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Saqsayhuaman Ruins in Cusco, Peru

  |   Peru

Everyone has heard of Machu Picchu, but little know the importance of visiting the Saqsayhuaman ruins to get a better understanding of Machu Picchu’s history. Dubbed one of the Seven Wonders of the World, this ancient hilltop citadel has become a household name and has firmly placed Peru on the map as one of the world’s foremost travel hotspots. But, Peru has a lot more to it than just Machu Picchu. Every city, town, and village, throughout the entire country boasts something of historical significance, whether it’s a temple, plaza or complex of ruins. 

Cusco is Peru’s most visited city due to its proximity to Machu Picchu and the Sacred Valley. While most people just spend a few days here either side of their tour, there is a lot to gain from giving this city more of your time. One of the main reasons for staying longer in Cusco is so that you can devote a day to visiting the spectacular ruins of Saqsayhuaman, which sit on a hill overlooking the city. This incredible collection of ruins is guaranteed to take your breath away – and not just because they sit at 12,000 feet above sea level. 


A Brief History of the Saqsayhuaman Ruins

The ruins were first built by the Killke culture around 1100 AD and then extended by the Incas in the 1200s. Look closely at the giant rocks used to create the walls and you will see that there is no mortar holding them together. Instead, the Incas cut the rocks in a particular way to keep them in place without an adhesive. In many places, the rocks fit together so perfectly that you would not even be able to slide a piece of paper between them. 

When the Spanish conquerors arrived in Peru, they largely destroyed the ruins and used it as a quarry. This means that the towers that once stood here are gone, but the bases of them still remain, as do the walls that defended the area. Despite everything the site has gone though, it is still highly impressive to behold. In 1983, the Saqsayhuaman Ruins and the city of Cusco were added together to the UNESCO World Heritage list. 

Saqsayhuaman Ruins

How to Visit the Saqsayhuaman Ruins

We recommend visiting the ruins with one of our guides, that way the entrance ticket and transportation to the ruins is taken care of for you.

If you want to venture out on your own, the Saqsayhuaman Ruins are easy to access from Cusco, but be prepared for a bit of a hike to get there. From the city centre, you will need to follow the road up. There are signs that will point you in the right direction, but as long as you are walking at an upwards incline you will be going in the right direction. The walk to the ruins takes some time and due to the altitude, you are likely to feel out of breath very quickly. Take your time and stop regularly to catch your breath and admire the views of Cusco spread out beneath you. 

If it gets too much for you, there are horses for rent that will carry you the rest of the way. Alternatively, there are colectivos (shared minivans) and taxis that will take you up to the ruins for a few dollars. 

When you arrive you will need to buy an entry ticket for 130 soles ($46). This may seem pretty steep, but the ticket also grants you entry to three other ruin sites and is valid for ten days after purchase. 

Saqsayhuaman Ruins Cusco

Cristo Blanco

If you have finished looking at the ruins and want a bit more history before you head back down to the city, walk a few metres and have your photo taken with Cristo Blanco (White Christ). This is Cusco’s version of Rio’s Christ the Redeemer and it sits overlooking the city. The statue itself is impressive, but even better are the aerial views of the entirety of Cusco.

Visiting Cusco can easily become the highlight of your trip to Peru thanks to its endless historical treasures. For more information about booking a Cusco and Sacred Valley Tour, please contact us or call 1-888-215-3555.

About Rainforest Cruises

Rainforest Cruises is a boutique travel company specializing in Amazon river cruises, Galapagos Islands tours, and Southeast Asia cruises. We provide you with the finest collection of cruises in Peru, Brazil, Ecuador, Bolivia, Panama and Southeast Asia. As travel experts we have all the advice you need to help you find and book your dream cruise and an unforgettable adventure.