Sayacmarca is one of the most famous archaeological sites during the arduous 4-day Inca Trail trekking route. This citadel and religious site is 20 kilometers on foot from the starting point of the route. A few steps away is the Chaquicocha camp, where tourists spend the second night. The site is famous for its cliff-edge structures as well as its extensive platform system.
Sayacmarca can only be visited with the 4-day Inca Trail tour. On the second or third day of hiking, after an intense route through the Warmiwañusca pass. As well as Sayacmarca, along this walk there are other citadels that the Incas built such as: Llactapata, Runkurakay, Phuyupatamarca, Wñayhuayma and, at the end of the adventure, Machu Picchu. All these Inca sites are within the royal roads that the Incas made, the famous qhapac ñan. Due to the protection of this route by the Peruvian State, you can only get there on foot, just as the Incas did.
Sayacmarca on the Inca Trail
Sayacmarca is one of the Inca archaeological sites that can only be visited through the famous 4-day Inca Trail.
Its name comes from Quechua words that mean ‘Standing people’ or ‘Dominant people’. It is that its buildings are on the edge of a precipice, which gives it the appearance of being “standing.”
It is a set of narrow streets, enclosures and passages arranged in different planes, squares, canals, walls with niches or niches and trapezoidal doors. All built on steep terrain, where they had to overcome the incline.
Its function was that of an urban center where approximately 200 people lived. It also presents religious temples where the Incas worshiped their most important gods: the sun, the moon, the mountains, etc.
Sayacmarca was discovered in 1915 by the American explorer Hiram Bingham, the same one who found Machu Picchu in 1911. The investigator named it ‘Cedrobamba’ (cedar forest) because these trees were abundant at that time. In 1941, the expedition led by Paúl Fejos changed its name to Sayacmarca.
Some research suggests that Sayacmarca has a pre-Inca past. However, it was the Incas who best adapted this construction by implementing dozens of agricultural terraces for the self-subsistence of the two hundred inhabitants on average who occupied this place.
It belongs to the district of Machu Picchu, province of Urubamba, department of Cusco.
It is located at the convergence of the Urubamba and Aobamba valleys. Its altitude is 3,625 meters above sea level.
Route to Sayacmarca
Sayacmarca is a 20-kilometer walk from the beginning of the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu (at kilometer 82 of the railway that connects Ollantaytambo and Aguas Calientes). The walk is through the Inca trails, the famous qhapac ñan.
From Sayacmarca you must continue along the Inca roads for approximately another 20 kilometers until arriving at the Inca city of Machu Picchu.
From Sayacmarca you can also take another route of Inca roads that descend through the Aobamba valley until reaching the thick jungle of Cusco. This route is currently not available for tourism.
Sayacmarca stands out for its religious buildings as well as its residences for the Inca elite. The religious structure has a semicircular shape with several windows overlooking the incredible landscape.
Its architecture also stands out for its vertical shape, almost on the edge of the precipice. The little space in Sayacmarca made it necessary to build a smaller number of agricultural platforms.
The different levels of Sayacmarca are accessible only by the narrow paths and stairs. The main road is the one that connects with Machu Picchu or with the Aobamba valley, where other Inca citadels rise.
Tips and more information
Sayacmarca is located just 2 kilometers walk from the archaeological site of Runkurakay. Then you must continue walking for 18 kilometers through the Inca sites of Phuyupatamarca and Wiñayhuayna until arriving at Machu Picchu.
Due to its location on the edge and at the top of a mountain slope, Sayacmarca is usually covered in dense fog, especially in the mornings. The temperature there varies from a maximum of 23ºC. (in the morning) up to a minimum of 2ºC. (at night).
Due to its difficult location, Sayacmarca also served as a control point for walkers seeking to reach Machu Picchu and the other citadels in the high jungle of Cusco. It is one of the most challenging constructions for Inca architects.
The only way to visit Sayacmarca is through the 4-day Inca Trail. This hiking route is protected by the Ministry of Culture of Peru. For this reason, it is necessary to buy a special permit through the tours organized by the authorized tourism agencies. Tours must be purchased 6 or 7 months in advance.
By Inca Trail Machu Picchu - Last updated, 03-01-2022
Interested in the Inca Trail? Know more about Archaeological sites!
- Qoriwayrachina archaeological site
- Runkurakay archaeological site
- Phuyupatamarca archaeological site
- Archaeological site of Wiñayhuayna
- Intipunku archaeological site
- Llactapata archaeological site