Tambomachay was one of the Inca monuments where water was best worked. Such is the majesty of Inca work that to this day, five hundred years later, water continues to circulate there. The chroniclers affirm that the Inca emperor spent his days of relaxation there. It is one of the most visited archaeological sites in Cusco along with the Coricancha, Sacsayhuaman, Qenqo and Pucapucara.
All about Tambomachay
What is Tambomachay?
Tambomachay is one of the most famous Inca archaeological sites in the city of Cusco together with Sacsayhuaman, the Coricancha and others. In the time of the Incas it was a ceremonial center that worshiped water. It has terraces, platforms, enclosures but, above all, aqueducts and water channels designed with great perfection. It is believed that it served as baths for the Inca emperor Túpac Yupanqui (1411 – 1493). Until today, after almost 5 centuries, the water continues to flow with great precision.
The chronicles indicate that Tambomachay, in addition to the Inca’s resting place. It was also a sacred place because it belonged to one of the ‘ceques’ or sacred lines that started from the city of Cusco. Likewise, Tambomachay is surrounded by caves, which (according to the Inca worldview) communicated with the world of the dead (Uku pacha).
What does your name mean?
Tambomachay comes from two Quechua words (Tampu and Machay) that together mean ‘Place of rest’. Its name is due to the fact that this site served as private baths for the Inca emperor.
What is your location?
Tambomachay is located just 8 kilometers northeast of the city of Cusco. This important Inca archaeological site is located at the top of a mountain, from where you can see the Cusco city. It is located 3,700 meters above sea level (12,139 feet altitude).
Route to get there
Most tourists come to Tambomachay through the famous ‘City Tour Cusco’, which includes the transportation service to this and its other tourist destinations such as: the Cathedral, Coricancha, Sacsayhuaman, Qenqo and Pucapucara.
The other way to get to Tambomachay is to go on your own. To do this, you must start from some point in the center of the city of Cusco and follow the highway that leads to Sacsayhuaman. The taxi ride costs approximately US $ 5. Another option is to go by public service bus, whose route is longer but cheaper (approximately $ 0.3 per ticket).
History of Tambomachay
Tambomachay was built in a time of Inca development, possibly in the 15th century, as part of a process of conquests and important buildings in Cusco. This is demonstrated by its walls carved with great precision. According to the Inca worldview, this building was within the so-called ‘Inca ceque system’, a set of royal roads that included important huacas and ceremonial centers of great importance for the Incas.
The researchers note that Tambomachay served an important religious function. This is demonstrated by a set of stairs that lead to a cave (called Huchuy Mach’ay). It should be noted that the Incas considered caves sacred places that communicated the world of living beings (the Kay pacha) with the world of the dead (Uku pacha). In the place there is not only one, but several caves.
The architectural characteristics of Tambomachay account for a place of great religious importance. However, the importance of water in the place is evident. Because of this, some chroniclers point out that the site served as a resting place for the Inca and royalty. One of its most representative buildings are the so-called ‘Baños de la ñusta’. Today, Tambomachay is one of the most important archaeological sites in the city of Cusco.
Tambomachay archaeological complex
Tambomachay is divided into four stepped terraces that are adapted to the shape of the mountain. Each wall is carved with great quality, which shows that the place was a temple or huaca of relevant importance. One of the most remarkable walls is fifteen meters long and four meters high. This wall has four niches and a tower in the shape of a circle on the outside, which would have had a defense function.
What stands out the most in Tambomachay, without a doubt, are its water channels. These come from a natural source located in the highest part of the archaeological site. The water in Tambomachay is transferred downwards until it reaches the lowest level and flows through two channels into the so-called ‘Baños de la ñusta’. The Tambomachay hydraulic system has the particularity of filling exactly the same amount of water in both canals where they flow.
The ‘Baños de la ñusta’ (construction also called the ‘Baños del Inca’) is a joint formation of superbly assembled and polished stone blocks where, it is presumed, the Inca himself relaxed. Some researchers suggest that while the Inca rested in Tambomachay, his troops did so in Pucapucara, a place located just a few meters away. The conservation status of both sites is good. They are two of the most visited archaeological sites in the city of Cusco.
Cost of the visit
The way more tourists visit Tambomachay is with the half-day ‘City Tour Cusco’, which includes transportation service to all tourist attractions. This tour has a cost of 70 US dollars per tourists, approximately. The tour also includes a visit to the Cathedral of Cuzco as well as the archaeological sites of Coricancha, Sacsayhuaman, Qenqo and Pucapucara.
The other way to visit Tambomachay is to go on your own. To do this, you must take a taxi from the center of the city of Cusco. The cost of the trip is approximately 5 US dollars (the price is negotiated with the taxi driver). To enter the archaeological site, the best option is to acquire the ‘Cusco Tourist Ticket’. This ticket allows you to visit Tambomachay and the other nearby Inca sites (Sacsayhuaman, Qenqo and Pucapucara). The cost of the ticket is 70 Peruvian soles (approximately 22 US dollars).
The archaeological site of Tambomachay is open to tourists every day of the year from eight in the morning until five in the afternoon.
What to bring?
- Comfortable sneakers.
- Raincoat for the rain.
- Hat or cap.
- Comfortable clothes.
- A jacket to keep warm at sunset.
- Documents (passport, identity document).
- Photo camera.
- Extra cash (if you want to purchase a craft).
Climate of Tambomachay
Tambomachay has a temperate climate with strong winds and cold at night. The average temperature is 12ºC. (53.6ºF). During the morning the temperature can reach a maximum of 22ºC. (71.6ºF). At night, the cold can drop down to 1ºC. (33.8ºF). The rainiest months are January, February and March. The driest are May, June and July. Most tourists visit in the afternoon (2 to 5 in the afternoon), when the weather is pleasant.
Tambomachay is also known as ‘El balneario del Inca’. This nomination is due to the fact that the place is surrounded by mountains, rivers, streams and water channels that, when silently listened to, produce a relaxing atmosphere. Some chroniclers suggest that it was the resting place of the Inca emperor.
Some chronicles also suggest that in Inca times, wild animals walked in Tambomachay. They also point out that the place served as a hunting ground for Emperor Túpac Yupanqui.
Tambomachay are in good condition. Its high, precisely polished walls demonstrate religious significance. This is mainly explained by its location in one of the ‘Inca ceque systems’ (system of roads and main religious temples in the empire). However, it is also explained by the existence of nearby caves or caves. According to the Inca worldview, these communicated the world of the living with that of the dead, so it had a relevant religious importance.
Tips for your visit
Tambomachay sits at 3,700 meters above sea level (12,139 feet elevation). At that altitude, tourists can feel some of the symptoms of altitude sickness such as: fatigue, nausea and excessive agitation when doing physical activity. These discomforts usually disappear gradually when the body acclimates to the new mountain geography (between two and three days). One way to lessen your symptoms is to drink plenty of water (not alcoholic beverages) and avoid fatty foods.
If you travel to Tambomachay on your own, take advantage of visiting the closest archaeological sites such as: Pucapucara, Qenqo and Sacsayhuaman. All these places are included in the ‘Cusco Tourist Ticket’, which can be purchased on Avenida El Sol 185, in the center of Cusco.