All about Waqrapukara
What is Waqrapukara?
The archaeological site of Waqrapukara is an Inca fortress located on top of a mountain south of Cusco. Its name comes from a Quechua word that means 'Horn-shaped fortress' as this construction is between two rock formations in the shape of horns. Its walls, terraces, temples and enclosures are made on the basis of structures from the Canchis culture, which inhabited this area of Cusco until the Incas conquered it and built their buildings. In 2017, Waqrapukara was declared by the Government of Peru as 'Cultural Heritage of the Nation'. Today, it is one of the new tourist attractions of Cuzco.
The Waqrapukara fortress was a fortress initially built by the Canchis culture, which coexisted with the Incas in the century and was established south of the city of Cusco. Both groups battled for control of the region. They also joined forces to fight their common enemies, the Chancas. Thus, the Canchis ended up allying with the Incas in the period of Inca expansion. The Incas built the most perfect temples and enclosures in the area in Waqrapukara.
Its temples with three jambs located in the highest part stand out, right in the middle of the two large rocky mounds that form the horns of the mountain. There are up to four roads or trails that lead to the archaeological site. Legend has it that the Inca general T'ito Qosñipa, who had his army in Canchis, rebelled against the Inca emperor Huayna Capac. An Inca army cornered him but the warrior took refuge in the Waqrapukara fortress where he managed to easily defeat his enemies, due to the special geography in the upper part of the mountain. The Inca emperor cut off his water supply and forced him to surrender. As punishment, the Inca spared his life but cut off one of his ears. Years later, T'ito Qosñipa was one of the most courageous and faithful warriors of the Inca.
Although Waqrapukara, comes from a Quechua word that means 'Fortress in the shape of a horn', local people also often call it 'Llamapukara', because they consider that the rocky mounds at the top of this place have the shape of ears of a flame, to keep an eye out for foreign people.
What to see
The Waqrapukara fortress is divided into two zones, the upper and lower zones:
- Upper zone – It is characterized by the higher quality buildings separated from each other, where the higher quality double and triple jamb temples stand out, as well as niches that served as ornamentation. You get there by going up a series of stairs. It is located in the middle of the two large rocky horned mounds.
- Low area – It is characterized by the presence of a series of platforms whose dimensions reach 2 meters high. They also have minor buildings with characteristics of the Canchis culture. There are also stone steps that lead to the highest or religious sector.
The entrance to Waqrapukara is free for all the public. There is also a camping area in case the tourist wants to spend the night near the archaeological site. The hardest thing to go on your own is getting transportation. Most tours are only 1 day.
The Waqrapukara fortress is located in the district of Acos, in the province of Acomayo south of the city of Cusco in Peru. The fortress is on top of a mountain, from which you can see the abyss that falls directly into the Apurímac River.
Map to get to Waqrapukara
How to get there?
There are several routes to get to Waqrapukara. All depart from the city of Cusco, the ancient capital of the Inca empire:
- From Cusco through the town of Sangarará – The route most used by visitors. It starts in the city of Cusco from where you take a transport to the province of Acomayo and from there to the town of Sangarará. From this point there is a walk of approximately 10 kilometers (between 1 and 2 hours) until finally arriving at the archaeological site of Waqrapukara.
- From Cusco through the town of Huayqui – This route also begins in the city of Cusco and follows the road south to Acomayo. From there, a route is followed to the community of Huayqui, from where a hike of approximately 8 kilometers to Waqrapukara begins (walking duration of 1 hour on average).
- From Cusco through the town of Santa Lucía – The last route also follows the southern highway from Cusco to Acomayo. Then it continues south towards Sicuani. In a section of the route it deviates towards the town of Santa Lucía, near the Pomacanchi lagoon. From there a walk of approximately 1 hour begins.
How high is it?
Waqrapukara Fort is 4,300 meters above sea level (14,107 ft).
How's the weather?
The archaeological site of Waqrapukara has a cold climate whose temperatures drop to 4ºC at night. (39ºF). During the day, when more tourists visit it, the temperature can reach 23ºC. (73ºF). The rainiest months, when the place turns greener, are January, February and March. The hottest and coldest dry season is June, July and August.
How much does it cost to go?
The best option to visit the Inca fortress of Waqrapukara is to hire a 1-day all-inclusive tour: complete transportation, tour guide, lunch, hiking equipment and entrance to the archaeological site. Prices range from USD 80 to USD 120 per person.
If you decide to go on your own, you must take public transport to the town of Acomayo. From there they must take a private transport (hire a taxi) to one of the three points where the walk begins: the towns of Sangarará, Huayqui or Santa Lucía. The cost of private transportation can be more expensive than hiring a tour, so the latter is the best option.
Tips for your visit
- To get to the Waqrapukara fortress, you must do an uphill walk of at least 1 hour. For this it is advisable to be in good physical condition. The roads are surrounded by mountains and lagoons, so it is also part of the adventure.
- Due to the high altitude geography in which Waqrapukara is located, it is likely that the visitor will feel some of the symptoms of the so-called 'altitude sickness' or 'soroche'. These are mainly: fatigue, headache and shortness of breath when doing physical activity. For a better visit it is advisable to spend at least 2 days in the city of Cusco. Thus, the visitor's body will be more accustomed to the high mountain geography and the symptoms will disappear or be less uncomfortable.
- If adventure is your thing, they can choose to camp in a camping area near the Waqrapukara fortress. If you go on your own, remember that the entrance to Waqrapukara is free. Most tours also include a visit to the famous 'Pomacanchi' lagoon, which is located near the archaeological site.