POQ waterfall and the chinchero inca trail

Chinchero district is located in the Sacred Valley of the Incas, is one of the 7 districts of the province of Urubamba, department of Cusco, under the administration of the Regional Government of Cuzco, in Peru.

Chinchero is 3,762 m.a.s.l. and 29 km from the city of Cusco, a town that speaks Quechua and Spanish. Currently, the Peruvian government is planning to build an international airport in Chinchero.

The origin Chinchero

This town dates from the Inca era and was the resting place of the Inca Tupac Yupanqui (fourth Inca on the throne of Tahuantinsuyo). This place was built in 1480, apart from its Palace, other buildings for the residence of the Inca social elite, as well as the terraces that last until this day. Years later (1536) the town of Chinchero was burned down by Manco Inca when he fled from the Spaniards to Ollantaytambo then to Vilcabamba, to prevent their enemies from supplying food.

The town of Chinchero retains, in its oldest part, the architectural construction it had in the Inca era. The buildings were located on the side of a mountain, whose upper part was the Palace of the Inca Tupac Yupanqui. Today, in this same place, is the colonial church of Our Lady of Montserrat or Virgin of the Nativity the sworn patron of Chinchero village, built by the Spaniards. Through all the vestiges of this historical place, we can deduce that it was not only an administrative headquarters, but also a military center and place of religious ceremonies. On the basis of the ancient Inca constructions, the houses were built today respecting the original urbanization. Its design is rectangular platforms and parallel to each other. They communicate with each other by stairs and cobbled ramps that contain a channel to evacuate rainwater and thus prevent flooding. It always draws attention in Inca constructions the perfect channeling of its waters, both rainwater and irrigation. The main square consists of two levels separated by a wall that contains twelve large niches (most are 2 m high by 1.50 wide). We are not sure of its function of its usefulness, although tradition maintains three interpretations:


The twelve months of the year: 3 niches located on the left side would represent the rainy season and the 9 niches located on the right side represented the dry season.

  1. Place where the princesses of the Inca were placed.
  2. Place where the guardians or faithful warriors who guarded the palace of the Inca remained.

Most likely, it was the place where the mummies and idols that presided over the ceremonies were placed or where the offerings (food, animals, jewelry) were deposited.

The upper level of this square corresponds to the atrium and front of the church. In the lower part is the site museum and the house where Mateo Pumacahua was born. This house, maintains the stone basement of ancient Inca building; the upper floor windows are of a semicircular colonial arch and three of them are joined by an archery.

The main door is made up of stones already worked in which we can see petroglyphs in low relief of zigzagging lines.

We know from history that Mateo Pumacahua helped the Spanish army in the victory against the Tupaq Amaru-II rebellion in 1781.

Years later he regreted, he fought against the Spaniards and after suffering defeat he was beheaded in Sicuani in 1814, when it cost him his life.

It was the year 1572 when the Viceroy Toledo founded in this town of Chinchero the Doctrine of Our Lady of Montserrat and continued the construction of the Catholic church that still endures and consists of a single nave, which is built on the walls of the Ancient Inca palace. The beginning of its construction is unknown, but it was probably in 1607 due to the dating found inside the temple.

This Inca palace played a very important role, since the stones of its base are finely carved. Also the door of the old enclosure that faces south, manifests the high rank of its former inhabitants, having its triple jamba covers. This is also shown by the niches of the three adjoining buildings.

Today, the church of Our Lady of Monserrat is a national heritage. In her valuable paintings of the Cusco school, signed by Diego Quispe Ttito and Francisco Chihuanttito are conserved. The walls are decorated with representations of saints, flora and fauna. Similarly, the entire roof and its beams are decorated. The main altarpiece is Baroque and is covered with gold leaf; It is dedicated to the Virgin of the Nativity whose patronal feast is celebrated on September 9. The denomination of Montserrat has its origin in Catalonia (Spain), where it is also known as “Moreneta” for being a dark-colored image.

But, in Chinchero, his complexion is clearer. At the door of the church, and above the entrance door, we can contemplate a large mural depicting the Virgin of Montserrat that occupies the center of the mural. On the left side of the mural there is a group of well-dressed nobles and representing the family of Mateo Pumacahua who had supported the Spaniards in the victory against Tupac Amaru II. In memory and to emphasize his victory, he painted this mural in his own town and thus amended the criticism of the villagers. At the other end there are two armies in full battle. On the one hand the Spanish army and the followers of Mateo Pumacahua facing the army of Tupac Amaru II who was defeated in that battle. In the upper part of the mural two mythological figures or animals appear fighting. The Puma is holding the dragon by the head. The Puma represents Mateo Pumacahua, and the dragon Tupac Amaru II (amaru in Quechua is called the snake). These are the two emblems or heraldic symbols of the two rival leaders. Two saints appear on both sides of the main entrance (Saint Peter with the keys and Saint Paul with the sword).

Inside and entering from the front of the church, the Virgin of Montserrat is once again referred to with a canvas from the Cusco school painted by Francisco Chihuantito in 1693, as indicated by her painting rubric. In this iconography, the Virgin is sitting and holding with her left hand the Infant Jesus on the right a sphere symbol of the earth. On its left side we can see Chinchero Square, the atrium, the tower, the cross and two angels. On the esplanade in front of the temple, where the atrium is, there are:

  • a bell tower (separate from the church nave)
  • a cross whose stone base comes from the Inca period.

Both in the basement of the cross and in the stairway that gives access to the esplanade of the atrium of the church we can see some petroglyphs carved in low relief; stones from sanctuaries or sacred huacas of the Incas that were related to the cult or the sacred towards the snake, related to the rays (due to the similarity of their movements) that attracted the water (as we saw in the house of Mateo Pumacahua) . In this way heaven and earth were united in fertility. Other symbols that we can find in Chinchero’s architecture (1 Puma, 2 Condor, 3 Toad, 4 snake) Recall that the condor, the snake and the Puma (the sky, the earth and the inner world), are the representations of the Andean trilogy (southern cross). Today in Chinchero, we can see that the overlapping of Christian elements on those from the Inca culture is constant. There is also another large esplanade at the bottom of the church (about 150 meters long and 70 meters wide) is adjacent to three lined precincts and finely carved stones that contain double jamb niches. This esplanade does not have the function for agriculture, but to summon a large number of people; It was a resting place for the Inca nobility. These enclosures were the residence of the ruling groups; in them the niches abound. They are south of the great square called Pampa Chapel. This esplanade joins the platforms and the Inca road by means of a long stone staircase of about 210 steps.

In the North East area, Q’entepata we find long and high platforms that had double functionality: that of containment and that of agricultural production. They have been restored today and in past times, their stones were used by the locals in the construction of their homes. The restoration of the platforms can clearly be seen the difference, the lighter part of the restored part, a tab has been left between the original and the restored part. The platforms are formed by a stone wall with a filling inside. In its upper part, fertile land was found for cultivation; Below is a layer of sand and other lower layers of small stones, deposited on larger stones. This with the objective of efficient drainage. On the bottom of these platforms begins the Inca trail, where the upper Chinchero area with the Sacred Valley, being the main road. Other elements of interest that we can observe in this archaeological center of Chinchero about the Inca culture are: the temple to the moon (Quilla), the Wakas and the Chacanas. To the north of the great esplanade is a large stone called “Waka Teteqaqa”. On it fine and laborious stone works were carried out such as: niches, stairs, corridors, thrones and other reasons for worship and ceremonies. In this place we find a labyrinth similar to that of Qenqo whose entrances have been carved into the rock; also stairs, and many seats. In the upper part of the rock is the main throne that occupied the Inca oriented towards the sunrise. By analysis it indicates that ceremonies to the moon (Mama Quilla) were performed in this area, because the shape of the Moon is carved on one of the walls. In this it represents the waning room. If continuing east, we find a third “Waka” called “Pumaqaqa”. On it we can observe the sculptures of the decapitated pumas. Finally they are at the end of the platforms at the bottom of the archaeological center where the route of the Inca trail Chinchero-Urquillos begins.


This ancestral Inca road has a distance of eight kilometers that begins in Chinchero to reach Urquillos. It is about four hours of walking and during its journey we can contemplate: animals, bridges, waterfalls, water pipes and a beautiful natural landscape with the snowy Chicón in the background and the Apu Antaquillka.

This Inca road linked two well-differentiated agricultural areas in obtaining products: potatoes, beans, quinoa, tarwi, olluco, wheat, etc. in the plain of Chinchero, and white and yellow corn in Urquillos (Sacred Valley). Since ancient times the exchange of products between these two zones called Barter; activity that is still practiced today in the Sunday´s market of chinchero.

The people of Chinchero and their nearby communities maintain the clothing of their ancestors. Women wear red and black hat, red vest and black skirts in which three colors predominate: black, green and red. The boys wear wool ponchos, colorful chullo, cloth pants and flip flops as footwear. They keep rich oral traditions and wear their typical costumes with pride, especially in the Sunday market, in festivities and parades. It is another attraction to promote international tourism.

In the town there are several textile centers of associated artisans in which not only the ceramics are carried out, but also the whole process of weaving (wool washing, spinning, dyeing, etc. until the final elaboration). The dying is done with cochineal and other plants that emerge in the region.

The market takes place on Sundays in which they wear their colorful clothes. In it, farm products (potatoes, beans, wheat, etc.) and handicrafts made in the workshops are sold to foreign and local visitors (blankets, chullos, wallets, ceramics, etc.). The old exchange of products from the valley and the area called Barter is also maintained.

The waterfall called PoQ PoQ

On the Inca trail near its half is the waterfall called PoQ PoQ. The importance of this place is relevant for the abundance of water and its jump of about 60 meters high in the middle of a natural and quiet landscape.

The landscape along the route presents a rich and varied vegetation; Highlights include eucalyptus, chachacomos and queuñas: There are also abundant, especially in the vicinity of Urquillos, the low scrubland of varied vegetation.

Our tour ends at the Urquillos Plaza de Armas in the presence of the colonial church dedicated to San Juan de Dios (holy doctor), because here the religious of this order founded the first hospital of the Sacred Valley and that they currently have it in The city of Cusco. At the same time, the convent was a formation house for young people who aspired to be religious and priests.

We found an immense tree in the main square of urquillos the Pisonay tree. The town is located on the left bank of the Urubamba River; it has platforms from the Inca period that are still used today for agriculture; Due to the abundance of water, the good weather and its fertile soil, the best white corn in the world is produced here (Paraqay Sara and Yellow corn for chicha).

Every year San Juan de Dios patron is celebrated on March 8 in the Urquillos district where many families from different places come to be blessed with the miraculous hand and are cured.

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