Member Rating 4 out of 5 by Liam Hetherington on August 17, 2006

Where Edinburgh is presided over by its castle, Tokyo by Mount Fuji, and Rio by Christ the Redeemer, Cuzco sits in the shadow of Sacsayhuaman. Atop the hill overlooking the town to the north-east sit great blocks of Inca stonework, some 8.5m high and weighing up to 300 tonnes. Once thought to be a fortress due to its high walls and obvious defensive position (and perhaps due to fact that forces of both Manco Inca and Francisco Pizarro used the site as such in the struggle for the city in the 1530s) its real purpose is now thought to more likely be ceremonial.

Sacsayhuaman (pronounced 'sexy-woman' to my ears anyway!) is easily reached by taxi for about $1.50, though the more rewarding route is to walk up the sloping Pumacurco from Plazeta de las Nazarenas. The road is soon broken up by flights of stairs that leave you gasping in the oxygen-starved air as football-playing boys and old ladies laden down with shopping overtake you. Thankfully I found that you can disguise your collapse as an expertly-timed break at a fresh juice store. At the top it is free entry with a boleto touristico. Guides are available. As are locals with brightly-clothed llamas—you take a photo, you pay!

It is hard now to make out the details of the site. Massive stone bulwarks and bastions surround the central grassy area. According to my guidebook one area served as the Inca's symbolic 'throne' around which ran grooves to funnel liquid - fortunately they reckon the liquid in this case was the maize beer chicha, rather than anything more gory.

My recommendation would be to leave a visit to late afternoon (to climb up at midday in the sun would be the plan of a madman!). At the end of the day the coach parties have left, leaving the site emptier. Admire the views over Cuzco and take some snaps—assuming that your camera doesn't decide to take that moment to break as mine did. Watch the shadows lengthen around town as the sun sinks behind you. Then shiver as the exposed ramparts get surprisingly chilly once the sun is gone. Another friend recommended an early start to see dawn over Cuzco too. And according to some girls at the language schools, if you're sneaky you can evade the guards and reach the floodlit site at night too for a very otherworldly experience!
Sacsayhuaman Archaeological Park
Located On A Steep Hill That Overlooks Cusco
Cusco, Peru

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