The largest and most impressive of four archaeological ruins on the outskirts of Cusco, Sacsayhuaman was built by the Incas from massive stones weighing as much as 300 tons. A critical military site in the battle with the Spanish for the Inca empire in 1536, the ruins offer impressive views over the city below.
The ruins of Sacsayhuaman are close enough to Cusco to explore in a few hours; together the ruins and city make up a large UNESCO World Heritage Site. Guided half-day tours often include Tambomachay, Qorikancha, Puca Pucara, or Qenqo, while a full day allows time for Cusco’s top attractions as well. To see the ruins from a different perspective, opt for a horseback riding tour. For a deep dive into the Inca empire, embark on a multi-day tour from Cusco to Machu Picchu that stops at Sacsayhuaman along the way.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Sacsayhuaman is a great option for time-pressed travelers and history buffs.
- Don’t forget to bring your camera; the panoramic views of Cusco from an altitude of 12,139 feet (3,700 meters) are stunning.
- Tours visiting the Sacsayhuaman ruins last anywhere from three hours to a full day, depending on the option chosen.
- Bring along sunscreen, sunglasses, and a hat, as the sun at high altitude can be intense.
How to Get There
It takes about 30 minutes to walk to the ruins from the Plaza de Armas via a steep trail. Those who’d prefer an easier route should take a taxi or join a guided tour to the Inca site 1 mile (2 kilometers) north of Cusco.
When to Get There
While it’s possible to visit the archaeological site throughout the year (temperatures tend to hover in the mid to upper 60s), the best time to go is between June and September when rain is less likely.
Inti Raymi Festival of the Sun
Each year on the winter solstice in the Southern Hemisphere (June 21), Cusco celebrates its most famous festival, Inti Raymi or Festival of the Sun. The second-largest festival in South America includes a huge procession to Sacsayhuaman, where sacred rites and traditional dances take place in the grand square of the fortress. Entry is free during the festival, and food and drink vendors come out to keep the crowds sated.