Inca Ruins on the Outskirts of Cusco

The archeological site of Sacsayhuaman is located on a hill above Cusco. It's also a place of great mysteries. Archaeologists are not sure what the function of the rock formations was. Was it a fortress or a spiritual center? These are the sights of intriguing Sacsayhuamán in Peru.

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Unique Shape

The remains are more than 3,500 meters above sea level. You notice when you go up from Cusco on foot. According to archaeologists, Sacsayhuamán looks like a puma's head. The city of Cusco should represent the body.

The Purpose of Sacsayhuamán

One of the great mysteries is what this place served in the Inca Empire. Like Cusco, it is located in the middle of the Sacred Valley, with countless other famous Inca ruins. And, as is the case with more Inca structures, it is not entirely clear what Sacsayhuamán was used for. Researchers are still debating its purpose.

At first it was thought to be a fortress where fighters were trained. But recently it is mainly thought of as a religious building. It would serve to worship the sun god Inti. In 1982, some graves of priests were discovered, confirming this hypothesis.

Annual Festival: Inti Raymi (Festival of the Sun)

The annual Inti Raymi in Sacsayhuaman.

Inti Raymi is the most famous religious ceremony of the Incas. The name stands for Festival of the Sun and is in honour of the god Inti, who was one of the most worshipped gods of the Incas. In Sacsayhuamán and neighbouring Cusco, this is celebrated annually. Since 1944 it happens on June 22. According to tradition, Sapa Inca Pachacuti created the festival. It is to celebrate the shortest day of the year. This is mainly to beg the Sun God to stay longer. So that the crops would receive more heat and could therefore grow better.

Sapa Inca is carried on an imposing golden chair during the festival. The route is carried from the Plaza de Armas in Cusco to the ruins of Sacsayhuamán. During this procession, you will also hear music, dancing and prayers. In addition, flowers are scattered and women sweep away the evil spirits. The Inti Raymi Festival is one of the largest events in South America. This day is extremely popular, which is why you have to buy entrance tickets in advance. These are quite pricey, but it remains an unprecedented experience.

More information: Inti Raymi tickets

Inca Walls

The unique Inca construction at Sacsayhuamán.

In countless places, you can see how the Incas processed stones. They did it in such a way that they fit together optimally. You can also see carved stones in various places. Although it is not entirely clear what their function was. Just like with the beautiful Inca passages.

Sliding Rocks

Sliding rocks at Sacsayhuamán. ©Corno van den Berg

One of the most popular parts of Sacsayhuamán are the sliding rocks. They are like waves in the landscape. According to archaeologists, they had a special significance for the Incas.The reason is that they are located in the middle part of Sacsayhuamán.

You can slide down yourself, as the locals like to do. You will find these rocks on the right side as you enter. Walk to the back part, and then you will see them automatically.


A woman with an alpaca posing for a picture. ©Corno van den Berg

Alpacas roam the ground and are very used to people. Partly for this reason, you can easily take a picture of the animals if you carefully approach them. You can get up to ten meters. You can also take good pictures with the Inca walls of Sacsayhuamán in the background, for example.

View of Cusco

The cross with the viewpoint over Cusco. ©Corno van den Berg

At various places you have a view of the city of Cusco. Where you can, for example, see the turns and squares of the city. It is especially beautiful from the hill on the left. When you are at the top follow the Salida / Exit signs and you will come to a viewpoint with a cross. On the way you can also see how the Incas built their walls between the trees.

Visit Sacsayhuamán

The ruins at sunset.

You can discover the Inca remains on foot from the famous Plaza de Armas. But it is a tough climb through, among other things, the famous San Blas district. The distance is only 1.1 kilometres, but it is mostly uphill. And very steep in some parts. Along the way, don't forget to visit the Sapantiana Ahuaduct in the San Blas district.

You can also take a taxi or take a half-day or day trip through Cusco. Usually, Sacsayhuamán is included, although it is short. I went on my own because I heard that with a half day excursion, the visit is only 20 minutes. And that's really too short for this place.

Accommodations at Sacsayhuamán

If you really want to spend the night in the area, the San Blas district is the best choice. Then you can visit the Inca ruins early in the morning before the large groups arrive. Something I did too. And, from San Blas, you can also walk straight into the centre of Cusco.

Find the best accommodations in Cusco

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