There’s no doubt about it; the Incas constructed many incredible archaeological sites, the most famous of which is Machu Picchu. In and around the city of Cusco, there are many more, and one of the most spectacular is Sacsayhuaman.
This fascinating construction sits above Cusco at 3,700 masl. Building work began during the government of Inca Pachacutec in the 15th century and they say that over 20 thousand men worked on it by taking the huge stones over 20km. Some structures weigh a huge 125 tons. Quite amazing, don’t you agree?
What Does Sacsayhuaman Mean?
In the Quechua language, it means ‘place where the hawk is satiated’. Many think that it was a fortress due to its location, but others believe it was used for ceremonies. It could well have been both.
The structure includes sacred buildings like shrines and towers, as well as residences, warehouses, roads, and aqueducts. For this reason, you’ll see that the landscape and atmosphere resemble other sites from the era like Machu Picchu.
Inca Garcilaso de la Vega, one of the most famous Peruvian chroniclers, believed that Sacsayhuaman was the most impressive piece of architecture that the Incas built, and we tend to agree.
How to Get There
As it’s so close to the city of Cusco, it can be nice to hike up there on a sunny day, which will take around 45 minutes. Alternatively, you can get a taxi that takes only 10 minutes. You’ll also find that it’s included in the City Tour if you wish to visit other sites on the same afternoon.
Keep in mind that you will need to purchase the Boleto Turistico (Tourist Ticket) either at one of the sites included or at specific points in the city
What Will You See There?
From the area itself, you get a wonderful view over all of Cusco. You can see the peaks of towering mountains, including Ausangate, Pachatusan, and Cinca. These were actually sacred to the Incas.
The complex itself also includes a lot of interesting parts that you can spend the whole day exploring. Let’s take a look at a few.
The Towers – The walls are built in a zigzag formation, and the towers are placed along these. We know that in these areas there was plenty of water, and you can still see the aqueducts today.
The Walls – We’ve already noted that these were built in a zigzag. It’s incredible to see how perfectly the huge stones fit together. How they were put together is still a bit of a mystery nowadays because they weighed over 100 tons.
The Doors – You will see the classic Incan door structure at different points around the complex. The shape is always like a trapezium and each one has its own name.
The Incan Throne – K’usilluc Jink’ian, or the throne of the Inca is a seat or bench made from the stones. The symmetry of these structures is perfect.
Chincanas – These are underground tunnels or caves in Sacsayhuaman. There are two and many visitors find it fascinating to walk through the smaller one. Others have tried to get to the end of the longer one, without success.
The best time to visit the site is between March and October. This is the dry season here, so you don’t need to worry about rain. The doors are open from 7 am to 6 pm and remember that you need the Tourist Ticket. You’ll be very impressed by the giant structures and architecture if you decide to visit during your trip.
Written by: Liv Palmer