All about Sacsayhuaman
What is it?
Sacsayhuaman is an ancient Inca fortress located in the high mountains of the city of Cusco. Its name is a derivative of a Quechua word (language of the Incas) that means 'satisfied falcon'. Due to this location it served as a guard and defense post for the ancient Inca capital. It impresses with its huge stone walls weighing up to 120 tons that are assembled together with incredible perfection. Due to the invasion of the Spanish, only 20 percent of what was actually the place. Today it is one of the most visited tourist attractions in Cusco along with Machu Picchu and the mountain of the 7 colors.
Sacsayhuaman is located just two kilometers from the center of the city of Cusco. It is located in the upper part of the city, the ancient capital of the Inca empire.
The Sacsayhuaman fortress is at 3,700 meters above sea level (12,139 feet).
Map to get to Sacsayhuaman
How to get there from Cusco?
Sacsayhuaman can be reached on foot from the Plaza de Armas by taking an uphill route through narrow streets. This walk of almost 1 kilometer takes approximately 30 minutes.
It can also be reached by public transport or taxi. The taxi ride takes only 5 minutes and costs between 5 and 10 Peruvian soles. The trip by public transport costs only 1 Peruvian sol but takes between 15 and 25 minutes.
The tourism agencies that offer tours to Sacsayhuaman are located in the center of the city. Taxis circulate everywhere. Rates are negotiable directly with the driver. Public transport is on 'Ayacucho' street.
Sacsayhuaman is one of the most impressive constructions made by the Incas. It is believed that it was built on the foundations of other older structures. It was the famous Inca Pachacutec, in the 15th century, who ordered its large-scale remodeling using more than twenty thousand men.
It is believed that the construction of Sacsayhuaman took up to 50 years. Some chroniclers believe that it was a religious temple, although its main function during the war against the Spanish was as a fortress.
There the Inca, seated on his throne, presided over the ceremonies of the Fiesta del Sol, where representatives from all corners of the empire participated. From there you can see the entire city of Cusco, the ancient capital of the Inca empire.
Sacsayhuaman also stands out for a wall shaped like the head of a llama and the claw of a puma. There is a construction called the 'Throne of the Inca' and another that resembles 'toboggans' where children usually play. It is believed that the ancient city of Cusco of the Incas was shaped like a puma. Sacsayhuaman was the head and the temple of the Coricancha the tail.
After the arrival of the Spanish in the 16th century, Sacsayhuaman was the scene of bloody battles between the Europeans and the Incas. According to the chronicles, General Titu Cusi Huallpa 'Cahuide' threw himself from the top of the fortress to avoid being captured by the Spanish, dying instantly.
As a result of these battles, much of the structures of this fortress were destroyed. Today only 20 percent of the archaeological site remains standing. The Spanish victors used part of its stones for the construction of churches and other structures during the colony.
Today, Sacsayhuaman is one of the archaeological sites most visited by tourists who come to Cusco. There the famous 'Inti Raymi Festival' is held every June 24, a massive celebration where the ancient Inca festival is represented in honor of the sun god.
Plan of Sacsayhuaman
The current archaeological site of Sacsayhuaman is divided as follows:
- Muyumarca – One of the highest points of the archaeological site from where, according to the chroniclers, the Inca general Cahuide was launched, feeling cornered by Spanish forces in the clashes for control of the city of Cusco that occurred in 1536. From there he It has a panoramic view of the rest of the fortress structures.
- Sallacmarca – High point in the center of the fortress ideal for defending the enclosure. It communicates with other structures through tunnels and towers. During the confrontations with the Spanish, they were destroyed. Now only the foundations of these important structures remain.
- Paucamarca – Lateral structures shaped like wells so it would have been used to store water and food. Much of these buildings were destroyed by the fighting against the Spanish. Currently only the foundations of this structure remain.
- Main Gate – Set of platforms made with huge stone shapes that fit together perfectly. The largest stone blocks weigh up to 128 tons. How did the Incas manage to fit and move these huge stones to the millimeter? It is one of the great mysteries that surround Sacsayhuaman.
- Colcas or warehouses – Typical Inca construction in the shape of a pool where imperishable food was stored. These structures are located in the lower part of the fortress.
How much does it cost to go?
You can choose to go to Sacsayhuaman in two different ways:
- On their own: Many tourists decide to go on their own. For this they must buy in the authorized offices in the center of Cusco the so-called 'Partial Cusco Tourist Ticket' that costs 70 Peruvian soles (21 US dollars) and includes the entrance to Qenqo, Tambomachay, Pucapucara and Sacsayhuaman. You must also get transportation and tour guide service on site.
- With an all-inclusive tour: Another option is to take a half-day 'City Tour Cusco', which includes a visit to Sacsayhuaman and also other attractions of the city such as: the Cathedral, the Coricancha, Qenqo, Pucapucara and Tambomachay. Tours cost approximately US $ 70 per person and include full transportation and tour guide service.
What are the visiting hours?
Visiting hours are Monday through Sunday from 7 in the morning to 6 in the afternoon.
What to bring
When you visit Sacsayhuaman do not forget to bring:
- Poncho for rainy cases.
- Comfortable walking shoes.
- Cap or hat.
- Identity document or passport (they will ask you at the entrance).
- Snacks and drinks.
- One camera of photos.
Sacsayhuaman is cold and temperate. The average temperature is 12 degrees Celsius (53.6 degrees Fahrenheit). During the day (which is when the visit takes place) the heat reaches 21 degrees Celsius (69.8 degrees Fahrenheit). At night, the temperature can drop to as low as 4 degrees Celsius (39.2 degrees Fahrenheit). The rainy season occurs between November and April. The dry season occurs between May and October.
Sacsayhuaman photo gallery
Tips for the visit
- If you visit Sacsayhuaman, take the opportunity to get to know the other nearby Inca archaeological sites that are Qenqo, Pucapucara and Tambomachay. You can also take some photos at the famous viewpoint 'Cristo Blanco', a religious construction donated by the Palestinian Arab colony in Peru. From there you can see the entire city of Cusco.
- Most tourists decide to visit Sacsayhuaman on the first day of their stay in Cusco. If so, try to avoid the symptoms of altitude sickness, also called mountain sickness. You can do this by drinking plenty of water, especially coca tea, an infusion made from the coca leaf, used by the Incas many years ago.
- To get to know Sacsayhuaman you must go through many places where you can get there mainly by climbing dozens of stone steps. Go slow because in high altitude geographies you will feel more rapid agitation than normal. This is a product of the altitude at which the fortress is located.
- If you are lucky enough to be in Cusco on June 23, you should definitely take advantage of your visit to witness the Inti Raymi. You can appreciate this show for free in the Plaza de Armas and the Coricancha temple. However, the show at Sacsayhuaman has an approximate cost of 90 US dollars. Tickets must be purchased online.