Sacsayhuaman fortress is an iconic archaeological site located just outside of Cusco, the historic capital of the Inca Empire, in the Andean highlands of Peru. A testament to the architectural ingenuity of the Inca civilization, the Sacsayhuamán fortress is characterized by its colossal, intricately constructed walls and is a significant cultural landmark of Incan and Peruvian history.
Everything you need to know about Sacsayhuaman Fortress
Sacsayhuaman is one of the grandest buildings in the world, together with Machu Picchu and the Classic Inca Trail hike. It is a citadel on the northern outskirts of Cusco, the historical capital of Peru. The Inca constructed the complex in the 15th century, particularly under the ninth Inca ruler, Pachacuti, and his successors.
The architectural style of Sacsayhuaman is so mysterious that the Spaniards claimed it was a work of ghosts at first sight. The building consists of drywalls constructed with huge stones. It is rumored that more than 20 thousand men mined the stones from nearby quarries and carried them for about 20 kilometers to the hill of Cusco. Sacsayhuaman has sacred buildings, including; shrines, residential buildings, warehouses, towers, roads, and aqueducts. That is why the harmony of the landscape is similar to other sacred Inca places like Machu Picchu.
The archaeological site of Sacsayhuaman is located about 2 kilometers north of the Main Square of the Cusco. It is located about 3,700 meters (12,140 feet) above sea level. The site extends over an area of more than 3000 hectares on a hill surrounded by mountains. The place has beautiful landscapes with abundant vegetation and animals. Sacsayhuaman sits about 10 minutes from the Plaza de Armas of Cusco (by car) or 45 minutes walk. You can also opt to take a ‘City Tour. The Cusco City Tour includes transportation to the archaeological place.
Experts believe that teh walls of Sacsayhuamán were constructed in the 15th century. The Incas put together huge stone walls without using mortar. The stones used in the building were very big and were some of the largest ever used in Pre-Hispanic America. The stones were cut very precisely and fit together tightly, so much so that a piece of paper couldn't fit between most of them.
The Inca architectural style can be defined as precise blocks with rounded corners, interlocking shapes and inward-leaning walls - elements which experts believe helped protect ruins from severe earthquakes in Cuzco. There are over 6,000 cubic meters of stone used and its weight range is estimated between 128 tonnes and 200 tonnes for one block alone!
As soon as they established control over Cusco, Spaniard forces began demolishing Sacsayhuaman. Stone from Sacsayhuaman had been used during Spanish rule to construct Cuzco, with religious and government buildings being taken down and reused to construct new Spanish religious and governmental buildings in the colonial city; rich Spaniards even used stone in building their homes!
Only stones too big to be moved remain at the site today.
Sacsayhuaman is a place with really big walls made of stones. The walls are arranged in a zigzag pattern over 540 meters long. Three lines of walls are 18 meters tall. The walls are made of big stones that weigh up to 200 tons. The stones fit together so well that you can't even fit a knife blade between them. This old wonder is 18 meters tall.
At Sacsayhuaman, there are many buildings besides the walls. These include towers, gateways, and plazas. However, the walls are the most important structures there. Some towers had military or ceremonial purposes in the past, but now only their foundations are left.
Historians and archaeologists debate the purpose of Sacsayhuaman. It is located strategically over Cusco and has strong walls, leading many to believe it was used as a fortress. However, it may have also had ceremonial uses.
Sacsayhuaman Present Day
Sacsayhuaman Fortress is a popular tourist destination in Peru and a UNESCO World Heritage site. It features impressive architecture created by the Inca civilization and offers a glimpse into their culture, history, and heritage. Also, the site offers beautiful views of Cusco City and the Andean landscape.
Every year on June 24th, the Inti Raymi festival is held at Sacsayhuaman. This ancient Inca ritual has been brought back as a cultural event that people from all over the world can enjoy. The celebration in Cusco is very colorful and has music, dancing, and processions. People worldwide come to see it because it is one of the main cultural events in Cusco.
Sacsayhuaman is a famous site that reminds us of the greatness of the Inca Empire. If you like history, archaeology, or architecture, you should definitely visit it.
What to See in Sacsayhuaman?
Aside from the fantastic view of Cusco, Sacsayhuaman has many other sights to offer;
The Inca throne
The Inca throne, or K’usilluc Jink’ian, is a stone structure as a bench. Polished symmetrically with great perfection, the dimension of ‘Throne’ was gained.
The towers Muyucmarca, Sallaqmarca, and Paucamarca are located on the walls in a zigzag style. It is known that this place had abundant water. Today, you can see the aqueducts going through.
The walls are perfectly fit with stones that are so precisely cut and matched closely that even a piece of paper could not sit. Historians believe the first Spaniards who saw these walls attributed their construction to demons. It is a mystery how such huge stones were fit so elaborately. The largest stone is said to weigh about 128 tons. That, among other complexities, makes Sacsayhuaman a top-tier mystery.
Each door at Sacsayhuaman has its name: Ajawanapunku, T’iopunku, and Wiracochapunku. They are designed in a trapezoidal shape and serve as entrances to the tower area.
Group of Enclosures
These are rooms supported on the hill a short distance from the towers. They face the Plaza de Armas of the city of Cusco. Trapezoidal doors interconnect them.
The ‘chincanas’ are tunnels or underground caves in Sacsayhuaman. There are two, the most miniature measuring around 15 meters, which is an excellent distraction for many travelers. The large one is found north of the complex. According to tales, many people tried to find the end of the most extensive tunnel and failed. This tunnel is believed to lead to the Coricancha (Temple of the Sun). The entrance to this Chicana is currently closed.
Where to eat in Sacsayhuaman?
The Laguna Azul
The Laguna Azul "Blue Lagoon" restaurant is on the edge of the great Inca complex. It has a massive zigzag wall and sits in a different complex that attracts tourists of different ages. Its adobe walls and tile roof may look old to an outsider, but this follows modern trends that have spread through Peru like a hurricane from the coast.
It shares its name with an old movie, an old film of teenagers coming of age while stranded on an idyllic Pacific atoll. Still, locals call it the "piscigranja" or "fish farm" because its artificial pond roils with trout.
The restaurant serves ceviche and "fresh fish" and has beautiful scenery, a garden around the pond, and an inside dining space. Ceviche is a top dish nationwide and increasingly a symbol of national identity. Despite the increased air transport, fresh fish is not readily available in the country's highlands.
The Peruvian culture is one for the museum, each city explicitly with a rich history. The tale of how Sacsayhuaman came into existence belongs in fantasy novelty. The friendly nationals make for a great ecstasy as you roam the streets, making the trip a worthwhile memory to tell.
Other restaurants in Cusco City
Chicha by Gastón Acurio:
One of Peru's most famous chefs, Gastón Acurio, runs this restaurant and offers a gourmet take on traditional Andean and Peruvian cuisine.
Morena Peruvian Kitchen:
Known for its innovative interpretations of classic Peruvian dishes, this restaurant offers a diverse menu in a stylish setting.
This high-end restaurant offers a fusion of Andean and Mediterranean cuisine. It's a tapas and wine bar highly recommended for its delicious food and extensive wine list.
Located in the San Blas neighborhood, this restaurant is famous for its cuy (guinea pig) and other traditional Andean dishes, which you can enjoy in its lovely courtyard.
An excellent option for vegans and vegetarians, this restaurant in the San Blas area serves various tasty and creative plant-based dishes.
Overlooking the main square, or Plaza de Armas, Limo offers a mix of Peruvian and Asian cuisine, with excellent ceviche and pisco cocktails.
Sacsayhuaman Fortress Frequently Asked Questions
Where is Sacsayhuamán located?
Sacsayhuamán is located just outside of the city of Cusco in Peru, the historic capital of the Inca Empire. It's situated on a steep hill overlooking the city.
What is Sacsayhuamán?
Sacsayhuamán is an ancient Inca complex known for its massive, intricately constructed stone walls. While it's often referred to as a fortress due to its fortified appearance, the site also likely served important ceremonial and possibly administrative functions.
How were the massive stones at Sacsayhuamán transported and put into place?
The stones were likely quarried from nearby areas and transported using a system of ropes, ramps, and possibly rolling logs. As for how they were put into place, the Incas were master stonemasons and used a technique known as ashlar, in which stones are cut to fit together without mortar.
When was Sacsayhuamán built?
Construction of Sacsayhuamán began during the reign of the Inca emperor Pachacuti in the mid-15th century and likely continued over several subsequent reigns.
Can I visit Sacsayhuamán?
Sacsayhuamán is open to the public and a major tourist attraction. There's an entrance fee to visit the site, and it's often included in city tours of Cusco.
What is the Inti Raymi Festival at Sacsayhuamán?
The Inti Raymi, or Festival of the Sun, is a traditional Inca ceremony that has been revived as a cultural event. It takes place annually at Sacsayhuamán on June 24th and includes music, dancing, and processions to honor the Inca sun god.
How do I get to Sacsayhuamán from Cusco?
Sacsayhuamán is just a short distance from Cusco's city center. You can reach it by foot but be prepared for a steep climb. Alternatively, you can take a taxi or join a guided tour.
Do I need to worry about altitude sickness at Sacsayhuamán?
Cusco and Sacsayhuamán are at a high altitude, over 3,400 meters (11,200 feet) above sea level. Some visitors may experience symptoms of altitude sickness, such as headaches or shortness of breath. Taking it easy for the first few days to acclimatize, stay hydrated, and eat light meals is recommended.
What should I bring when visiting Sacsayhuamán?
Bring water, sun protection (sunscreen, hat, sunglasses), and comfortable walking shoes. Also, remember to dress in layers, as the weather can change quickly.
Are there guided tours available at Sacsayhuamán?
Yes, guided tours are available and can provide valuable insights into the history and architecture of the site. Tours can be booked in Cusco or in advance online.