Sacsayhuaman (means ‘Royal Eagle’) fortress-temple complex lies at the northern edge of the former Inca capital Cusco. Its massive, well-built walls remain today as a testimony not only to Inca power but also the skills of Inca architects and their approach of blending their monumental structures harmoniously into the natural landscape. The Sacsayhuaman is still used today for reenactments of Inca-inspired ceremonies.
Inkayni additional Note: Cusco is a wonderful city. It has great archeological sites that are part of its history. They fill us with awe and respect. Among the archeological sites you can visit, we can name the following:
- Historic Sanctuary of de Machu Picchu.
- Qoricancha, the Golden Temple.
- Ollantaytambo, archeological site.
- Pisac, archeological site.
- Choquequirao, archeological park.
- Moray, archeological site.
- Tipón, archeological park.
- Sacsayhuaman, archeological site.
- Puca Pucara
- Among others
Landing in Cusco is a dream come true to many adventurers. There are many interesting things you will learn while staying in this magic city. We have described many important places you can visit in Cusco. Now let’s learn more about one that makes Cusco a powerful view, Sacsayhuaman fortress.
Constructed during the reign of Pachacuteq (1438-1471 CE) and his successors.
The fortress was the largest structure built by the Incas. It was constructed on an elevated rocky promontory facing the northern marshy ground outside the Inca capital of Cuzco. Begun in the reign of the great Inca empire builder Pachacuteq Inca Yupanqui, or perhaps his son Thupa Inca Yupanqui in the mid-15th century CE. The first structures were made using only mud and clay. Subsequent rulers then replaced these with magnificent stonework which employed huge finely-cut polygonal blocks, many over 4 metres in height and weighing over 100 tons. To complete such a massive project 20,000 labourers were drafted in under the well-established Inca system of extracting both goods and labour from peoples they conquered. Working in a system of rotation 6,000 were given quarrying duties while the other 4,000 dug trenches and laid the foundations.
The Incas were master stonemasons. Huge blocks were quarried and shaped using nothing more than harder stones and bronze tools. Marks on the stone blocks indicate that they were mostly pounded into shape rather than cut. Blocks were moved using ropes, logs, poles, levers, and earthen ramps (telltale marks can still be seen on some blocks), and some stones still have nodes protruding from them or indentations which were used to help workers grip the stone. The fine cutting and setting of the blocks on site was so precise that mortar was not necessary. Finally, a finished surface was provided using grinding stones and sand.
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Incas also ensured that their blocks interlocked and the walls were sloped to maximise their resistance to earthquake damage. Time has proved their efficiency as 500 years of earthquakes have done remarkably little damage to Inca structures left in their complete state and the Sacsayhuaman is no exception.
The archeological site of Sacsayhuaman is located 2 kilometers north of Plaza de Armas in Cusco. It is located at 3,700 meters above sea level.
Cusco has two distinct seasons: dry and rainy.
Dry season: From May to October
The weather during this period is predominantly dry, especially in June, July, and August. Days are bright and sunny with a temperature of 16 °C (61 °F) while nights are much colder sometimes with a low temperature of 0 °C (32 °F).
Dry season is widely considered the best time to come to Cusco, but it is also the busiest time to travel.
Rainy season: From November to April
During this time Cusco receives a greater amount of rainfall. Average daytime temperatures are higher than the dry season at 18 °C (64 °F) while night temperatures can be as cold as 9 °C (48 °F).
Best season to visit the fortress:
Most people, including tour operators, recommend coming during the dry season, from May to October, since there is less rain and the roads are safer.
How to get to Sacsayhuaman?
Getting to Sacsayhuaman is very simple. You can walk, but it will take 40 minutes from Plaza de Armas in Cusco.
You can also take a taxi. It will take 15 minutes only. And if you want to save some money and immerse in the culture, you can take the public transportation.
If you like everything settled for you in advance, then the best option is to hire the service of a tourist agency like Inkayni Peru Tours.
What can you see Sacsayhuaman?
Sacsayhuaman has very amazing places, some of them with history and meaning:
Towers are located on the walls in zigzag. They are called Muyucmarca, Paucamarca and Sallaqmarca. It is known that in this Sallaqmarcaplace water was abundant. Even now we can see the aqueducts.
Also known as ‘La torre de Cahuide’. It is a huge building (today there is only the base) with an important historical value. It is known that the Inca general Titu Cusi Huallpa (also called Cahuide) jumped from the highest part to avoid being taken prisoner by the Spanish during the Inca resistance of 1536.
Remains of this tower are located east of the archeological site. According to the chroniclers, they served to store water. It is currently covered in dirt and is likely to have a square shape.
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 they were destroyed by the Spaniards during the colony.
Group of Enclosures
Located at the top of the hills, these beautiful rooms overlook the city and squares. The rooms are characteristically long and narrow, interconnected by a series of trapezoidal doors, which are typical of the architectural style of the Inca.
This area is formed by serrated platforms (zigzag) whose huge limestone walls fit perfectly together.
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.
Note: Historians claim that the first Spaniards who saw these walls attributed their construction to demons. Even today, its elaboration remains a mystery.
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. Nowadays, the Rodaderos are closed for safety as well as the famous Chincanas.
Throne of the Inca (or K’usilluc Jink’ian):
For the Incas this meant “where the monkey climbs”, and it is a succession of seats carved into the rock, boasting a deep aesthetic beauty.
Chincanas are the tunnels and underground caves of Sacsayhuaman. There are 2, the smallest of which is short in length and has become very popular for travelers to visit. The larger one is further north, under a large limestone rock, and so is not easily accessible. Theses amazing tunnels are the result of the rock erosion from groundwater in the caves.
- Bring your passport or any personal ID.
- Children can travel only under parents supervision.
- Have a camera with you.
- Drink water to keep hydrated.
- Wear a hat and sunscreen to prevent from sun damage.
- Nights are cold. Bring warm clothes.
- Take some cash with you.
- If you hire the service of a tourist agency make sure they are a licensed tour operator.
The entrance ticket is part of many archeological sites that you can visit. The cost of this general ticket is 70 Peruvian Soles for Peruvians and 130 Peruvian Soles for foreigners. With this Tourist Ticket you will be able to enter 16 tourist sites in Cusco, the Sacred Valley and South Valley.
Opening Hours to visit Sacsayhuaman:
From Monday to Sunday: 07:00 to 18:00.
“We don’t days, we remember moments.” – Cesare Pavese