After being in the Cusco area for a week or so, it´s really easy to regard the next set of ruins on your sightseeing list as most likely being ´just a big pile of rocks.´ After all, if you´ve seen one set of ruins, you´ve seen them all, right?
Not so fast.
Tipon is worth a visit – for several reasons. First of all, it´s a relatively inexpensive site. It is one of the sights on the Turistico Boleto. The Turisto Boleto is a ticket with pre-paid entry for about ten sites and museums found in the Cusco area. The only problem is that the Turistico Boleto is only valid for about a week and it´s really difficult to find the time to see everything on it that you´ve pre-paid for. Most people have to drop something off their list. A lot of people skip Tipon because compared to most of the sites on the boleto, it´s slightly out of the way.
I love Tipon! Compare the ten sole (3. 30 USD) price of admittance (without a Turistico Boleto) to the $42 USD price of Machu Picchu and your wallet will be especially happy. Plus, while there are a fair amount of tourists, this site is tranquilo compared to the throngs of folks headed to Machu Picchu.
I have a feeling that it won´t be too long before the foot traffic at the Tipon site steadily increases. The town of Tipon seems to be working on the roads heading toward the ruins and the town is currently seeing alot of construction. Right now, there aren´t many restaurants in the square, but stop off at the main highway that goes through town after your excursion to the ruins and you´ll find no less than fifteen cuyerias – places that offer Peru´s specialty of guinea pig – served up fried, baked or wood fired in gigantic home-made circular clay brick ovens.
Tipon itself is amazing . . . ! The impressive Inca water fountains are still in working order 500 years after the collapse of the empire. I think that the gorgeous fountains alone are reason enough for a visit. But also, the grounds are immaculate – not much trash and very well-kept with lots and lots of green, green grass to lounge in or have a picnic.
There are three main areas to the ruins of Tipon. The main ruins are composed of a mass of twelve huge open grassy areas, each one larger than the next that eventually end in a network of gurgling stone fountains. Furthest up the mountain you´ll find more ruins that are difficult at best to spy from the main site. Follow the rock stairway to find this part and the overhang that gives a spectacular view of the entire valley surrounding the area. The third area you will see as you climb up to the main grassy area. You will notice the entire area of mid-height ruins located sort of in front of the grassy areas, closer to the entrance, higher than the main area and lower than the highest points and not easily seen from the entrance.
More excavation is currently underway at the site – both at the top as well as the middle section. After we left the overlook at the top of the site, we decided to blaze our own trail down the side of the grass and cacti covered mountain instead of taking the paved route. That was a fun adventure, but if you decide to blaze your own trail, I highly recommend the use of a walking stick in order to keep the cactus from poking out your eyeballs. As we climbed down the side of the hill from the rocky overlook, our goal was to end up on the back side of the secluded middle area near the front of the site. After an hour of sliding down the mountain and avoiding cactus, we made it. We ended up surprising a kid who was excavating even more Inca stairways . . .
From the ruins of Tipon, we walked the entire way down the mountain back to the main road and town. BTW, the guide book we have says the hike UP to the ruins will take about an hour. That is completely incorrect. Get a cab up there, or else the altitude will wreck you . . . it would have taken me at least two and half hours to walk up there. But the walk down DOES take about an hour and since it´s all downhill, it´s fairly easy. From the ruins, there is a separate footpath that runs almost half way down the mountain so that you don´t have to walk the entire length via the dusty gravel road that the taxis take.
The people in the actual town of Tipon are not as accustomed to seeing tourists as other towns like Pisac, Cusco and Aguas Calientes. Not that the people of Tipon aren´t friendly, just know that the kids will probably stare more or possibly poke some fun at you . . .
Tipon is incredible . . . and mark my words, within the next two years, I am willing to bet that the tourist traffic there doubles.