Cusco Day Trip: Sacsayhuaman Fortress
I really enjoyed my visit to the magnificent Sacsayhuamán Fortress ruins, located just a few miles outside of Cusco, Peru. On my solo travel through Peru, I was thoroughly impressed by this incredible country with its stunning landscapes, rich history, fascinating culture, amazing wildlife, and affordability -- all things that this history-loving budget traveller loves. I had been in Perú for about four weeks. I had meandered my way from Lima to Cusco via Peru Hop -- an outstanding way to see more of the country and slowly adjust to the altitude. I had explored Cusco and had spent an incredible day at Machu Picchu before spending a week in the jungle. My plan was to base myself in Ollantaytambo for the week while I explored the Sacred Valley. I decided that Sacsayhuamán would make a great stop on my way to my new digs in Olla.
Visiting Sacsayhuamán is easy, and it is located just a short distance from Cusco. The best way to get there is by taking a public bus from Cusco. The buses leave from the main station in Cusco, and the ride to the site takes about 30 minutes. Alternatively, you could join one of the many day trips tours offered in Cusco. There are options that visit several worthwhile sites in the Valley for those on shorter timelines. I recommend booking any tours through Amazon Wildlife Peru, a locally-owned and operated tour company. I used them for an incredible adventure in the Amazon, as well as for a couple of local tours.
Once you arrive at the site, you will find a well-maintained network of paths and trails that will take you through the complex and allow you to explore the various structures and ruins. Along the pathway will be vendors offering local crafts and souvenirs as well as photo
opportunities with locals dressed in traditional clothes, often accompanied by llamas.
I would recommend hiring a guide for a tour of the site to really bring the history and culture of this site come alive. My English-speaking guide was very knowledgeable and entertaining.
The history of the site is fascinating, and it is thought to have been a strategic military fortress, a religious and political center, and a royal palace for the Inca emperors. Sacsayhuamán is believed to have been built by the Inca people, who inhabited the region from the 13th to 16th centuries. Despite its many uses, the exact purpose of the site is still not fully understood, and much of it remains a mystery. Study is ongoing.
Sacsayhuamán is known for its massive stone walls and terraced ruins. I was struck by the sheer size of the site and the engineering involved in its construction. The basalt stones are huge. They were quarried about 4km away from the site and brought here for shaping and building.
The ruins are comprised of a series of walls, towers, and temples, and are considered some of the most impressive and well-preserved examples of Inca architecture in the world.
The Inca people were a highly advanced and sophisticated civilization, and their culture is reflected in the design and construction of the site. The site was also used for a variety of religious and cultural rituals.
It is believed that the Inca emperors would hold important ceremonies and festivals at Sacsayhuamán. The Inca believed in worshipping the sun, moon, and stars, which is evident in the placement of the structures, which align with celestial bodies.
The complex is also thought to have been important for astronomical research, where the Inca priests would study the movements of the celestial bodies and use this knowledge to predict the future and guide the people.
Admission to the site is very affordable, and costs just 70 PEN (about $24 CAD) for foreign visitors. The hours of operation are from 7:00 AM to 5:00 PM, and it is open every day of the week. I would recommend visiting early in the morning, as the site can get quite busy later in the day. Tickets can be purchased on-site or online.
Be sure to bring plenty of water and sunscreen, as the site is located at high altitude and the sun can be quite intense. It is also a good idea to wear comfortable walking shoes, as there is a lot of terrain to cover and some of the paths can be uneven. For those suffering siroche -- altitude sickness-- take it slow and easy. Avoid climbing.
I thoroughly enjoyed the several hours I spent on the site. The tour lasted about 45 minutes and then I just walked around exploring all the nooks and crannies. Most visitors will likely be satisfied with spending a couple of hours, including a tour.
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