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What to know before visiting Sacsayhuaman Peru (Cusco Travel Ideas)

Set high above the Peruvian city of Cusco are the Inca ruins of Sacsayhuaman Peru. Loosely pronounced ‘sexy-woman’ the ruins are well worth a visit.

Even if Inca ruins aren’t your cup of coca tea – this sprawling archaeological site sits north of the city of Cusco and offers stunning views of the town in the valley below. The views alone make this a worthwhile activity to fit into your Cusco itinerary.

Wooden entrance sign near the ruins of Sacsayhuaman Cusco PeruPin
Signage near the entrance of Sacsayhuaman

When I was planning my trip to Cusco I had a hard time finding good information on what to expect when visiting Sacsayhuaman or tips on how to get there even though it often came up as a must see location.

There seemed to be even less information on how to get there if you wanted to walk – which was our preferred method of transportation for this adventure.

In this post I’m going to cover a number of things to know before visiting this 15th century Inca fortress!

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What’s the best way to reach Sacsayhuaman Peru?

If you rented a car, then by all means, drive to Sacsayhuaman. For those of us without a vehicle, you’ll need to get more creative.

My recommendation is to keep it simple and just walk there! From Plaza De Armas (the main square) you’re looking at a 30-45 minute walk to Sacsayhuaman.

Normally this 30-45 minute trek would be easy enough, but the elevation in Cusco can make it a bit more difficult especially if you haven’t had a day or two to acclimate. Take your time and you’ll be fine. The journey back down will be significantly easier!

From Plaza De Armas you’ll walk north towards the San Cristobal Church. Just passed the church area the path will shoot off from the road.

You’ll see some locals setup selling food and drinks where the walking path heads up the hill towards Sacsayhuaman.

I took the screenshots below to help you find the walking path up to the ruins. On the close up screenshot it starts where ‘CocaShop2’ is located.

You can see a walking path shoot off from Don Bosco road once you’re zoomed in close enough on your map app of choice:

Once you reach this path you’ll likely start to encounter locals offering tour guide services. We were a little confused at first, thinking this was where we needed to purchase our ticket. But that isn’t until you reach the very top.

If you’re interested in hiring a last minute guide this is a good spot to do so. When we visited we only had a little bit of time before embarking on our Salkantay Trek, so we passed on a guide since we just wanted to have a quick look around.

Hiring a Sacsayhuaman guide in advance is a great way to make the most of this activity. There’s a lot of history and culture to take in that you’ll miss out on if you choose to go it alone.

Generally speaking, we really enjoyed having guides at our disposal throughout our trip to Peru and would recommend you do so if it’s in your budget.

How much does Sacsayhuaman Peru cost?

When we visited the entrance fee was 70 soles or about $20 USD. This cost is for a ticket that includes access to Sacsayhuaman, Qenqo, Puka Pukara and Tambomachay.

These are the ruins and archaeological sites that surround Cusco. There are also separate tickets for visiting the museums of Cusco or archaeological sites in the Sacred Valley regions.

Sacsayhuaman archaeological site near Cusco PeruPin
Views at the Sacsayhuaman archaeological site

This is a good time to think about what all you plan to visit during your stay in Peru. Separately the regional tourism tickets are 70 soles each, or you can buy a combination ticket for 130 soles (about $40 USD) that includes access to all three circuits.

I highly recommend visiting the ruins of Pisac, so even if that’s the only other place you visit it’s still cheaper to buy the 130 soles ticket for full access rather than paying 70 soles twice. The Pisac ticket also includes access to Moray which is another nearby cultural site.

Large stone doorway at Sacsayhuaman near Cusco PeruPin
Sacsayhuaman allows you to wander through ancient Inca structures

If you’re stuck trying to decide between tickets here’s a useful outline of the different options by If you’re looking for more ideas on what to do in Cusco make sure to check out my post covering the best things to do in Cusco Peru.

What should I bring to Sacsayhuaman Peru?

Definitely bring cash. You’ll need some to purchase your ticket near the entrance. If you plan on purchasing any water or snacks from vendors along the way you’ll need it for that as well.

Vista at Sacsayhuaman overlooking Cusco PeruPin
Views of Cusco from Sacsayhuaman are breathtaking

Speaking of water, make sure you bring some. This is especially true if you walked all the way up from the square of the city, Plaza De Armas.

You’ll have an opportunity to purchase water from street vendors near San Cristobal Church, around where the walking path forks from the main road.

Panoramic views of Cusco Peru from the ruins of SacsayhuamanPin
Enjoy panoramic views of Cusco from Sacsayhuaman

The weather in Cusco can be tricky – so dress in layers. When we left our AirBnB that morning I had a coat on.

Once the overcast cleared and the high mountain sun came out, I was hot in a t-shirt. On other days it may be windy at the top, so dress for anything!

Man overlooking Cusco PeruPin
Views at Sacsayhuaman overlooking Cusco

Don’t forget essentials like sunglasses, an umbrella on potentially rainy days or sunscreen. You’re in the mountains and the weather can be unpredictable!

Is visiting Sacsayhuaman Peru worth it?

Visiting Sacsayhuaman is absolutely worth it! Since you’re probably visiting Machu Picchu during your Peru travels, consider this a warm up for experiencing the more popular Inca ruins.

Relative to Machu Picchu or Pisac, these ruins are the smallest. Once you reach the entrance I would budget about 1 hour to explore the ruins and to take in the stunning views from the vista overlooking Cusco.

This hour would be in addition to however much time you need to reach Sacsayhuaman.

Large green cross near Sacsayhuaman ruins of Cusco PeruPin
A giant green cross overlooks Cusco

Be sure to venture over to the giant green cross to take in the best views of Cusco from the archaeological site!n

Cristo Blanco Statue of Cusco PeruPin
Views of Cristo Blanco from Sacsayhuaman

If you’re staying in Cusco there’s a good chance at some point you’ll look up and notice Cristo Blanco. It’s a giant Jesus statue perched above the city. I took the photo above from the Sacsayhuaman overlook.

Accessing Cristo Blanco is easy from the overlook. There is no entrance fee or ticket required. The path to Cristo Blanco is located opposite of the Sacsayhuaman entrance.

If you have trouble finding it, the ticket booth attendant should be able to point you in the right direction.

We didn’t visit Cristo Blanco since we were strapped for time. But if it interests you, it would make for a quick and easy detour from Sacsayhuaman.

Now would be a good time to mention that I also put together a YouTube video highlighting some of my favorite activities when visiting Cusco including the Salkantay Trek. Be sure to check that out when you’re finished here!

What are some interesting facts about Sacsayhuaman Peru?

Sacsayhuaman Peru is known for its incredible stonework. The massive stones used in the construction of Sacsayhuaman fit together so perfectly that not even a piece of paper can fit between them. This architectural feat is a testament to the advanced masonry skills of the Inca civilization.

The ruins are made up of three massive terrace walls, which zigzag across the hilltop. The largest stone in these walls is estimated to weigh over 300 tons. The precise method used by the Incas to transport and carve these massive stones remains a mystery.

The fortress-like design of Sacsayhuaman, with its formidable walls and towers, was intended to protect the Inca capital from invaders. Its location on the hilltop overlooking Cusco provided sweeping views of the city below.

The Inti Raymi festival, also known as the Festival of the Sun, is celebrated on June 24th each year. During this festival, visitors can witness reenactments of ancient Inca rituals and ceremonies.

Other things to do in the area

Looking for more ways to fill out your trip itinerary? Be sure to check out the list of activities below from GetYourGuide.

Another one of my favorite things that we did during this trip was visit the ruins of Pisac. The Peruvian town of Pisac sits at the base of well preserved Inca ruins complete with an incredible amount of farming terraces like those shown here.

A journey to Pisac is a great way to transition from the hustle and bustle of Cusco to experience what the more mountainous regions of Peru have to offer.

Inca Ruins of Pisac PeruPin
Don’t let the elevation deter you from venturing to the top!

If you’re undecided on which tourism ticket you need when exploring Cusco and it’s surrounding areas, be sure to check out my posts highlighting visits to Pisac and Moray!

Salt mining terraces of Maras in PeruPin
Up close views of the Maras Salt Mines

While it requires a separate ticket you should also be sure to check out the Maras Salt Mines during your visit to Cusco. Not only can you get up close to the salt terraces but you’ll even have the opportunity to purchase salt from the mines while supporting the local community.

If you’re in the market for a more involved activity, consider booking a day trip to Humantay Lake. Doing it as a day trip will eat up most of your day between the lengthy drive and challenging hike up to the lake, but you’ll be rewarded with views of one of Peru’s most beautiful natural landmarks.

Man taking selfie at Humantay Lake, PeruPin
We reached Humantay Lake on a rainy, moody morning but it was still spectacular to see in person

During my trip we visited the lake as part of the Salkantay Trek but it can be done as an individual activity as well. You can read all about my hike up to Humantay Lake here.

Thanks for reading this post covering what to know before visiting Sacsayhuaman Peru outside of Cusco!

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