Sacsayhuaman: everything you need to know about the Inca fortress

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Sacsayhuamán is one of the most amazing buildings in the whole world. It is thought that it began to be built during the Pachacutec Inca government in the 15th century.

It is believed that more than 20,000 men extracted the stones from the nearby quarries and moved it 20 kilometers to the hill of the city of Cusco.

Today, it is estimated that Sacsayhuaman retains only 40 percent of its former structure. Even so, the site has structures weighing up to 125 tons.
How did the Incas build Sacsayhuaman with structures of an unlikely weight and size for the time? Many questions are still a mystery. There lies the beauty of this archeological site.


Where is Sacsayhuaman?

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 (m.s.n.m.).

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 (flames and hawks stand out).


What does Sacsayhuaman mean?

The term Sacsayhuaman means in Quechua “place where the hawk 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 be a ceremonial center.

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

How to get to Sacsayhuaman?

Sacsayhuaman is located just 10 minutes from the Plaza de Armas of Cusco (by car) or 45 minutes walking. Another option is to take a ‘City Tour’, which includes transportation to this archeological site. The entrance is with the Tourist Ticket of 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 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 limited by a polished wall approximately 400 meters long. The east and west are limited by other walls and platforms.

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

What to see in Sacsayhuaman?

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

Los Torreones

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

Muyucmarca.-Also known as ‘The Cahuide Tower’. 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 top to avoid being taken prisoner by the Spanish during the Inca resistance of 1536.

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

Sallaqmarca.-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 Spaniards during the colony.


Group of Enclosures

These are rooms supported on the hill within walking distance of the towers. They are directed towards the Plaza de Armas of the city of Cusco. They are connected to each other by trapezoidal doors.


The Walls (The Bulwarks)

This area is formed by dentate (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 presents 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 an entrance to the tower area. Each door has its own denomination: Ajawanapunku, T’iopunku and Wiracochapunku.


Suchuna (Rodaderos)

The rolling stands are a natural formation of diorite of volcanic origin. Over the years, it was molded in an arched way as a slide (slide).

The throne of the Inca

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

Chincanas (Tunnels)

The ‘chincanas’ are tunnels or underground caves in Sacsayhuaman. There are two, the smallest measuring about 15 meters and has become a distraction for travelers. The large one is located north of the complex.

According to oral tradition, many people tried to find the end of the largest tunnel without success. Some even failed to leave. It is believed that this tunnel leads to the Coricancha (Temple of the Sun). Currently, the entrance to this chincana is closed.

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