Fortress of Sacsayhuaman

Perhaps the greatest of all the Incas' architectural achievements, Sacsayhuamán sits proudly on a hill overlooking the empire's erstwhile capital city of Cuzco. A massive walled complex attributed to Pachacuti, its bastions, towers, temples and aqueducts exhibit such stunningly masterful stonemasonry that when the Spanish beheld its grandeur they refused to believe that it was the work of mortals. Even today, after suffering partial destruction at the hands of the Spanish, Sacsayhuamán still takes the breath away of all who visit and is a living testament to both the architectural expertise and administrative mastery of Tawantinsuyu.

While better known as a military fortress, early chroniclers referred to Sacsayhuamán as a temple called the "Royal House of the Sun" devoted to sun worship. It was also fundamental in the overall design of the Incas' glorious capital city, given Cuzco was conceived as a gigantic puma with Sacsayhuamán as its head. The complex's Quechua name is usually translated as "satisfied falcon" but there are a few alternative theories such as "royal eagle" and "speckled head".

How the Incas accomplished the herculean task of creating Sacsayhuamán eludes scientists to this day. While they have not resorted to the conquistadors' theory that demons were the responsible party, researchers still have difficulty grasping how the Incas transported gargantuan rocks weighing nearly 200 tons and fit them together with such precision that not even a blade of grass could fit through the mortarless joints. According to some estimates, 20,000 to 30,000 men would have been required to complete the job and it would have taken about 60 years. The Incas' structures are also remarkable for their earthquake resistance. Built leaning inward with perfectly interlocking stones of irregular shapes, the walls of Sacsayhuamán have survived calamitous earthquakes that razed Spanish structures to the ground.

Among Sacsayhuamán's most outstanding structures are its outer tiered walls built parallel to one another in a zigzag pattern. Reaching 20 feet high and stretching up to 1,312 feet long, the walls contain colossal boulders that dwarf the tallest of men. The Spanish removed the stones in the upper portion of the walls in order to construct churches in Cuzco, however, which is why the walls are intact only up to a certain height. In the enclosed area three fortified towers once stood, forming a triangle. The central tower, known as Muyucmarca ("circular place"), was cylindrical while the other two, Paucarmarca and Sallacmarca, were rectangular. Muyucmarca consists of three concentric circular stone walls connected by three channels supposedly designed to conduct water into the tower, which was purportedly a clean water reservoir. Each of these towers was destroyed by the Spanish and today only foundations remain. The Incas also constructed an impressive network of underground passageways that connected Sacsayhuamán with other Inca structures in Cuzco.

One of the most decisive battles in the conquistadors' final defeat of the Incas took place at Sacsayhuamán in 1536. When Manco Inca rose up in rebellion against the Spanish, who had formed a settlement in Cuzco, he occupied Sacsayhuamán and sent forces down to attack the Spanish from the hilltop fortress. Although the Spanish lacked reinforcements and were very nearly overcome, they somehow managed to break through Manco's defenses and into the fortress, where they exterminated the native troops in two days' time. However, the heroism of one Inca nobleman would not go unnoticed. Cahuide, as he was known, occupied Muyucmarca, the last tower to remain in Inca hands, defending it from each and every enemy soldier who attempted to seize it. When it became clear that victory would go to the Spanish, Cahuide took his life by jumping from the top of the tower, preserving his own honor and dignity from the hands of his enemy.

Today, Inti Raymi celebrations are held near the ruins each year on June 24. Sacsayhuamán is located approximately half a mile from Cuzco's San Cristóbal church and is easily reached by foot or bicycle, but taxis and buses can also take you there.

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(0.2 mile from Fortress of Sacsayhuaman)
Calle Shaphy 482, Downtown Cuzco, Peru
Review Score 7.0
Anden Inca is an attractive little colonial-style hotel built around a charming inner courtyard. The rooms are clean and comfortable,...
from USD 67 per night
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(0.3 mile from Fortress of Sacsayhuaman)
Calle Saphi 766, Downtown Cuzco, Peru
Review Score 9.3
The Tierra Viva Cusco Saphi hotel occupies a traditional colonial mansion in a quiet Cuzco neighborhood. The cozy guest rooms are...
from USD 90 per night
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(0.3 mile from Fortress of Sacsayhuaman)
Avenida Teodoro Huaylupo 104, Downtown Cuzco, Peru
Review Score 10.0
Don Bosco Hotel is located right in the heart of Cuzco, just a few blocks from the city's central square. Housed in a magnificent 18th...
from USD 50 per night
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(0.3 mile from Fortress of Sacsayhuaman)
Pumacurco 336, Downtown Cuzco, Peru
Review Score 10.0
The resplendent Casa Cartagena Boutique Hotel & Spa offers guests sumptuous modern accommodations within the framework of a historic...
from USD 400 per night
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(0.4 mile from Fortress of Sacsayhuaman)
Calle Pumacurco 635, Downtown Cuzco, Peru
Review Score 10.0
The 17th century home that once sheltered the Peruvian national hero Mateo Pumacahua is now a charming hotel designed to offer tourists...
from USD 30 per night
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(0.4 mile from Fortress of Sacsayhuaman)
Avenida de la Raza 887, Downtown Cuzco, Peru
Review Score 7.0
Internet-enabled and equipped with LCD cable TVs and en suite baths, guest rooms at El Mirador de Santa Ana are warmly furnished in...
from USD 45 per night
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(0.4 mile from Fortress of Sacsayhuaman)
Calle Suecia 345, Downtown Cuzco, Peru
Review Score 9.0
Tierra Viva Plaza features twenty spacious guest rooms in downtown Cuzco, only ten minutes from Alejandro Velasco Astete Airport....
from USD 100 per night
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(0.4 mile from Fortress of Sacsayhuaman)
Pasaje Santa Rosa A-8, San Blas, Downtown Cuzco, Peru
The Quinua Villa Boutique Hotel offers serviced apartment accommodations in the historic quarter of San Blas. The apartment hotel is...
from USD 95 per night
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(0.4 mile from Fortress of Sacsayhuaman)
Tigre 129, Downtown Cuzco, Peru
Review Score 7.0
The Hotel Rojas, conveniently located just one block from Cuzco's Plaza de Armas, is a comfortable hotel with an authentic colonial...
from USD 44 per night
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(0.5 mile from Fortress of Sacsayhuaman)
Calle Pumacurco 408, Downtown Cuzco, Peru
Review Score 8.0
Few other places in Cuzco capture the fusion of Inca and Spanish culture so eloquently than at the Hotel Arqueólogo Exclusive...
from USD 109 per night
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(0.5 mile from Fortress of Sacsayhuaman)
Calle Tecsecocha 2, Downtown Cuzco, Peru
Review Score 8.0
Guest rooms at Royal Qosqo are centered around a large patio area with terrace, fountain and flowering plants and furnished with...
from USD 33 per night
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(0.5 mile from Fortress of Sacsayhuaman)
Calle Siete Cuartones 225, Downtown Cuzco, Peru
Review Score 10.0
The luxurious Andean Wings Boutique Hotel occupies a colonial mansion with over three hundred years of history. An enticing blend of...
from USD 171 per night
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(0.5 mile from Fortress of Sacsayhuaman)
Calle Huaynapata 385, Barrio San Cristobal, Downtown Cuzco, Cuzco, Peru
Based in a typical Spanish colonial-style building with interior patio, this family-run inn is located in the vibrant, middle-of-Cuzco...
from USD 50 per night
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(0.5 mile from Fortress of Sacsayhuaman)
Tandapata 298, San Blas, Downtown Cuzco, Peru
Review Score 8.7
A breathless climb up scores of rocky steps is a small price to pay for the spectacular views you'll get from Casa de Campo. A homey...
from USD 45 per night
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(0.5 mile from Fortress of Sacsayhuaman)
Calle Meloc 422, Downtown Cuzco, Peru
Based in an historic downtown house dating back to colonial times, the VIP House offers dorm-style accommodations as well as private...
from USD 9 per night
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(0.5 mile from Fortress of Sacsayhuaman)
Calle Santa Teresa 335, Downtown Cuzco, Peru
Review Score 7.0
Royal Inka II is a charming hotel in the very heart of Cuzco offering great service and an attractive location. The original décor,...
from USD 71 per night
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(0.5 mile from Fortress of Sacsayhuaman)
Calle Teatro 391, Downtown Cuzco, Peru
Review Score 9.0
Travelers who choose the Teatro Inka Bed & Breakfast as their base of exploration in Cuzco won't be disappointed. Located in the...
from USD 29 per night
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(0.5 mile from Fortress of Sacsayhuaman)
Atocsaycuchi 515, Downtown Cuzco, Peru
Review Score 8.0
A stalwart Cuzqueño sentinel, the Hotel & Mirador Los Apus rises above the bohemian San Blas neighborhood amidst the hills leading to...
from USD 69 per night
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(0.5 mile from Fortress of Sacsayhuaman)
Calle Nueva Alta 444, Downtown Cuzco, Peru
Review Score 7.0
The Mallqui Hostal offers comfort and absolute tranquility in the colonial neighborhood of San Pedro mere blocks from the center of...
from USD 31 per night
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(0.5 mile from Fortress of Sacsayhuaman)
Calle Nueva Alta 458, Downtown Cuzco, Peru
Review Score 7.0
The Qorichaska Hostal is housed in a colonial-style building, conveniently located just three blocks off Cuzco's main square and also...
from USD 15 per night
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