on October 21, 2006
Sacsayhuaman, or as it is also known, Saqsaywaman, meaning ‘satisfied falcon’ is probably the most impressive of all the Inca ruins immediately surrounding the city of Cusco and can easily be reached as part of a day trip from the city, taking in some of the other Inca ruins in the area. Plus being perched overlooking the Inca capital, it gives amazing views of the urban sprawl below.As with many of the Inca ruins witnessed today, many historians argue over the true meaning and use of Sacsayhuaman. Some say it was built in order to put it ahead of the city’s Sun Temple and therefore it has enormous religious presence. Others say it was strategically positioned as a war-like fortress to fight against the invading Spanish armies. Indeed whichever reason is true; there is no doubting the formidable size of the ruins, which could have easily housed 5,000 people in its prime. Upon visiting the ruins I was amazed to learn that only 20% of the original site remains today, and even now it dominates the skyline above Cusco.Today, the ruins are only a shadow of their former self, but the masonry and handicraft of the Inca culture is still more than evident. In its heyday Sacsayhuaman was a complex and broad labyrinth of underground passages and doorways. There were three separate walls, still evident today built parallel to each other on different levels with limestone of enormous size, zig-zagging across the site. The three-levels are said to represent the three levels of Andean religious life; the underground stage (Ukju Pacha), the earth’s surface stage (Kay Pacha) and finally the sky stage (Hanan Pacha), identified by the snake, puma, and the condor.Some say Sacsayhuaman represents the teeth of the pumas head, with Cusco being the body and many tour guides will show you diagrams and pictures mapping the ruins and its likeness to that of a puma. It really is uncanny and makes you wonder how such a grand design could have been accomplished. Even more amazing is the fact that many of the stones used came from over 35km away, giving it a ‘Stonehenge-esq.’ mystery surrounding it.The best time to visit Sacsayhuaman is on June 24th when the annual Sun Festival takes place, celebrating the winter solstice, giving a glimpse of life and celebrations that many visiting tourists fail to see. If this is not possible, then at dawn gives you amazing views over Cusco as the early morning sun rises. Entrance to the ruins is through the ‘Boleto Turistico’ ticket, costing around $25, giving you access to 15 other sites dotted around Cusco. Most city tours of Cusco include Sacsayhuaman in its schedule and at only $6-$10 for the city tour, I would highly recommend seeing these ruins this way as the tour guides tend to be very knowledgeable about the facts surrounding the ruins. In my opinion, by far the best set of Inca ruins surrounding the city of Cusco.
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