Sacsayhuaman Inca Ruins In Cusco
Sacsayhuamán is one of the most imposing and mysterious structures in the world. It contains 3 layers of zigzag walls made from megalithic stone. Just above the remnants of ancient temples and palaces that line the coble streets of Cusco, you will find the enigmatic structure of Sacsayhuaman. Historians and archeologists believe that it was constructed around the 15th century during the reign of the most successful Inca Emperor, Pachacutec. The Incas had no written language and therefore the true history behind the site remains a mystery, with the earliest written accounts only coming with the arrival of the Spanish conquerors. Unfortunately, upon the arrival of the Spanish, many Inca sites suffered deliberate destruction. This took away opportunities to truly discover the accurate history behind the Incas´ engineering skills and methods.
Today, it is estimated that Sacsayhuaman retains only 40 percent of its original structure. Even so, the site still preserves most of its massive boulders that weigh hundreds of tons, the heaviest weighing around 300 tons. How did the Incas move the heavy stones? How did they cut the stones to such seamless angles? When was Sacsayhuaman constructed? What was it used for? These and many other questions have left a shroud of mystery and uncertainty around this magnificent site. Archeologists, anthropologists and historians are still working tirelessly to conclusively answer all these questions. However, what´s not in doubt is the beauty and historical significance this site holds.
Some studies claim that Sacsayhuaman may have been built by the Killke culture which preceded the Inca civilization.
Where is Sacsayhuaman?
The archaeological site of Sacsayhuaman is located 2 kilometers north of the Main Square of the Cusco, at 3,700m/ 12 ,142 ft above sea level.
It extends over an area of more than 3 thousand hectares, on a hill surrounded by mountains. The place has beautiful landscapes with abundant flora and fauna ( llamas and falcons stand out).
What does Sacsayhuaman mean?
The term Sacsayhuaman is a Quechua word that can be broken into two, “saqsay“ = satisfy and “huaman”= hawk/falcon and together meaning “The Hawk is Satisfied”. It is normally spelled in many different ways like Saksawaman or Saqsawaman. It suggests that the name is related to the presence of many falcons around the site.
When the Spanish arrived in the 16th century, they named it a ‘fortress’ , due to its military like structure. During the Spanish conquest the Incas used Sacsayhuaman as a military base. After losing Cusco, the Incas continued to stage attacks from there until the Spanish found a way to penetrate the giant stones from the top. It was one of the bloodiest battles in Peru.
How to get to Sacsayhuaman?
Sacsayhuaman is located just 10 minutes from the Main Square of Cusco (by car) or 45 minutes walking. The hike is steep incline and the views of the city from the top are spectacular. Another option is to take a ‘City Tour’, which includes transportation to this archaeological site. You can only enter using the Tourist Ticket (boleto turisto) which can be purchased from the site or Avenida de Sol in the historical center. Some tours to the Sacred Valley will drive past, but they don´t usually stop for you to enter and explore.
Architecture of Sacsayhuaman
The architecture in Sacsayhuaman has sacred buildings such as residential buildings, towers, shrines, warehouses, roads and aqueducts. That is why, the shape and harmony of the landscape is similar to other sacred Inca places such as Machu Picchu. The Incas built the main walls of Sacsayhuaman in zigzags with giant stones around 6 meters high and 2.5 meters wide (between 90 and 125 tons of weight).
The limestone used and its masonry suggests that the design was to safe guard the structure from earthquakes that still plague the region of Cusco. The dry stone walls were constructed on site using huge boulders, where the workers cut them perfectly to fit together without mortar. Based on some evidence found on site, the stones were cut using nothing but bronze tools and harder stone. The Incas then fitted the stones to absolute perfection leaving no space in between, not even a single sheet of paper could fit into the joints.
The south side is bounded by a polished wall approximately 400 meters long. The east and west are limited by other walls and platforms.
According to the Peruvian chronicler Inca Garcilaso de la Vega, Sacsayhuaman was the greatest architectural work that the Incas built during its apogee.
What to see in Sacsayhuaman?
Sacsayhuaman offers an amazing view of Cusco. You can see the summits of Ausangate, Pachatusán and Cinca. These summits are the Apus to the people of the Mountainous regions of Cusco. An Apus is the spirits of mountains that the Inca civilization and their descents believe protect the local people and provide a prosperous life. Also, you can explore the different sections of the complex that are still easy to make out.
Sacsayhuaman the mysterious Inca fortress
Learn more about Sacsayhuaman prices, routes and more, the great Inca mystery, one of the Inca wonders of Cusco.
The towers are located on the walls in zigzag. They are called Muyucmarca, Paucamarca and Sallaqmarca. It is known that in this place there was abundant water. Even now we can still see the aqueducts.
Also known as ‘La torre de Cahuide’. It is a huge building (today you will find only one base) with an important historical value. The locals tell of a historical legend where the Inca general Titu Cusi Huallpa (also called Cahuide) jumped from the highest part to avoid the Spanish taking him prisoner during the Incan resistance of 1536.
The remains of this tower are located east of the archaeological site. According to the chroniclers, they served to store water.
The remains of this tower are located in the center of Sacsayhuaman. It interconnected with the other towers by tunnels. At present, only the foundations of the towers remain, since the Spaniards destroyed them during the colony.
Group of Enclosures
These rooms are supported on the hill a short distance from the turrets and directed towards the Main Square of the city of Cusco. Trapezoidal doors support each room.
The three walls are made from limestone, have a zigzag shape and are fitted perfectly together.
Historians claim that the first Spaniards who saw these walls attributed their construction to demons. Even today, its construction remains a mystery.
The first floor of the bastions presents the larger walls. The largest one weighs up to 128 tons. Due to this and many formidable constructions, Sacsayhuaman has earned the title of one of the most mysterious places on the planet.
They are in the middle and central part of the bastions. They have a trapezoidal shape and served as an entrance to the turret area. Each door has its own name: Ajawanapunku, T’iopunku and Wiracochapunku.
The rodaderos are a natural formation of diorite of volcanic origin. As the years went by, it was moulded in an arched shape like a slide.
The throne of the Inca
The throne of the Inca or K’usilluc Jink’ian (Where the monkey stands) is a stone structure in the form of a seat or bench.
The ‘chincanas’ are tunnels or underground caves in Sacsayhuaman. You can find two of these at the site. The smallest measures around 15 meters and has become a favorite travelers. The large one is located north of the complex.
According to oral tradition, many people tried to find the end of the largest tunnel without success. They believed that this tunnel led to the Coricancha (Temple of the Sun). The Peruvian government closed the entrance to this chincana around 1912 because people died or went insane inside the tunnel.
Huacas refers to sacred object in Incan Mythology. In Sacsayhuamn they are found in rock formations. The rocks are normally covered with hollows, carvings and cut-outs. Some Huacas have symbols of snakes, jaugars or river banks. According to recounts, kings could talk to and receive guidance for their Empire. Before the arrival of the Spanish, the Huacas where silent and only spoke once, warning the Inca king of that time to flee in haste and that there was no time to waste.
How much does it cost to visit Sacsayhuaman?
To visit Sacsayhuaman you need the Cusco Tourist Ticket. This ticket costs 70 soles. In addition to Sacsayhuaman, it allows entry to Qenqo, Pucapucara and Tambomachay. There is no exclusive ticket to visit Sacsayhuaman.
Another option is to do a City Tour Cusco, which usually lasts half a day (5 hours). Which typically includes a visit to the Cathedral, Sacsayhuaman, Qenqo, Pucapucara, Tambomachay and Pucapucara.
Information about Sacsayhuaman: weather, hours and more
Sacsayhuaman has a dry and temperate climate. The average temperature per year is 12°C. There are 2 seasons during the year. The rainy season (from November to March) when it rains frequently. The dry season (April to October) has hotter days and colder days at night.
opens its doors from 7 am to 6 pm
- Sacsayhuaman height
is approximately 3,700 meters above sea level.
- Sacsayhuaman dimension
It covers an area of 3,093 hectares.
It was remodeled in the fifteenth century by order of Emperor Pachacutec. Its origins are uncertain.
Questions and answers about Sacsayhuaman
1) Is Sacsayhuaman open all year?
Yes, this archaeological site remains open all year except in cases of emergencies such as natural disasters or protests in the area.
2) Is there a ticket just to visit Sacsayhuaman?
There is no exclusive entrance for Sacsayhuaman. The entrance is with the Cusco Tourist Ticket that also includes access to Qenqo, Pucapucara and Tambomachay and other sites along the Sacred Valley.
3) Can I get tour guides in Sacsayhuaman?
Yes you can get tour guides at the entrance gate of Sacsayhuaman. Prices range from 15 soles or more per tourist. We can´t guarantee though that the guides onsite will provide accurate information.
4) What is the most famous construction of Sacsayhuaman?
Sacsayhuaman has famous constructions such as the walls, the bastions, the towers and more. It is also worth highlighting the Cahuide tower, the Inca throne, the slides and more.
5) What does Sacsayhuaman represent?
Sacsayhuaman is a word that comes from the Quechua word that means ‘satisfied falcon’. This is because this bird abounds in the area.
6) What can you do in Sacsayhuaman?
In Sacsayhuaman you can take a historical tour of the Inca fortress. In addition there are beautiful views of the city of Cusco and is a short walk to Christo Blanco.
7) What did the Incas do in Sacsayhuaman?
In Sacsayhuaman the Incas performed religious ceremonies of great importance. The site now holds the biggest modern festival in Cusco, Inti Raymi, celebrated during the month of June.
8) Can I walk to Sacsayhuaman from Cusco?
Yes, you can go on foot from the main square of the city of Cusco. You just have to follow ‘Resbalosa’ street until you reach Don Bosco avenue. The walk is approximately 40 minutes. You do need to note that it is a steep climb at high altitude. If you do not wish to take this on, you can easily hail a taxi cab for about 30 to 40 nuevo sole (local currency).
9) What is the best time to visit Sacsayhuaman?
Sacsayhuaman is easy to access from Cusco. You can visit all year around. Just dress appropriately for whatever weather you presented with on the day.
10) Are there tours to Sacsayhuaman?
Yes, the most famous tour to visit Sacsayhuaman is the ‘City Tour Cusco’. The cost varies according to the tourism agency you choose.