Sacsayhuaman: House of the Sun

Welcome to the mighty fortress of Cuzco! Literally meaning Satisfied Falcon in Quechua and also termed as Saqsaywaman, Sacsayhuaman refers to ruins of the giant fortress featuring layered walls. Nestled at the confluence of the Cuzco and San Cristobal districts, this was the capital of the Inca Empire as well as the venue of Inti Raymi, the Festival of the Sun. Sacsayhuaman is within the walking distance from Cuzco and is at a soaring height that is surprisingly more than Machu Picchu. This citadel overlooks the Cuzco city and so is among the breathtaking sights in the Parque Arqueológico de Sacsayhuamán that is a national park holding many more ruins. The reason why its called fortress is due to the fact that it is located high above Cuzco and boasts vast terrace walls.

Nestled on the hillside to take the benefit of the altitude changes, this sprawling citadel has been the eye-witness of major battles. Sacsayhuaman today is just a series of multiple walls each behind the other of which the frontal ones are smaller than the rear ones. As you go inwards, you will find yourself climbing higher. The stones of these walls are considered as one of the largest ones to be utilized in any structure of prehispanic America. Its fitting accuracy is not seen anywhere else in the continent in the sense that they are so exactly spaced that you just cannot insert even a single piece of paper in between. It is this precision along with the circular block corners, inward bend, and interlocking shapes that have protected the walls from devastating earthquakes. Okay, your trip here will not be only ambling along the walls, but it will also include marveling at some highlights.

One of the most mysterious highlights here is the Muyuc Marca that refer to the relics of an old tower here as a small set of three concentric round wall ruins linked by an array of radial walls. Here, some three water channels are discovered perhaps utilized for feeding the reservoir that was in the middle. It is believed that the three giant towers here used to stand overlooking the puma teeth. Unlike the middle ring that is circular, the other two are rectangular. Look for a web-like sight of 34 lines meeting in the middle along with the concentric circles indicating the location of the round walls. To the north of the green plaza, spot the Rodadero featuring several steps as well as benches taking you up to the Inca’s throne. This is well you can imagine the majesty of Sacsayhuaman. This place is complete with warerways, tunnels, channels, mazes, and vaulted niches. And yes, from here, the view is amazing. Just look down from the throne across the parade ground (plaza) and you will the breathtaking zigzag walls that were constructed fully only after 50 years.

An interesting fact is that this large, flat zone was where the Incas celebrated the Inti Raymi on June 24. Dedicated to the sun god, the festival features ceremonial events as well as historical figures of which the more famous are Sapa Inca or his wife, Mama Occla. Playing these roles was considered as a great honor. The kick-off for the celebration used to be an invocation by the Sapa who invokes the blessings of the sun in the square before the Santo Domingo church erected above the old Temple of the Sun. He was then carried on a golden throne as a part of a procession until Sacsayhuaman. The plaza marks this place where huge crowds used to eagerly wait for the procession after which the Sapa Inca ascends to the holy altar perched high so that all can see him. On this grand square, Sapa Inca used to give speeches.  When the sun starts to set, straw stacks were kept on blaze around which the celebrants sing and dance in the memory of Tawantinsuty (Empire of the Four Wind Directions).

If you come here after sunset, the entire remains are lit up with the different colored lights that clearly highlights the three levels of the meandering fortifications.

Best time to visit

June 24 as that is the day of the Sun festival.

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