Sacsayhuaman is the largest and most impressive of four archaeological ruins on the outskirts of Cusco, Peru. Built by the Incas, it served an important military function and was the site of a major battle with the Spanish in 1536. The name itself can be translated as “speckled head” and some say that the city of Cusco was laid out in the shape of a puma, with Sacsayhuaman forming the head.
The complex was constructed out of massive stones, some weighing as much as 300 tons, cut to fit together without the use of mortar. Today, many of the outside walls, built in a tiered, zigzag formation, remain, as do several tunnels and the “Inca’s Throne.” The latter is a series of large rocks with well-worn grooves used by many visitors as slides. A large, open plaza holding several thousand people was once home to ceremonial activities and continues to be used today – most notably for the annual celebration of the Inti Raymi festival in late June.
Built on an authentic Inca foundation, this humble museum in the heart of Cusco houses an impressive collection of Incan artifacts. Hundreds of examples of handmade goldwork, pottery, textiles and queros line the halls of this truly memorable spot and offer travelers a rare look into the nation’s ancient past.
Visitors will find plenty to explore inside the Inca Museum, but its outdoor courtyard, where Andean weavers showcase their skills, is also worth checking out. Travelers can purchase handmade items directly from the artists, who provide demonstrations of old-school techniques and answer questions while they work. It’s a chance to experience ancient artistry in real time and take home a piece of the tradition, too.
De heilige graal voor liefhebbers van Inca-monumenten, de raadselachtige verloren stad Machu Picchu, is de beroemdste archeologische site van Zuid-Amerika.
De spectaculaire verzameling van tempels, terrasheuvels en pleinen was de vesting op de bergtop van de Inca's onder Pachacutec en Tupac Yupanqui, tot de komst van de Europeanen met Pizarro. Ondanks haar uiterst bekende naam heeft Machu Picchu tot nu toe veel van haar mysteries verborgen weten te houden, inclusief de geheimen van de constructie, de werking en de ondergang. De begroeide ruïnes zijn in 1911 ontdekt door de Amerikaanse historicus Hiram Bingham en de kwaliteit van het steenwerk duidt op de buitengewoon belangrijke ceremoniële functie van deze plaats. De overblijfselen dateren vermoedelijk van rond 1450, het hoogtepunt van het Inca-rijk. De stad is ontsnapt aan de plunderingen door de Spanjaarden, en herbergt min of meer intacte pictogrammen en heiligdommen die op andere plaatsen zijn vernield of verwijderd.
The Sacred Valley was the agricultural food bowl of the Inca, a fertile plain perfect for growing the Inca staples, maize and potatoes. At the heart of the valley is the ancient city of Cusco, surrounded by remote Quechua villages and the crumbling remains of Inca citadels.
With its Quechua village festivals and markets, colonial churches, Inca ruins, river rafting, horseback riding and trekking, there are plenty of reasons to head out into the Sacred Valley of the Incas for the day or longer.
If you're visiting Machu Picchu while you're in Peru - and why wouldn’t you? – there's a very good chance you'll pass through the small pueblo of Aguas Calientes en route. The gateway town to Machu Picchu, Aguas Calientes is nestled in a valley of cloud forest below the famous Incan site.
Make Aguas Calientes your base if you want to tour Machu Picchu in depth. It has all the facilities of a well set-up service town for visitors, including a varied collection of hostels, cabins, eco-lodges and hotels.
As you'd expect, the pueblo also has a well-rounded selection of restaurants, with a choice of local and European cuisine, as well as a lively choice of bars.
While you're here, unwind for a spell in the town's natural hot spring baths, off the central Avenue Pachacutec. You could also browse the souvenir stalls set up near the train station.