The mystery of the Inca fortress of Sacsayhuaman
Sacsayhuaman is one of the largest, most mysterious and fascinating buildings in all of Peru. It is an Inca archaeological site that stands out over the city of Cusco, in the Andes Mountains, and was built as a ceremonial center during the government of Emperor Pachacutec, in the fifteenth century.
Where is it and how to get to Sacsayhuaman
The archaeological site of Sacsayhuaman is 3700 meters above sea level. Very close to the city of Cuzco. While the crow flies, the distance between the Plaza de Armas and Sacsayhuaman is only 2 kilometers.
Getting from Cusco by car or bus takes approximately 10 minutes, while on foot it takes 45 minutes.
In ancient times, the city of Cuzco seen from above had the shape of a puma, one of the 3 sacred animals of the Incas, and the fortress of Sacsayhuaman represented the head of this animal.
The archaeological site is open every day from 7:00 to 18:00 and to access it you must buy the Cusco Tourist Ticket that allows you to access the 16 main tourist attractions of the city and its surroundings.
This ticket includes city museums and several archeological sites, including Pisac and Ollantaytambo (but does not include the entrance to Macchu Picchu).
The price of the complete tourist ticket is 130 soles (about 35 euros). An alternative to visiting Sacsayhuaman is only to participate in a daily tour by booking with one of the many tourism agencies that overlook the main square of Cuzco.
What to see in Sacsayhuaman
The most important thing to see in Sacsayhuman are the towers located along the main wall and known by the names of Muyucmarca, Sallacmarca and Paucamarca.
The first one had a cylindrical shape with a diameter of 22 meters and a height of approximately four floors, while the other two had a quadrangular shape.
The other main attraction is the temple that the Incas used as the centerpiece of the religious ceremonies of worship to the Sun God, when thousands of people came here on pilgrimage.
In Sacsayhuaman you can still see the remains of the trapezoidal doors that served as access to the main area and the two tunnels or underground caves.
The legend says that many people tried to reach the bottom of the longest tunnel without success, and that this really led to the Qorikancha or Coricancha temple.
It is said that the temple, located in the historic center of Cuzco, in ancient times had the walls completely covered with gold in honor of Inti, the sun god.
What does Sacsayhuaman mean?
The term Sacsayhuaman in Quechua means “place where the hawk is satisfied” and is probably due to the abundant presence of these birds in the area.
Due to its structure and military-looking location, the Spaniards, upon arrival in the 16th century, called it a fortress. In fact, the Inca Vilcabamba took refuge here during an attempt of rebellion after the fall of the empire.
Actually, Sacsayhuaman was a religious and ceremonial center dedicated in particular to the worship of the Sun God, to the point of being also known as the “House of the Sun”.
Even today, one of the largest and most important festivals in the Andes is celebrated here, the Inti Raymi or Sun Festival, which is celebrated on June 24 and coincides with the winter solstice in the southern hemisphere.
Sacsayhuaman’s architecture consists of temples and religious constructions, as well as residential buildings, towers, warehouses, streets and aqueducts.
In form and harmonious relationship with the surrounding landscape, remember other sacred places of the Incas, such as the most famous citadel of Macchu Picchu.
The main wall of Sacsayhuaman is built in a zigzag pattern with giant stones up to 5 meters high and 2.5 meters wide and weighing between 90 and 125 tons.
The south side is bounded by a smooth wall about 400 meters long, while the east and west sides are bounded by other walls and platforms.
Sacsayhuaman also represents a splendid panoramic point in the city of Cuzco and the magnificent surrounding Andean peaks, such as the Ausangate, Pachatusán and Cinca mountains, peaks