Just 2 km from the city of Cusco, and at an altitude of 3,600 m.a.s.l., there is an imposing building that amazes tourists and experts for the precision of its engineering. A construction for which gigantic rocks had to be transported, which were placed one after another, in such a way that not even the point of a pin can enter.
It is the Sacsayhuamán Archaeological Park, an Inca ceremonial center for administrative control and management of water resources, which played an important role in the consolidation of Tahuantinsuyo.
This complex, which occupies an area of ??almost 3,000 hectares, would have required the force of 20,000 men for its construction, in more than 70 years. It is estimated that it began to rise in the Pachacutec government, and it would have been finished in the 16th century, with Huayna Cápac in command.
Meaning of the name
Sacsayhuamán is a compound Quechua word, which means satisfied Sacsay, and the one that Huamán is hawk. The falcon is a bird of prey that is most common in the Peruvian Andes, it was the protector of the Incas in the first place, Mank Qhapaj.
History of Sacsayhuaman Fortress
The construction of Sacsayhuamán, according to the information that can be extracted from ethnohistoric sources, would have been initiated during the reign of Inca Pachacúteq (between the 14th and 15th centuries), then continued during the government of Túpac Yupanqui and concluded with Huayna Cápac (hard 7 years approximately), participating in this construction about 20,000 men. During these three generations, according to Inca Garcilaso de la Vega (Mestizo Chronicler), there were four illustrious builders who successively directed the work.
From the oldest to the most recent, these characters were: Apu Huallpa Rimachi, Inca Maricanchi, Acahauna Inca and Callacunchuy. These architects are responsible for the design of Sacsayhuamán, which according to many chroniclers, apart from the ceremonial and military function it fulfilled, also represented a head that, together with the complex of the city of Cusco, formed the figure of a puma.
Because of its location and style in the buildings; Sacsayhuaman Fortress was considered by the Spanish as a military building; It had different entrances, which functioned as accesses to the various levels of the fortress. There were three of them and their names were Tiu Punco, Acahuana Puncu and Huiracocha Puncu; It is said that at one of these doors, Francisco Pizarro’s brother lost his life when a stone fell on his head; this happened while the Spanish attacked the forces of Manco Inca.
Its walls, made with immense stones, reach up to 9 meters in height and are considered the largest in terms of Inca archaeological sites. Inside, there are sacred lagoons, warehouses, water channels, ceremonial temples and 33 complexes.
The main enclosure of Sacsayhuamán has in its interior three terraces on which several buildings and three large towers were raised. To the east side was Paucar Marca (a beautiful place), in the center Sallac Marca (circuit with water) and to the west Muyu Marca (round enclosure).
The Qenko archaeological complex is considered a sacred place where, possibly, ceremonies were held in honor of the Sun, the Moon and the stars. Inside, there is an altar for agrarian rituals, underground galleries; Outside, there is a circular amphitheater with trapezoidal niches, a puma-shaped monolith, and rocky zigzag staircases.
The baths of the Inca or Tambomachay, sanctuary of worship to water and place where the Inca rested. With an area of ??approximately half a hectare, it has fine limestone finishes, as well as canals and waterfalls. One of the main characteristics of this complex is its hydraulic system, which consists of two aqueducts that maintain the flow of clean water throughout the year.
Puka Pukara, which means “Red Fortress”, thanks its name to the color that its stones adapt at sunset. This archaeological center has interior squares, enclosures, watchtowers and aqueducts. Part of its functions was to be the lodging place of the Inca and his court; Furthermore, like Tambomachay, it was related to the cult of water and the regeneration of the earth.
Interesting facts about Saqsaywaman
Here are some Saqsaywaman Facts that you should know:
- The head of the puma – According to the Andean worldview, important urban or religious centers harmonized urbanistically with their natural environment. Machu Picchu, for example, is shaped like a bird. According to various investigations, the city of Cusco, formerly had the shape of a puma. The Sacsayhuaman fortress would form the head of the feline while the Temple of the Sun or Coricancha, the genitals.
- Demons and aliens? – In the archaeological complex there is a stone formation made up of large stones that are assembled together like a puzzle. The perfection of this and other constructions caused the amazement of the Spanish during the conquest. According to the chronicles, they attributed their creation to demons. Today, according to oral tradition, these buildings were the work of extraterrestrials.
- Temple or fortress? – According to various chroniclers, Sacsayhuaman was built as a religious temple. In its main temple religious ceremonies were held in honor of the sun, the most important divinity of the Incas. In 1536, the site was the scene of an attack by the Incas rebels from Vilcabamba who sought to recover the city of Cusco. Fearing another possible attack, the Spanish destroyed much of the compound. Today, in the archaeological site the Inti Raymi (Sun Festival) is celebrated, staged in homage to the Inca ancestors.
- The resistance and the martyr Cahuide – One of the most amazing constructions of the archaeological complex are the towers. One of these, known as Muyucmarca, was the scene of one of the most symbolic historical events during the Inca resistance. There, the Inca warrior Titu Cusi Huallpa (known as Cahuide), knowing that he had been defeated by the European conquerors, threw himself from the tower in order not to be taken prisoner by the victors. Currently this site is called the «Torre Cahuide».
- Underground road to Coricancha? – There is an unproven history in Sacsayhuaman. It is an underground tunnel or ‘chincana’, which connects the immense fortress with the Temple of the Sun or Coricancha. There is really no hard evidence to corroborate the rumors. On the site there are 2 of these caves underground. The first is narrow, small and is allowed access to visitors. The second, the ‘chincana’ that supposedly connects with the Coricancha, is longer but is prohibited to the public. According to various stories, the people who ventured inside never returned.
- Inca slides? – Among the many tourist attractions within Sacsayhuaman there are towers, enclosures, bastions, gates and even Inca thrones. However, one of the most popular spaces, without a doubt, are the Inca slides or slides. This natural rock formation is currently used by travelers to slide like a swing. The role it had for the Incas is uncertain.
- Qenqo, Tambomachay and Puca Pucara – Near the site are the archaeological ruins of Qenqo, Tambomachay and Puca Pucara. All these enclosures are known as the Archaeological Park of Sacsayhuaman. The entrance to these four tourist attractions is included in the Cusco Tourist Ticket. The Tour to this complex covers these sites in addition to the Coricancha, the Plaza de Armas and the Cristo Blanco, from where all the beauty of the ‘Imperial City’ can be appreciated.
How to get?
From the city of Cusco, you can get there on foot, which takes about 25 minutes; or you can choose to take a bus or taxi, the trip is approximately 10 minutes.
Visiting hours are Monday through Sunday from 7:00 a.m. m. at 6:00 p.m. m. It is entered with the tourist ticket.
The ticket to Sacsayhuaman Fortress is presented in the following box. Ticket prices are based on the age and nationality of the person who wants to know this important tourist attraction.
- From 0 to 9 years old does not pay
- From 10 to 17 years old S / 40.00
- From 18 to…. S / 40.00
- From 0 to 9 years old does not pay
- From 10 to 17 years old S / 70.00
- From 18 to…. S / 70.00
Tickets can be purchased at the tourist galleries located in the municipality of Cusco, Av el sol N ° 103 office 101.
Business hours from Monday to Saturday from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., Sundays and holidays from 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
If you do not buy in the place that we indicated previously, you can buy it in the same archaeological center of Sacsayhuamán.
The entry time to this archaeological center is 7:00 a.m. at 5:30 p.m.
Visitors to this magnificent Sacsayhuaman Fortress, which dominates the city of Cusco, cannot fail to be impressed by the beauty and monumental scale of this important Inca construction. Sacsayhuaman can be translated as «spotted hawk» or «spotted head.» The last interpretation refers to the belief that the city of Cusco was established in the shape of a puma whose head was the hill of Sacsayhuamán. The origins are uncertain, but the fortress is generally attributed to the time of Inca Pachacuti, the man who essentially founded the Inca empire.
If you visit the city of Cusco another impressive destinations that you can visit are the tour to rainbow mountain peru or the humantay lake tour from cusco, which only takes one day. But if you are gonna to stay more days in Cusco, other archaeological places you can know will be the choquequirao trek peru, the salkantay trek to machu picchu, and the classic inca trail 4 days 3 nights.