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Saqsaywaman ~ Inca's House of the Sun
Located just a scant mile from Cusco, Saqsaywaman (Sacsayhuaman) was a huge Incan complex and a remarkable feat of engineering of which only a portion remains today.
Sitting at an altitude of about 12,000 ft., it is difficult to grasp the enormity of the complex, as well as the overall structure and shape without seeing an aerial shot of this archaeological wonder.
Built by Incans about 1431 - 1508, it perplexed the Spanish conquerors, as perhaps it does the visitors of today, just how the enormous stone blocks, especially those which form the 3 zig-zag stone terraces of the section called the fortress, could be moved into place and fitted together with such precision that you cannot fit even a knife or blade of grass between the stones. Don't miss examining the construction of the walls. It is quite unbelievable to see in person and the site is considered a mystery by some. The invading Spanish not only discounted the Incans' engineering capabilities and culture, but apparently they were set on destroying everything of Incan origin in their path. Thankfully for us, some of the Incan work such as Saqsaywaman does survive to this day.
Saqsaywaman was called the "House of the Sun" by the Incas and the festival of Inti Raymi takes place here every June 24. But the Spanish conquistadors considered the complex a fortress. There are 4 sections: the 3 zig-zag, terraced wall section, the Chuquipampa Square or main plaza section, the Towers and Suchuna Hill sections.
All of Saqsaywaman can be climbed and explored but on foot only. Climbing to a higher level will not only get you a better view of the complex but also yield a very good view of the sprawling city of Cusco. Our guide explained that the Imperial City of Cusco, which included Saqsaywaman, was laid out in the pattern of a puma -- one of the 3 levels of Incan spiritual life: the condor - above the earth; puma - on the earth; the snake - below the earth. This pattern or diagram can be seen on a map that is available from the tourist office in Cusco.
As with many of the most special sites in and around Cusco, admission to Saqsaywaman can only be gained with the purchase of a Boleto Touristico (tourist ticket) as explained in my previous tip. Only a full admission ticket (valid for 10 days, or specifically the partial circuit ticket which also admits you to Saqsaywaman and the sites of Q’enko, Tambomachay and Puca Pucara which is valid for 1 day is acceptable.
Allow an hour or more to explore Saqsaywaman. An additional 10 minute walk will take you to the Cristo Blanco Statue.
Like an Inca
Well. I wish I was an Aztec,
Or a runner in Peru
I would build such
To house the chosen few
Like an Inca from Peru
(Neil Young ' Like an Inca')
We took a taxi in the morning, up to the Saksayhuaman complex, on a hill to the north of the city. We bought 'Boleto Turistico' which included entry to this site and an array of others in the region.
Though parts of the site were obstructed with stands for the 'Inti Raymi' festivities scheduled for 24 June, the site is spectacular. The 3 terraces of zig zag walls of huge shaped and polished andesite are said to represent the pumas teeth.
Above the walls are the foundations of a series of buildings which overlook the city of Cuzco. Beware of where you walk, as guards armed with whistles will react if you walk where you are not meant to pass.
Across the great plaza are raised and shaped stones, some said to have been used for sacrifices (there are channels for the blood, so it is said).
The walk back to town is best done down the steps which lead to the Plaza de Armas. It is not a long walk, and after a morning sightseeing, a cool drink awaits.
Saqsayhuaman is the most famous archaeological site around Cusco. It is uncertain when the site was built, but presumably dates back to the period of Inca Pachacuti (1438-1472), who founded the Inca Empire. It was a kind of fortress, and Saqsayhuaman played an important part in the final defeat of the Inca Empire as it was here the Conquistadors defeated Manco Inca Yupanqui in 1536.
The Spaniards removed many stones to build their churches in Cusco – and up until the 1930s, also citizens from Cuzco used stones from the site as building material for their own houses. Only around 20% of Saqsayhuaman remains today, but still a very huge and impressive place. It is estimated that 20,000 -30,000 men was involved in the construction, and the work with cutting the blocks, transporting the blocks to the site, and fitting the blocks together took around 60 years. What an incredible work with the tools they had at the time...
- Historical Travel
- Arts and Culture
Walk from Cusco to Sacsayhuaman and Tambomachay
If you are in Cusco don't bother with buses or cars it is a nice walk up to Sacsayhuaman and quite easy, though the altitude may mean you have to go slow. Then it is an easy walk from there to Qenko and just before it another ruin. If you are feeling fit you can then walk on to the Temple of the Moon, with its interesting cave temples and carvings. From there you can walk on to Puca Pucara and Tambomachay but this is a harder walk and involves some distance on the side of the main road which is not so pleasant and perhaps not to safe. You need to buy a ticket for Sacsayhuaman, Qenko, Puca Pucara, and Tambomachay but not as far as I know for the Temple of the Moon. Interestingly, walking as we did we had seen all of Qenco before we were asked for our ticket as we left. This walk takes you from 3500m to 3800m so is good preparation for the Inca trail. The round trip can be done in a day but I would suggest using a bus from the end of the track from the moon temple to Puca Pucara and back so avoiding the long walk on the roads.
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- Hiking and Walking
Sacsayhuamán is a walled complex on the northern outskirts of the city of Cusco. The complex is typically Inca. The cut boulders are massive and fit tightly together without the aid of mortar.
Situated as it is, high above Cusco at an altitude of 3,701m, it is thought to have been a fortress. The terrace walls back up this theory. It is also said that it is part of a huge puma shape that encompasses the are including Cusco. Sacsayhuamán is the head of the puma and the zig-zag teeth are quite easy to recognise. In 1983 it was added, as part of the city of Cusco, to the UNESCO World Heritage List.
The most recognised part of the complex is the great plaza and the massive terrace walls alongside it. The huge stones, some of the largest used in construction in pre Spanish times, fit together so precisely that not even a piece of paper can be slid between them. This precision, the variety of size and shape and the way that the walls slope inwards for stability in earthquakes is evidence of an advanced civilisation. As is normal of conquering cultures, many of the blocks were taken and used in their construction.
Open daily 7am-5.30pm. Entrance is included in the Tourist Ticket.
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Have a standoff with a llama
While we walked through the ruins at Sacsayhuaman, and also on our hike back to Cusco, we saw many llama's and alpacas. We were fascinated seeing these animals in their natural habitat and not on a farm or in a zoo. They are very friendly though and will stand their ground with you if you get too close. I really wanted a photo of myself with one though, so I stood him off and caught his stare. He was scratching his foot in the dirt showing me that I was getting to close and had better back off. He was also starting to hiss, which means one thing, he was was ready to spit at me. Mark kept telling me to back away, but I kept saying just snap the picture. I got my picture, and did not get spit on, but it was close.
Take a hike in the ruins at Sacsayhuaman
Sacsayhuaman is actually pronounced 'sexy woman' as any local will tell you with a sly smile. It is located high above the city of Cusco. So you have to take it slow and easy due to the altitude. We took a taxi directly from out hotel to the site which cost us about $4.00. Its a huge Inca military fort. It consists of three large terraces which have an overlapping zigzag design. We walked back to Cusco which wasn't too bad as its all down hill! It was fun to hike back and see the many local people along the way who live near Sacsayhuaman. There are also a few small cafes where you can rest and have something cool to drink on the walk back.
This Inca fortress is perched high on a hill overlooking Cusco. This is the best preserved of Cusco's Inca ruins. The rest were torn down to build the colonial buildings. You can hike up here or catch a cab for 5 soles (about a $1.50 USD). Ask for "sexy woman".
- Castles and Palaces
- Historical Travel
Saksayhuaman, home of the Sun
At the top of the mountain that dominates the city of El Cusco, is located one of the most formidable fortress built by this culture.
His name: Saksayhuaman.
To be honest, nobody knows exactly the sense or the functionality of this cyclopean architecture.
Details are made with exquisiteness, the accurate is impossible.
The slope is covered by a tapestry of smelling grass called yerbabuena (is a kind of wild mint) very helpful to avoid the effects of the heights. Just pull up a few leaves and smell it smoothly . Buenisimo.
- Budget Travel
Sacsayhuaman was the main Inca fortress and the headquarters of their empire. Much of the site is gone, because the Spanish used the stones to build the cathedral and colonial homes. The fortress had zigzag walls—a good defense strategy—and the temple may originally have been as tall as the cathedral.
The Incas almost lost their empire at one point when they didn't have enough troops stationed there to hold Cusco. The Chankas invaded, surrounded Cusco, and then tried to take Sacsayhuaman. Reinforcements arrived from the Sacred Valley just in time, and the Chankas were killed. Our guide said Sacsayhuaman means “satisfied bird.” (The vultures, etc. got the Chanka bodies.)
Open 7 a.m. -6 p.m. daily. Get in with the tourist ticket
- Historical Travel
See a "Sexy Woman" in Cusco! The Inca Fortress
Pronounced as Sexy Woman, Sacsayhuaman is an amazing display of Incan stonework and architecture.
The limestone rocks, some of them weighing as much as 200 tons, have withstood earthquakes through the centuries. They are closely fitted together and so big --- so it is understandable whysome people even suggested that aliens might have made this fortification, wall complex, or sacred site. What is it really?
Well, the stones on the upper parts were “harvested” by the Spaniards to build churches. But these remaining big blocks were so humongous and heavy and so they were left alone.
Some people even went treasure hunting in its underground passages and died! So, don’t even think about it!
I was lucky I saw a rainbow landing on the ruins while I was visiting. Definitely a sight to see!
A little story...
There are many legends about the Inca Empire and all its temples, and of course Sacsayhuaman couldn’t be any less. One of the stories that I liked the most talked about the chicanas (caves) you can find there. There are two of them, one small (this one is open, and you can walk through… no need to be scared as it’s only a few meters long, but careful with your head!!) and one big (this one is close for security reasons). The story tells that once three school boys went into the big cave when they were out on a school trip and they disappeared. It is said that there are tunnels all underneath Peru that were often used by the Incas, they interconnect and to find these three boys was an impossible task. Many years passed by, and one day, underneath the Cathedral of Cusco someone knocked three times on the door that connected the church to the catacombs, when they opened the door one of the boys who had disappeared was there, alone, and he came out holding a corn made of gold in his hands. About 80 years had passed, but the boy still looked young, he told that while in the tunnels he had passed many places, and some tunnels even went as far as the sea.
Now for all of you who will go to the fortress of Sacsayhuaman without a guide (which I do recommend because there is so much information), I’ve decided to include a little bit about the different parts of the temple and the architecture.
As I’ve mentioned before, one of the main reasons to believe that Sacsayhuaman was a religious temple is because of the architecture of the stones. In the Inca civilisation, the more elaborate the stones were, the higher the importance of the building, meaning that small stones in a more circular shape (usually forming a “flower” shape) were used to house military purposes, and the bigger and more straight-cut stones were for religious purposes. In Sacsayhuaman you will find amazingly cut stones, where you can hardly fit a knife blade in between then, and some of these stones can weigh up to 9 tons!
In the main fortress you will also notice that there are three levels. This is supposed to represent the three different worlds: Uku Pacha, Kay Pacha, and Hanan Pacha. The Uku Pacha represented the lower world, or world of the dead (as well as the un-born) and everything below the surface of the earth and water, this world was represented by the snake; the Kay Pacha represents the visual world, the world where we live, and was represented by the puma; finally the Hanan Pacha represents the world above, this world is the world of the gods and only those who have been fair will be able to reach it, by crossing a bridge made of hairs, it was represented by the condor.
Apart from the main fortress there are many interesting sights such as the amphitheatre, thought to have been where warriors trained and had competitions; also the Inca Throne, a perfectly carved stone where the Inca would sit and watch the main celebrations; the many ritual structures, where they would for example place figures of their main gods, such as the Inti (Sun god), Mama Quilla (Moon goddess), etc.; the “rodaderos” whixh are some sort of stone slides (some say they were the playground for the children), and also the chicanas, or caves.
- Historical Travel
Sacsayhuaman is a ceremonial fortress you will find about 2 km. to the north of Cusco. It’s at 3700 meters above sea level, and it expands over more than 3000 hectares. Sacsayhuaman first started being built in the 15th century, but the construction wasn’t finished until a century later. The fortress is believed to have had both military and religious purposes. Military because of its strategic location up on the hill (in fact it played a big role when the Spanish first arrived to the city), and some say that warriors used some of the different areas in Sacsayhuaman to train, and even that they had something like Olympic Games in it. Then again Sacsayhuaman is believed to have been a big temple dedicated to the Inti, the Sun god, the structure of the architecture, the megalithic stones carved in a perfect manner usually meant that the place was for a religious purpose (the more elaborate the walls, the more important was the place).
Nowadays you can visit and take a walk around the Sacsayhuaman ruins. It’s said that only about 20% of the ruins are still there, as the Spanish took down many walls to build houses and churches in Cusco, and even then there’s also many sights of the ruins that are buried and only now being restored! Also for those of you thinking about going to Cusco in the end on June, it’s worth knowing that on the 24th of June begin the celebrations of the Inti Raymi, which is the winter solstice and a very important celebration to the Sun god… now I wasn’t there anymore, but from what I’ve heard it’s something definitely worth seeing!
- Historical Travel
There is another tour you can do by bus watching some of the most interestins ruins around Cusco. Moat of the places here only available with Boleto Turistico.
1-. Take the bus to PISAQ in Puputi street. There are 18 kilometers and it costs 2,5 soles (0,75€; Year 2007).
2-. Once in PISAQ take a taxi to the hight part of the ruins. Don't pay more than 5 soles per person. (1,25€: year 2007).
3-. Here you can contract a guide or just walk by yourself. It will take you about 2 hours arrive to PISAQ city again.
4-. Take the same bus you took to came to PISAQ but this time in the opossite direction. Get off the bus in TAMBOMACHAY. 2,20 soles (0,6€ in 2007) .
PUKAPUKARA is 5 minutes walking from TAMBOMACHAY, so you can see them together.
5-. Take the same bus once again from TAMBOMACHAY to SACSAYSUAMAN. 0,5 soles.
6-. A taxi from SACSAYSUAMAN to CUSCO costs about 5 soles. But there are 20 minutes walking to Plaza de Armas, so it's up to you!!
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