month in Cusco and didn’t have to stick to a rigid schedule to get everything in. We could take our time to plan and do most everything on our own. But we sincerely believe that to make the most of your Tipon day trip, you need to do it yourself.
Tours often have really tight schedules that limit you to an hour or two. And while you can easily see the main section of Tipon (i.e., the fountain, terraces, and a few ruins in the immediate area), we think the trip is far more rewarding if you take the time to see it all.
So come early in the morning and stay for a few hours. There are lots of things to see here and the hikes to the least popular areas offer incredible views of things that, to be honest, most tourists don’t get to see.
What to see in Tipon
Here’s the thing: Most people don’t even go to Tipon. It’s one of the least-visited sites in the Sacred Valley. And those who do go don’t explore the entire complex. They usually just stay in the area that’s visible from the entrance.
We explored far more of the trail around and above the complex. Except for the people I just mentioned, we saw exactly ZERO people. Nobody. Once we left the main plateau, we had Tipon completely to ourselves.
Follow the canal
Once you enter Tipon, you’ll be staring at a vast, plateau, with terraces large enough to be individual soccer pitches. Ahead of you is a hill upon which you might see archaeologists working. To your left, you’ll see a trail that leads uphill.
Take that trail. You’ll find several areas of ruins (and a toilet you can use if you need one!). Keep climbing up the trail and you’ll find a stone irrigation system – a sort of canal.
If you keep following that canal, it will take you to the top of Tipon where you’ll be gifted with amazing views of the complex and valley below. It’s a good hike and just a little strenuous. Inca irrigation systems are based on gravity, so occasionally, there’s a steep part of the climb to tackle.
The Pukara – Tipon’s hidden secret
Remember that “hidden” place I mentioned at the beginning of this post? About halfway up the canal, you’ll see a sign that simply reads, “SECTOR PUKARA.” We didn’t know what this meant, even though we saw it before at a place called “Puka Pukara.” But since someone took a lot of time to make a sign, we followed it! Because we’re nothing if not direction followers!
It turns out that pukara means “fortification.” So the pukara here is the fortification that the Incas built to protect Tipon.
It’s as interesting as Tipon itself. Take the trail on your left (going up). It leads you through a grassy area all the way over to the pukara. Along the way on either side of the trail, you’ll see stone walls that are barely visible through the brush and grass.
These ancient Inca walls that have yet to be excavated – if they ever will be. You’ll also see plenty of horses, sheep, and donkeys.
Eventually, the trail opens up to the pukara. And it’s beautiful.
The trail to the pukara is not difficult with only small inclines and a few small rock obstacles to get around. Simple stuff, really. Once you get to the pukara, it’s even easier to walk around.
Optional side trip 1: Pikillacta and Rumicola
If you prefer to be more economical with your time, consider first going to Pikillacta (on the same bus) to explore the pre-Inca ruins there. Just up the highway within walking distance from Pikillacta is a small Inca site called Rumicola.
Pikillacta is part of the Cusco Tourist Ticket and Rumicola is free. Exploring both will take you about 2 hours, after which you can take a bus back to Tipon and explore the ruins here.
Optional side trip 2: Andahuaylillas
If you want to go even further out, we suggest Andahuaylillas. There is a beautiful church here that’s one of the most famous in the Sacred Valley. So much so that they call it the Sistine Chapel of Peru. We never did make it here sadly, so we can’t speak to it from first-hand experience. But it’s on our list for the next time we go back to Peru!
Take a guided tour: This tour from Get Your Guide offers all three for a very good price. We think you need more time to explore everything, but if you just want the highlights, this is a good tour for that. Keep in mind that you’ll need the Cusco Tourist Ticket for Pikilacta and Tipon. And you’ll have to pay for Andahuaylillas. Neither is included in the price.
1. How do you get to Tipon?
The best way to get to Tipon is to take a colectivo from Avenida de la Cultura in Cusco. The ticket will cost you about S/. 5. Keep in mind that the colectivo will more than likely have “Urcos” as a destination. Just get on and tell the driver to stop in Tipon.
The colectivos are usually in areas like this. Look for one that says Urcos or even Tipon.
The colectivo will drop you at an intersection with a bus stop. It’s near a sign over the road that reads “Bienvenidos a Tipon.” From that intersection, you can hire a taxi to take you to the top of the Tipon ruins. (Google Maps)
There’s also a full-size bus at a station near the stadium that also goes to Urcos. It’s S/. 7-10, but it’s more comfortable.
If you prefer, join a tour group to Tipon. We think tours here are limiting. Quite often, tour groups will bring you to a site, where you’ll only have an hour or two to explore before you have to leave.
Make your day trip to Tipon special and explore it yourself. It’s easy.
2. How much does it cost?
There is no one-time admission charge to get into Tipon. To visit the park, you must buy the Cusco Tourist Ticket (Boleto Turistico). You can get it at Tipon itself or at any of the 16 Cusco Tourist Ticket sites in the Sacred Valley.
Note: If you don’t have a ticket, you’ll need to have your passport with you to purchase one.
The full ticket is S/. 130 (S/. 70 for students). However, you can also buy a partial ticket for S/. 70 that includes Tipon (and no student discount). To see all the Cusco Tourist Ticket options, go to our tourist ticket post and find the heading “Partial Ticket Circuit II: City and South Sacred Valley.”
Note: We have heard (but cannot confirm) that some people enter Tipon by paying S/. 10 at the gate. We’ve even heard of people who just walk in. It might be worth a try. If it worked for you, please let us know in the comments!
3. How long should you spend in Tipon?
We think Tipon is a great way to spend half a day. Get up in the morning take the bus to Tipon. Explore the ruins for 2-4 hours and then take a colectivo home.
We did it a little differently though. Instead of taking the colectivo back to Cusco, we opted to hike down to the town. It was an interesting experience. Just after you exit the park and pass the vendors, there is a trail on the side of the road that leads you all the way down to the town.
The hike down is about 2 miles (3.2 km) and it will take you about 1.5 hours. There are places where the trail is pretty rough, so you should wear a good trail shoe. You eventually exit the trail at a road and it’ll take you another 20 minutes or so to get back to the intersection where the colectivo dropped you off.
Keep in mind that there really isn’t anything “Inca-related” to see on the trail (which is what we were hoping for). It’s just for the exercise and the view! It’s interesting to see some of the farms along the side of the road though. I’d recommend it.
4. Where can we eat and drink in Tipon?
One thing you should try here is cuy – Guinea Pig. Tipon is the Peruvian capital of Guinea Pig – a distinction they proudly announce with a sign over the highway:
Bienvenidos a Tipon: Capital Nacional Del Rico Cuy Al Horno
Welcome to Tipon: National Capital fo Baked Cuy
Since Tipon was only a half-day trip for us, we only checked out one restaurant – Cuyeria La Hacienda. Yes, it’s a guinea pig restaurant. No, we didn’t try it here. But we are generally big fans of Peruvian food and we did have baked chicken and it was awesome. Each plate could feed two people easily. The downside was that it was expensive! About S/. 30 – each.
That’s incredibly expensive in Peru. It’s six times what we’d pay for a chicken meal in Cusco. It was definitely much better though and the portions were huge.
Note: One thing we found a little bit annoying in Tipon was that we couldn’t get a cold drink – anywhere. Everyone, including stores and restaurants, seemed to have refrigerators. It’s just that no one plugged them in! If you’re going to pay for a soft drink or a beer, ask before ordering.
5. Can I stay overnight in Tipon?
I cannot think of a reason to stay overnight in Tipon. That said, the decision is pretty much made for you anyway. Tipon doesn’t have any good hotels to speak of. If you search for hotels, you’ll find only results from Cusco. And you’re already staying there, probably!
Besides, your trip to Tipon is such a short drive from Cusco – about 40 minutes – that getting there and back is easy. Unlike Pisac, which has a lot of stuff to see and do (and where you should also go!), Tipon really doesn’t have much. It’s ruins and Guinea Pig restaurants. That’s pretty much it.
6. What are the hours?
Tipon Archaeological Park is open 7 days a week from 7:00 am to 6:00 pm.
7. What’s the best time of year to visit?
We spent about two months in Peru – from late August to late October. It rained only 2 days on our entire trip (and I think once or twice overnight).
The trade-off to going during this time of year is that it was moderately cold on some days. But this is great if you’re into hiking. The wet season in Peru runs from December to late about April. If you’re here at that time, prepare for rain in the afternoon.
If you’ve been to Tipon and feel like we’ve missed something, let us know in the comments so you can help other readers!
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Michael is originally from Canada but now resides in Atlanta, GA with his husband, Halef, who also writes here. He is a Couchsurfing expert. Michael has traveled to over 50 countries learning how to experience more for less as he travels.