Location: 1 mi (2 km) North-east of Cusco Map

Open: 7am- 6pm daily

Altitude: 3,701m (12,000 feet)


Description of Sacsayhuaman Fortress

Sacsayhuamán is a massive military fortifications located 1 mi (2 km) North-east of Cusco, capital of Peru. This huge fortress is one of the best examples of Inca military engineering. Designed as the teeth of a jaguar, the fortress protected the body (city of Cuzco mile away) and the tail (temple of Koricancha). The walls of the citadel are build in a zigzag fashion with enormous granite ramparts that measure 585 feet (300 m). Some stones used in construction are measured 17 feet (5 meters) high and weighting almost 250 tons. The legend states that dozens of unfortunate victims still rest under these boulders than they accidentally collapsed. Stone nevertheless are very well fitted without mortar kept in place only by its weight.


The zigzag pattern of Sacsayhuamán is a testament to Inca’s ingenuity. If anyone tried to climb one of the terraces warriors would expose his back to defenders. Besides three towers stood on the top and guarded the citadel. Little survived from these structures, but judging by remains they were huge. Underground passages were dug for quicker mobility and protection for civilians. The whole population of Cuzco could hide here in times of war.


In 1536 Incas defended Cusco in the Sacsayhuamán fortress from the Conquistadors. Thousands of natives were slaughtered here, but their leader Manco Inca escaped to Ollantaytambo probably using underground passages hidden from the Spanish army. In the following years Sacsayhuamán was quarried for valuable stones so it lost parts of its structure to building projects such as churches, houses and other structures of Cuzco.



Sacsayhuamán is located 2 km from Cuzco, capital of the ancient Inca Empire; It is located at a height of 3,700 meters above sea level and covers an area of ​​3,093 hectares. The valley is surrounded by the Ausangate, Pachatusán and Cinca mountains, and is bathed by the Tullumayu River. This area has a landscape with abundant flora and fauna, among which llamas and hawks stand out.

The area where this construction is located corresponds to the shape of the head of a sacred animal, and one of the translations that this word has is, precisely, puma head. Pachacútec, the ninth Sapa Inca, redesigned the city and gave it the shape of a lying puma (the puma is the guardian of earthly things).

The space covered by his constructions is particularly large; What is most striking are the three stone walls that suggest the figure of the fortress.

The construction is typical of Inca architecture, although it is the place where this technique was used on a larger scale. The rock was roughly cut in the quarry to the approximate shape required. It was then dragged on ropes by hundreds of men to the construction site, where it was given the final carving. The ropes used were so impressive that they were mentioned by the Spanish conquistador Diego de Trujillo in 1571 after inspecting a room full of construction material.

The velvety softness of the stone stands out in these formations. There are figures designed on the stones and rocks, entrances to underground tunnels or Chicanas, amphitheaters, constructions of a ritual nature, probably related to the cult of water. This site played an important role in Inca ritual activities.

It is thought that it corresponded to a military fortress, where warriors were trained. There are doubts about this, since, according to its architecture, it could have had a religious purpose and have been built as a great temple to the Sun God. However, during the time of the conquest, it showed its effectiveness as a fortress to defend the city. Its main characteristic is the way it was built; It has large stone blocks, the highest reaching 9 m. It is asserted that its construction took approximately 50 years, beginning in the period of the Inca Túpac Yupanqui. It was built by 20,000 men.

Inside Sacsayhuamán there were large stores of food and weapons, and also channels for the distribution of water. The throne of the Inca, located next to the fortress, consisted of a large rock carved and polished on several levels, from where the sovereign presided over parties, celebrations, parades and gave orders.

At present, there are vestiges of the three stepped walls built of limestone of sedimentary origin and fasiliferous formation.

Sacsayhuamán is divided into different sectors: Sacsayhuaman, Rodadero, Throne of the Inca, Warmi K'ajchana, Bath of the Inca, Amphitheaters, Chincana and Torreones Bases, among others.

the towers
There were three towers located at the top of the fortress: Muyucmarca, Sallacmarca and Paucamarca. The first had a cylindrical shape with a height equivalent to about four stories and a diameter of about 22 meters. He was in the center. The second was quadrangular in shape. From there you could see the entire city of Cuzco. The third, also square, was located at the other end of the Sallacmarca.

The fortress was the setting where the Incas worshiped the sun in this temple for religious ceremonies. It is thought that tens of thousands of people mobilized in the special festivals and made offerings and certain types of pilgrimages.


Tourist activities

Inti Raymi
In Sacsayhuamán, on June 24, at the winter solstice, the annual Inti Raymi festival is held, where the Inca ritual of Inti worship is staged.

Nearby places to visit
From here you can visit some very close and complementary points. The closest is Kenko, the hill that today is called Socorro. There are erected natural and carved stones and the Intihuatana, which was used to measure time, with the help of sunlight. Puca Pucara can also be reached through canals and aqueducts; this construction presents carved stones, benches and a sacrificial altar. The circuit can include Puca Pucara and end in Tambomachay, where there are three beautiful fountains and abundant water served by the lagoons of the pampa that separates Cuzco from the Sacred Valley of the Incas. Also within walking distance is the Pukamuqu hill where the statue of the White Christ stands.

Additional data
According to images obtained by means of radar, Sacsayhuamán communicates in a straight line with the Coricancha, with Marcahuasi (Santa Catalina Convent in Cuzco), the temple of Inca Huiracocha (today the Cathedral of Cuzco), the Palace of Huáscar, the temple of Manco Cápac (Colcampata) and Huamanmarca.
The investigations suggest that the perfect astronomical alignment of the temples would discard the old presumption that the Incas only had the planet Venus as an astronomical reference, but from the discovery it could be established that they were also guided by the Sun, the Moon, the Cross south and the Pleiades (stars in the constellation of Taurus).
Currently only 20% of what was the architectural group can be seen, since, in the Conquest, the Spaniards dismantled its walls and towers to neutralize their use in an eventual attack such as the one that occurred in the Manco Inca uprising in 1536. Its stones were used to build houses and churches in Cuzco.