Sacsayhuaman, an imposing jewel of Inca engineering
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Sacsayhuaman, an imposing jewel of Inca engineering

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Sacsayhuaman, an imposing jewel of Inca engineering

Sacsayhuamán is an archaeological group located north of the main square of the city of Cusco. To get to Sacsayhuamán you can take a City Tour from any travel agency. You can also get there on foot, by taxi or using your own vehicle.


To get to Sacsayhuaman on foot from the main square, you can do it by going up Sweden street, turn onto Huaynapata and continue along Resbalosa, turn right after the church of San Cristóbal and follow the road. Here, you will join the ancient Inca route to Sacsayhuaman. The climb is steep and takes approximately 30 minutes from the Plaza de Armas.


Where is Sacsayhuaman located?

The archaeological site of Sacsayhuaman is located 2 kilometers north of the Plaza de Armas of Cusco. It is located at 3,700 meters above sea level (masl).


It extends over an area of ​​more than 3,000 hectares, on a hill surrounded by mountains. The place has beautiful landscapes with abundant flora and fauna (the llamas and hawks stand out).


What does Sacsayhuaman mean?

The term Sacsayhuaman means in Quechua "place where the falcon is satiated". The name is surely due to the presence of these birds. It is presumed that it was a fortress, although it is also believed that it could have been a ceremonial center.


Due to its military-looking structure, the Spanish, upon their arrival in the 16th century, would have named it a ‘fortress’. When the Spanish attack there was repelled during the Vilcabamba Inca rebellion, the place served as an Inca fortress.


When was Sacsayhuaman built?

Its construction was started by the Inca Pachacuteq in the 15th century and was completed by Huayna Capac in the 16th century. In 1536, Manco Inca, who was the leader of the Inca resistance of Vilcabamba, fought the Spanish in this enclosure.


As a result of this battle, today you will only be able to appreciate 20% of the archaeological complex.


What was it built for?

Although many people may consider Saqsayhuaman an Inca fortress, it was actually built for a ceremonial purpose and as a temple of the Sun.



Currently, the Sacsayhuaman Fortress is the setting to celebrate the most important ancestral festival in Peru, the Inti Raymi or “Fiesta del Sol”.


The Fortress is a cyclopean construction of Inca architecture. The walls are made up of huge stone blocks that reach up to 9 meters in height, 5 meters in width and 4 meters in thickness, the largest of which is estimated to have a weight of 125 tons.


The platforms are an average of 360 meters long and are connected by stairways and access doors.


The Inca's throne is surrounded by rocks that dominate the esplanade and the "rodadero", located on the same plateau.


History of Sacsayhuaman

Around the year 1450, Pachacutec, the ninth Inca ruler, ordered the construction of a vast sanctuary to begin, where the celebration of the conquest victories of his son Tupac Yupanqui would take place.


It was necessary the labor of more than 20,000 men who came from different parts of the empire from the mitas system. These men had to transport the huge stone blocks from various quarries in Cusco and fit these blocks together perfectly, so that there was no space between the rocks.


The architecture of this center is part of a great design carried out by Pachacutec, who when drawing the plans of Cusco sought to give the streets the shape of a puma, an animal representative of the Kay Pacha.


Facts about Sacsayhuaman 

  • The Sacsayhuamán Archaeological Park It has an area of ​​more than 3,000 hectares and is located at an altitude of 3,700 meters above sea level.
  • It is located 3 kilometers from Cuzco, capital of the ancient Inca Empire.
  • It is believed to have been a military fortress, but recent research has conferred religious purposes on it.
  • It could be a temple dedicated to the cult of the sun.
  • Construction took more than 50 years and approximately 20,000 men are said to have worked on it.
  • Sacsayhuamán had channels for the distribution of water in the fortress.
  • It also had warehouses for food and weapons.
  • It was one of the most impressive constructions of the Inca empire, being the place where the Inca architectural technique was used on a larger scale.
  • The large rocks from the quarries were dragged with ropes by hundreds of men.
  • Its exterior walls can exceed 9 meters in height, 5 meters in width and 4 in thickness and some weigh more than 350 tons.
  • Some types of rock are not from the same place, it is presumed that they were transported from more than 38 kilometers.
  • Sacsayhuamán communicates in a straight line with the Coricancha and three other Inca buildings in the area. Which presumes a greater astronomical reference.
  • There is very little left of the construction, currently only twenty percent is observed, because at the time of the Spanish conquest it was almost destroyed.
  • The remains of the fortress were used as a quarry to build houses and churches in Cuzco.

Mystery of Sacsayhuaman 

Cunningham, is the author of the book The Map That Talked that delves into the mysteries of prehistory. It has departed from the more orthodox theories to suggest that the builders of Sacsayhuamán developed an intricate writing system that dates back 30,000 years! In that case, it would not be the Incas its architects but an advanced civilization of which we have lost memory.


In his opinion, this ancient form of writing constitutes the basis of the geometric shapes that would take into account the movement of the Moon and the Sun. According to his mystery of Sacsayhuaman, the astronomical values ​​considered as central to anticipating eclipses become "angular values" … Those that form the stones of the monumental wall (see map).


In astronomical terms it is a mixture of the values ​​used to measure time (sidereal month 27.32 days) and the values ​​to determine when the Moon, the Earth and the Sun align at the nodes. This includes the use of the moon's 18.6-year nodal cycle, the 6,511 draconic month period between eclipse seasons, and also the 5.1-degree tilt angle of the moon's orbit. The remaining values ​​are usually either the values ​​of the middle of the various lunar terms, or values ​​linked to the 11-day difference between the lunar and solar years.


Cunningham suggests that his analysis of the fortress of Sacsayhuamán is only a case of astronomical "writing" from the Stone Age. It has found similar shapes in a large number of sites in the past on several continents: In the Lascaux and Chauvet caves in France, the bone carved in Ishango, (Africa) and a stone carved from around 30,000 years ago in a Paleolithic site in Shuidonggou, China, which is the oldest and the one that establishes the antiquity of the "language".


Cunningham's question is whether the huge polygonal walls of Sacsayhuamán align with the exact astronomical values ​​used in the Muiscan figurines of Colombia and the giant Atacama of Chile. And, the surprising result is yes.


How to get to Sacsayhuaman?

Getting to Sacsayhuaman is undoubtedly one of the frequently asked questions that tourists ask themselves when arriving in Cusco. Here are some alternatives to get to this impressive archaeological site:


  1. Get to Sacsayhuaman walking

You can do it from the main square of Cusco, going up Sweden street and continue the route through Resbalosa street; turn right after the San Cristóbal church and follow the road that will lead you to the archaeological site of Sacsayhuaman. It will take you about 30 minutes of walking to reach the complex.


  1. Get to Sacsayhuaman by taxi

From the Plaza de Armas of Cusco you can take a taxi that will take you to the same archaeological site. In the same way, you will find return taxis.


With this option, you will have plenty of time to get to know Sacsayhuaman.


  1. Get to Sacsayhuaman on a city tour

All agencies that offer tours in Cusco have this option at your disposal. So you will know more archaeological sites that are around Sacsayhuaman. The entrance is with a tourist ticket from Cusco.


Sacsayhuaman architecture

The architecture in Sacsayhuaman has sacred constructions such as residential buildings, towers, shrines, warehouses, roads and aqueducts. That is why the shape and harmony of the landscape is similar to other Inca sacred places such as Machu Picchu.


The main wall of Sacsayhuaman is built in a zigzag with gigantic stones up to 5 meters high and 2.5 meters wide (between 90 and 125 tons in weight).


The south side is bounded by a polished wall approximately 400 meters long. The east and west are limited by other walls and platforms.


According to the Peruvian chronicler Inca Garcilaso de la Vega, Sacsayhuaman was the greatest architectural work that the Incas built during their heyday.


What will you see in Sacsayhuaman?

Sacsayhuaman offers an amazing view of Cusco. You can see the summits of Ausangate, Pachatusán and Cinca. These peaks were considered sacred to the Incas. The archaeological complex itself has very amazing places, some of them with their own history and meaning.


The towers

The towers are located on the zigzag walls. They are called Muyucmarca, Paucamarca and Sallaqmarca. It is known that in this place there was abundant water. Even now we can see the aqueducts.



Also known as ‘La torre de Cahuide’. It is a huge building (today only the base remains) with an important historical value. It is known that the Inca general Titu Cusi Huallpa (also called Cahuide) jumped from the highest point to avoid being taken prisoner by the Spanish during the Inca resistance of 1536.



The remains of this tower are located to the east of the archaeological site. According to the chroniclers, they served to store water. It is currently covered in dirt and is likely to have a square shape.



The remains of this tower are located in the center of Sacsayhuaman. It intercommunicated with the other towers through tunnels. At present, only the foundations of the towers remain, since they were destroyed by the Spanish during the colony.


Group of Enclosures

They are rooms leaning on the hill a short distance from the towers. They are directed towards the Plaza de Armas in the city of Cusco. They are connected to each other by trapezoidal doors.


The Walls (The Bastions)

This area is made up of serrated (zigzag) platforms whose huge limestone walls fit perfectly together.


Historians claim that the first Spaniards who saw these walls attributed their construction to demons. Even today, its elaboration remains a mystery.


The first floor of the bastions has the largest walls. The largest weighs up to 128 tons. Due to this and many formidable constructions, Sacsayhuaman has earned the title of one of the most mysterious places on the planet.


The doors

They are found in the middle and central part of the bastions. They have a trapezoidal shape and served as the entrance to the tower area. Each gate has its own name: Ajawanapunku, T’iopunku and Wiracochapunku.



The rodaderos are a natural formation of diorite of volcanic origin. Over the years, it was molded into an arched shape as a slide (toboggan).


The throne of the Inca

The Inca throne or K’usilluc Jink’ian (Where the monkey stands) is a stone structure in the form of a seat or bench. They were symmetrically polished to such perfection that the ‘Throne’ dimension was gained.


Chincanas (Tunnels)

The 'chincanas' are tunnels or underground caves in Sacsayhuaman. There are two of them, the smallest is around 15 meters and has become a distraction for travelers. The big one is to the north of the complex.


According to oral tradition, many people tried to find the end of the largest tunnel without success. Some did not even make it out. This tunnel is believed to lead to the Coricancha (Temple of the Sun). Currently, the entrance to this chincana is closed.



Sacsayhuaman has a dry and temperate climate. The average temperature per year is 12 ° C. There are 2 seasons during the year. The rainy season (from November to March) presents the greatest amount of fluvial rainfall. The dry season (from April to October) has hotter days in the day and colder at night.



Sacsayhuaman opens its doors from 7 a.m. at 6 p.m.


Sacsayhuaman Entrance Fee

To visit Sacsayhuaman you need the Cusco Tourist Ticket. Another option is to hire the service of a ‘City Tour’.


Integral tourist ticket

It is the most complete ticket as it includes more attractions (16). It is valid for 10 days from the date of purchase.


Here are the attractions included in said ticket:

  • In Cusco: the Museum of Contemporary Art, the Museum of Regional History, the Museum of Popular Art, the Monument to Pachacutec, the Qosqo Music and Traditional Dance Center, the Qoricancha Museum.
  • Around Cusco: the ruins of Sacsayhuamán, Q’enqo, Puca Pucara, Tambomachay, Tipón, Pikillacta
  • In the Sacred Valley: the ruins of Pisac, the ruins of Ollantaytambo, Chinchero and the agricultural terraces of Moray

Partial tourist ticket

With 3 possible circuits, it is perfect if your budget is tighter, since you can spend a little time in each place and visit specific attractions of your interest.

  • Circuit 1: Sacsayhuaman, Qenqo, Tambomachay, Puca Pucara (the archaeological sites around Cusco). Valid for 1 day
  • Circuit 2: Regional Historical Museum, Museum of Contemporary Art, Museum of Popular Art, Qosqo Traditional Music and Dance Center, Coricancha Museum, Monument to Pachacutec, Tipón and Pikillacta. Valid for 2 days
  • Circuit 3: Pisac, Ollantaytambo, Chinchero, Moray (sites of the Sacred Valley). Valid for 2 days

How much does the tourist ticket cost?



  • The integral ticket costs 130 soles for adults, 70 soles for children between 10 to 17 years old and students between 18 and 25 years old (only with ISIC card).
  • The partial ticket costs 70 soles. There is no special price for foreign students. Children from 10 to 17 years old pay the student fee.
  • The ticket is free for children 9 and under.


  • The integral ticket costs 70 soles for adults, 40 soles for children between 10 to 17 years old and students between 18 and 25 years old
  • The partial ticket costs 40 soles.
  • The ticket is free for children 9 and under.

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