If you’ve always dreamed of traveling to South America in all its wonder and mystery, there are many interesting places to visit on the continent. Among them, you can find Argentina with its fabulous culture, wonderful cities, and the fabulous Iguazu Falls. Or also Ecuador and its wonderful Galapagos Islands; Or why not Bolivia for the true South American Experience. But without a doubt, traveling to Peru would be the most interesting thing you can do in South America. Filled with interesting ancient Inca sites, Peru should be on everyone’s bucket list. In the Cusco region of Peru, there are many interesting ruins in and around the fabulous Inca city to explore and enjoy. If Peru is on your bucket list, you should also visit the many other wonderful destinations Peru has to offer, along with, of course, the Inca citadel of Machu Picchu. For this reason, together with the experts from Machu Travel Peru, we have prepared a small article about Sacsayhuaman. One of the most amazing Inca sites to visit.
All about the fortress of Sacsayhuaman
- About the Sacsayhuaman fortress
- Sacsayhuaman main features
- Description of the areas of the fortress
- History of the Inca Fortress
- Inti Raymi
- Other Inca ruins around to visit
- How to get to the different archaeological sites
- Cusco Tourist ticket to visit Sacsayhuaman
ABOUT THE SACSAYHUAMAN FORTRESS
This archaeological site is one of the most popular in Cusco. Its name is in Quechua and its meaning varies from “satisfied eagle” to “spotted eagle”, “spotted head”, and more. The Inca fortress dominates the city of Cusco and impresses with its beauty and monumental scale. The stone walls are well maintained and along with the llama and alpaca grazing you can admire arches, ceremonial altars, and a natural rock formation that looks like a children’s slide, which is also used by visitors as such. Sacsayhuaman is another good example of unique Inca architecture, each stone fits perfectly together, the tallest almost 9 meters high! The foundations are made with limestone from Yucay brought from more than 15 km away. According to the chronicler Pedro Cieza de León, more than 20,000 people participated in the construction. It is believed that the site was used as a military base for the Inca Manco Capac during the fighting with the Spanish. After successfully defeating them for the first time, the conquerors broke the defense of Sacsayhuaman against all odds and were able to record a defeat over the Incas there. In the lower part of Avenida El Sol near the local post office, not far from the main square, you can find a painted wall showing the fight of a brave Inca from one of the three towers of Sacsayhuaman. Unfortunately, only the foundations of the towers remain today.
SACSAYHUAMAN MAIN FEATURES
The fortress is a masterpiece of Inca architecture. Keep in mind that it was built with stone blocks that measure around four meters and weigh more than a hundred tons. It was built without mortar and its stones fit perfectly together. Its construction is highly resistant to earthquakes and the ruin remains today an imposing view over the city of Cusco. The ruins consist of three large parallel walls that zigzag along four hundred meters, designed to prevent any attack on the city of Cusco. The outer walls are made of huge blocks of diorite and the inner temples are made of an andesite stone bought many miles away.
DESCRIPTION OF THE AREAS OF THE FORTRESS
The Fortress is made up of three large terraces built in a zigzag. The walls have 22 protruding angles on each level that represent the teeth of the puma. At the top of the fortress, three guarded towers were linked by a series of underground passages. The Sacsayhuaman Fortress has been divided into three zones: the military fortress, the religious ceremonial site, and the parade ground. The parade ground extends from the ramparts at ground level. It was probably a ceremonial plaza for military and religious events. Now, it is used for the Inti Raymi (Festival of the Sun) show. In front of the fortress at the top of the hill, across the parade ground, is the “Rodadero“. An area crowned by polished rocks is known as the Inca’s throne. The rocks make good slides, so “El Rodadero” is considered a natural park on the hillside. The Inca youth played there for hundreds of years, and today all visitors climb the stones and have fun. Sounds great, right? So, don’t hesitate, take one of the different tours in Cusco. You will not regret it!
HISTORY OF THE INCA FORTRESS
The victorious Inca Pachacutec decided to expand the city of Cusco in the 15th century. He wanted to give the city the shape of a Puma, which was a symbol of power in the Inca culture. This is the reason why Sacsayhuaman was built as the head of the Puma. Sacsayhuaman played an important role in the final defeat of the Incas by the Spanish. Arriving in 1533, the Spanish entered and easily took the city from the Incas. A few years later, the Inca king Minco led a rebellion and reclaimed the fortress, but the Spanish eventually reclaimed the fortress by defeating the Incas in what is said to have been a bloodbath for both the Incas and the Spanish.
The Cusco tourist ticket features a guided tour of the whole Cusco tourist map. This one will give you all the history and legends of the fort, giving you time to get all the great photos you need. In Inca times, the site was used for many Inca ceremonies and this is still the case today. Every year, on June 24, Cusco celebrates the Inti Raymi, or Festival of the Sun, in honor of the Inca god “Inti”. A theatrical performance takes place in the Sacsayhuaman Fortress, where you will witness a real interpretation of the stories about the heyday of the Incas and great performances of traditional dance and music. So, if you want to be part of this great festivity and feel the energy that emanates from the Inca stones, you must book a tour in Sacsayhuaman.
OTHER INCAS RUINS AROUND TO VISIT
During the tour, you will also visit the other three incredible ruins located near Sacsayhuaman. The first is Qénko, this temple presents the best examples of Inca carving found. The ruins have a series of canals that are believed to have been used to pass Chica (Inca beer) past the Inca priests. This way they can make important decisions. Next, you will visit Puca Pucara, located on the hill behind Sacsayhuaman, which is believed to be a guard or control booth for people entering and leaving Cusco and the Sacred Valley. The last one is Tambo Machay, this ruin is often referred to as the Inca Baths. It was a bathing place, but not for the common man but for the nobility, who used the place for important ceremonies. With three stepped platforms, the first with a seat, the second with a natural spring, and the last believed to be the actual shower. Before visiting the different sites in Cusco, make sure to visit the many markets in Cusco. Taste a delicious meal and continue your journey to the different ruins.
HOW TO GET TO THE DIFFERENT ARCHAEOLOGICAL SITES.
The four most popular sites around Cusco are Sacsayhuaman, Q’enko, Puka Pukara, and Tambomachay. These attract local and foreign visitors every day. It can be reached on foot, by taxi, or by bus, with the closest site Sacsayhuaman as the first destination. On a walking tour in Cusco, you will have the possibility of knowing these places like so many other sites. If you decide to walk, keep in mind that you have to go uphill and you will notice the altitude, especially if you are not properly acclimatized. On the other hand, it is a pleasant walk through the streets of Cusco getting to know the town better. From the main square, it takes about 40 minutes to the entrance. If you prefer to go by bus, two different buses will take you uphill: the Christo Blanco and the Huerto. Taxis will also take you there, prices are usually around 10 soles from the center.
Not far from Sacsayhuaman is Q’enko, the smallest but no less interesting of the four ruins. Looking at the giant rock, you can find artistic sculptures showing steps, seats, geometric reliefs, and even a cougar design. In the upper part are carved zig-zag channels in which they supposedly served to accompany chicha, the local corn beer. Inside the rock, you can still feel the spiritual energy coming from the altar.
PUKA PUKARA AND TAMBOMACHAY
Puka Pukara is believed to have once been a military fortress, but theories also assume that it may have served only as a guard post to control people and goods entering and leaving the city. Its location offers a fascinating and beautiful panoramic view. From Puka Pukara you can easily walk to Tambomachay, also known as the “Baños del Inca”. Once there, you will see a beautiful masonry with several niches and water still running through the old aqueducts. The peaceful place was probably used for ritual baths. Among the many tours in Peru available to enjoy, those who visit these sites are unmissable.
CUSCO TOURIST TICKET TO VISIT SACSAYHUAMAN
If you are looking for tours in Cusco, you will find that each travel agency offers a city tour with various archaeological sites in Cusco. You can book a half-day tour or just go on your own. In case you decide on the latter, it is important to know that you will need an entrance ticket (usually it is already included if you book through an agency). The so-called “tourist ticket” can be purchased at the COSITUC office (Avenida El Sol, Nr. 103) from Monday to Thursday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. or Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. You will notice that there are different tickets available, including different sites, which are:
- BOLETO TURISTICO PARCIAL I: This ticket is 70 Soles, valid for only one day, and includes circuit I: Sacsayhuaman, Q’enko, Puka Pukara, and Tambomachay archeological sites
- BOLETO TURISTICO PARCIAL II: It is also 70 Soles, but valid for two days including the circuit II: Qorikancha Museum, Regional History Museum, Museum of Present Art, Pachacutec Monument, Museum of Popular Art, Qosqo Center of Native Art, Tipón, and Pikillacta archeological sites
- BOLETO TURISTICO PARCIAL III: As well 70 Soles and is valid for two days, this ticket includes circuit III: Ollantaytambo, Pisac, Chinchero, and Moray archeological sites
- BOLETO TURISTICO GENERAL: This ticket is 130 Soles, valid for ten days, and includes all of the above mentioned three main circuits and their attractions: Sacsayhuaman, Q’enko, Puka Pukara, Tambomachay, Qorikancha Museum, Regional History Museum, Museum of Present Art, Pachacutec Monument, Museum of Popular Art, Qosqo Center of Native Art as well as the archeological sites of Tipón, Pikilacta, Ollantaytambo, Pisac, Chinchero and Moray.
Take advantage of the reasonable prices to experience a complete tour of the different museums in Cusco as well as the unique archaeological sites of the city. When you travel to Cusco it is a great idea to do a City tour of the Imperial city. For this, there are many variations from budget to luxury and group or private tours. You can buy these tours online or at an agency in the Plaza de Armas in Cusco. Whichever way you decide to make your tour, you will surely visit the Sacsayhuaman Fortress. If you decide to do a city tour that includes the Sacsayhuaman Fortress, take a taxi or bus from the city of Cusco. On the journey to the ruins, you will have wonderful views of the city, located in the valley below. Once you arrive, you will notice how the ruins are at the top of the valley in an open space, perfect for a nice quiet break on a nice sunny day. There is no doubt that being able to visit the fortress is one of the best things to do in Cusco.
“WITH AGE, COMES WISDOM. WITH TRAVEL, COMES UNDERSTANDING.”
When you visit Cusco on your vacation in Peru, don’t forget to spend time in Sacsayhuaman, feel the history and the mystery. Learn about the wonderful Incas, marvel at the beauty of Sacsayhuaman, enjoy the views of the surrounding mountain and take many photos of Cusco from this wonderful viewpoint. It is worth spending many days exploring the city of Cusco. With many excellent museums to get an idea of Inca history. Filled with great nightlife and many excellent restaurants to rival Lima. Don’t worry, there are also many vegetarian restaurants in Cusco if you don’t eat meat. We hope together with the experts of Machu Travel Peru to have solved your doubts. So, what are you waiting for to book your vacation in Peru today?