Sacsayhuamán picture
Kelly Cheng Travel Photography/Getty Images

Key Info

Northwest of Historic Center

Details

Sightseeing Type
2 hours to Half Day Time to Spend
4.4scorecard
  • 4.0Value
  • 0.0Food Scene
  • 4.5Atmosphere

Sacsayhuamán is often overshadowed by Machu Picchu, but this towering ancient Incan fortress – filled with exquisite stone masonry and dramatic vistas – is worth a visit. Much of the massive structure was used as building materials for the Spaniards, but what remains gives a glimpse at how large the fortress once was.

There’s much to see in these ruins, from the giant zigzagging stone walls (legend has it they formed the teeth of the puma-shaped Incan empire that is now Cusco) to the carved stone benches that form the suspected Incan throne.

During your visit, you'll also notice three foundations where colossal towers once stood. Also, take a few moments to walk around the Explanada, a parade platform where revelers still gather for the Raymi Festival of the Sun. Another interesting feature is Tambomachay, a nearby spring that served as a bathing site for the Incan elite.

Recent travelers remark that the ruins are not only an eye-catching spectacle and window to the past but also a pleasant place for a leisurely stroll with arresting views of Cusco.

You'll find Sacsayhuamán located approximately 2 miles northwest of Cusco's city center, less than a mile from Plaza de Armas. Travelers can take the steep walk or take a taxi to the site. There are two clearly marked entrances, but don't expect much direction once you start exploring the grounds. To hear the legend behind Sacsayhuamán's fascinating stonework, join one of the guided tours you'll find offered near the city center (make sure it's with a reputable tour operator: don't sign up for the tours offered on the street). 

You can explore Sacsayhuamán every day between 7 a.m. and 6 p.m. and must have the Boleto Turístico for admission. This "tourist ticket" costs 130 soles (about $40) and provides admittance to 15 other Cusco attractions. 

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#1 Plaza de Armas

The history of the Plaza de Armas stretches back all the way to the Inca Empire when it was called Huacaypata or Aucaypata. The massive square (originally twice its current size) was built as a venue for festivals and ceremonies in ancient times.

According to legend, this plaza once marked the exact center of the Inca Empire, earning Cusco the nickname "the navel of the world." After Spanish conquistadors conquered the city in the early 1500s, they erected two churches on the either sides of the square – Iglesia de La Compañía de Jesús and La Catedral – where the former Incan palace once stood.

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