Sacsayhuaman Archaeological Park

Sacsayhuaman's structure makes one to wonder how this feat was possible.

 

Sacsayhuaman, or as it's properly spelled in the Quechua language, Saqsaywaman, is an expansive archaeological park comprising smaller archaeological complexes and natural formations ingeniously utilized for the same purpose. However, this site is renowned for its awe-inspiring main megalithic construction spanning three impressive levels that astound even modern society, which deems itself capable of conquering all. 

For our times, this is a must-visit destination during your sojourn in Cusco, not only for being a crowning achievement of Incan architecture but also because it stands as one of the world's most astonishing places.

This site epitomizes one of Pachacutec's grandest architectural visions – the famous visionary ruler who thanked his father, the Sun, for the conquest of a world he utterly transformed, initiating the construction of a sanctuary befitting the grandeur he envisioned.

Location:


Sacsayhuaman is situated in the city of Cusco, Peru, approximately 2 kilometers north of the city center, using the historic district as a reference point. The entire park encompasses around 3,093 hectares spread across a plateau dominated by Cinca Hill (Senqa) and overlooked by distant mountains like Pacha Tusan and Ausangate.

Etymology:


The literal translation of Sacsayhuaman as "Sated Falcons" (Sacsa: Sated / Human: Falcon) has been widely disseminated, substantiating this theory with a historical episode of war where multiple slain bodies were said to have been scattered, feeding the falcons that roamed around, sated by such bounty. This exact episode likely refers to the battle between the troops of Manco Inca and Pizarro's forces.

Our team has analyzed the context of the aforementioned translation, and while it is true that falcons exist in this place, they are not as common or abundant as to be a defining characteristic. Even in the context of a landscape littered with corpses, they would not be the ones to feed on these bodies but rather other birds that they could hunt, given that falcons do not scavenge carrion.

Kenko Adventures' team, offers a second opinion on the translation of this word, conducting an analysis of the Quechua language by Quechua speakers. We arrived at the following conclusion:

Sacsa: Or Saqsa, as it would be correctly written using the Quechua syllabary, indeed means "satisfied" or "sated," but only in one of its meanings. Another interpretation also translates to "full," "filled," or "stuffed" with something. For example: Saqsa Sara, this term is used to refer to a fully developed ear of corn where the kernels have completely filled the cob or core of the fruit. This example is widely used in the Andean agricultural context and can be easily corroborated.

Huamán: In addition to effectively meaning "Falcon," the word Huamán or Wamán is also a widespread surname in Cusco and Peru, generally interpreted as "Falcon," which is perhaps why this interpretation comes to mind first when hearing this word. However, few know that this word is also used to refer to rocks that sometimes, for some reason, hold sacred significance for the community in which they are found.

Therefore, when translating these two words, we could say that Sacsayhuaman or Saqsaywaman means "a place full or packed with rocks or stones of some sacred connotation", which would make much more sense.

The Purpose Behind Saqsaywaman's Construction


Pachacutec's vision for the empire of the Sun led him to initiate the construction of a temple far more imposing than any before, primarily serving the cult of his father, the Sun, and the other deities they worshipped.

As part of his plan to redesign the city, he began building Saqsaywaman, later dubbed a fortress due to its imposing stone blocks and the clashes that ensued between the Incan and Spanish troops vying for control of Cusco. However, in our view, it was erected as a center of worship, an immortal sanctuary destined to endure forever.

Going On Your Own:


By Taxi: Hiring a taxi service allows you to easily visit the iconic Cristo Blanco statue and the breathtaking viewpoint where it resides. Keep in mind that when engaging these services, it's recommended to combine it with other visits like Tambomachay, Puca Pucara, Qenqo, and Sacsayhuaman itself.


Via Public Transportation: Getting to Sacsayhuaman from Cusco by public transport is straightforward. Simply make your way to the sole stop on Puente Rosario street, near the Qorikancha (Temple of the Sun), and wait for a Cristo Blanco company bus. Their staff will gladly assist you in disembarking at the correct stop, a journey of around 30 minutes.


On Foot: From Cusco's historic center, it's possible to walk to this awe-inspiring attraction. Just prepare accordingly and embark on the journey. Start at Plaza Nazarenas and ascend Pumacurco street until reaching Don Bosco, where you'll find the San Blas plazoleta. Continue uphill until reaching Sacsayhuaman's archaeological park entrance. Once there, you'll need to present identification, so carry your passport and tourist ticket if you have one, allowing you to also visit the park's other archaeological sites.


With a Tour Agency:


Taking a Private Tour: With a private service including a dedicated vehicle and guide, you can not only visit Cristo Blanco but other highlights like Tambomachay, Qenqo, Puca Pucara, and Sacsayhuaman. If interested, click here - we also offer an intriguing night tour option.


Design Conception:


Sacsayhuaman is the crowning centerpiece of a design masterminded by its chief architect, Pachacutec. Upon ascending to power, he redesigned the city to imbue it with unparalleled beauty. Lore recounts how he personally traced the streets' layout, shaping them into a puma – the animal representing the present world (Kay Pacha) in Andean cosmovision.

Architectural Descriptions:


As mentioned, Sacsayhuaman archaeological park comprises approximately 33 archaeological groups, the standout being the principal ceremonial fortress – its most alluring component. Constructed entirely around a mountain, its northern flank features the three iconic megalithic terraced bastions for which it's famed, towering between 4 and 5 meters high. The sedimentary limestone rocks used weigh an average of 90 to 125 tons each, with the largest exceeding 350 tons. Incredibly, they were transported from the Muyna Waqoto and Rumiqolca quarries, the farthest located nearly 20 kilometers away. Their joints are so precisely fitted that not even a needle could be inserted into the original structures.

Trapezoidal Gateways:


The zigzagging terraces interconnect via staggered stairways punctuated by imposing trapezoidal gateways, also built from gargantuan stone blocks. These gateways have retained their original names: Tiu Punku, Acawana Punku, and Wiraqocha Punku.

Towering Bastions:


Atop the three bastions once stood three towering fortified structures dominating Cusco – approximately four modern stories tall with diameters of around 22 meters. They were dubbed Muyucmarca, Sayacmarca, and Pucarmarca.

The eastern, western, and southern sides were likewise walled, though less exquisitely than the northern front described above. It's worth noting that most walls remain buried, as per the pre-Incan Andean tradition of entombing and leaving any disused edifice to obscurity.

Three crosses now crown this mountain's summit, dominating Cusco's skyline and celebrated along with many others in May.

The Incan Throne:


The mountain directly facing the three terraced bastions is also walled, its finely carved structures shoring up the slopes against erosion. Within this ensemble, the standout is the so-called Incan Throne – an outcropping of living rock singularly carved into a throne-like shape. Its acoustic properties and vantage point are remarkable; perhaps the rulers overseeing construction once sat here, issuing booming commands.

Chincanas:


Among Sacsayhuaman's most distinctive features are the "chincanas" – natural formations in the area's characteristic limestone. The largest, seemingly unfathomably deep, has been sealed off due to reports of disappearances over time. The smaller one remains open to the public, connecting different zones in under a minute.

Toboganes (Slides):


The so-called "toboganes" are natural diorite rock formations resembling slides that have provided generations of fun for Cusco's residents, who continue polishing them to this day. Located on the rear side of the mountain directly facing the main bastions, they are also called "suchunas".

 

 

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