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Waqrapukara: The Inca Fortress In The Shape Of A Horn

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Waqrapukara: The Inca Fortress In The Shape Of A Horn

Cusco is par excellence the most important historical destination in Peru and it is the one that attracts the most tourists. However, few know that this city offers many more attractions besides Machu Picchu. One of these is the Waqrapukara fortress.


Waqrapukara represents a great alternative for those looking for a different adventure during their stay in the city of Cusco, with its pristine and impressive landscapes, which start from wonderful lagoons, to get lost among the mountains, streams, and rocky walls of this part of the Apurimac Canyon. Find in this post all the necessary information to be able to visit this impressive place.



The archaeological center of Waqrapukara, territorially belongs to the district of Acos of the province of Acomayo in the department of Cusco Peru and is located at an approximate height of 4140 meters above sea level.


Etymology of Waqrapukara:

The denomination, Waqrapukara, seems to be in current use when translated as strength of the horns, making a clear allusion to the horns of the cattle that is of recent presence in the environment, in addition, there is perhaps a previous denomination among the population, LlamaPukara, which would translate as flame fortress, which would reveal a much more coherent analogy with the local culture, there is also the name Llaqtapukara, which would translate as "people's barracks", which perhaps alludes to the place, as the last refuge of the resistance that the Qanchis people opposed to the Inca empire and finally we can quote the Archaeologist Miguel Cornejo who, beyond a linguistic interpretation, indicates that the place represents "the architecture of Power"



The archaeological site of Waqrapukara seems to have had various stages of human occupation, being in all of them an important site of religious administrative origin.


The first of the ethnic groups to occupy it was apparently that of the Qanchis, who according to Luis Barreda Murillo appeared approximately in the year 2500 before Christ, in the pre-ceramic period, having during this historical period the worship function in honor of the god Teqsi Pachacamaq. Wiraqocha as mentioned in the chronicle of Human Poma de Ayala.


The Qanchis ethnic group was conquered by the Incas as part of the Inca expansion plan over the Aymara tribes, giving this place an administrative use in the same way due to its strategic location, and in turn continuing its religious use as was the regular custom in the conquered peoples.


Already during the Inca period there is a chronicle of one of the many uprisings that the Inca state had to quell in many of the already conquered territories, in it he narrates the uprising of the Qanchi people against Wayna Qapaq due to the increase in tribute payments, which were charged on looms or fabrics. The leader of this rebellion called Ttito Qosñipa was defeated after offering a resistance of several months taking refuge in Waqrapukara, possibly built in this period the two characteristic towers that he used as strategic surveillance posts. There is a similar story (which is also a chronicle) that has remained in the memory of the population, which mentions the benevolence of the Inca towards the rebel leader of the Qanchis, which shows the application of political mechanics that caused them to become This leader was given a ñusta or princess of the Inca royalty as a wife, to later incorporate him into the Inca army that marched in that period to the conquest of the current Ecuador and the place of resistance (Waqrapukara) was instituted as an official Inca sanctuary of worship to the God sun.


The place is recognized as Cultural Heritage of the Nation since July 17, 2017.


From the Canchis to the Incas

Research indicates that Waqrapukara was initially built by the Canchis culture and not by the Incas. The Canchis inhabited the southern territories of Cusco (current province of Canchis) parallel to the Incas. Both cultures competed for territorial control.

However, after the Inca vs. Chancas (1440 A.D.), the Canchis allied themselves with the Incas and formed part of the Collasuyo region, in the nascent empire of Tahuantinsuyo.


The construction date of Waqrapukara is still a mystery. The canchis must have built the first roads and enclosures in a few centuries before the formation of the Inca empire in 1438. It is estimated that under the government of the emperor Túpac Yupanqui (1471 – 1493) the main temples and platforms were built.


Constructions and Architecture

A remarkable aspect of the architecture of Waqrapukara is its temples with three jambs located in the highest part (in the central part of the stone mounds that form the ridges of the fortress). These types of buildings are present in few Inca sanctuaries of great importance such as Pachacamac (Lima) and Maukallacta (Arequipa).


The central structure of Waqrapukara (in the middle of the two horns) is constituted by a cavern with a window that shows the abyss on which it is formed.


The entire architectural complex of Waqrapukara is made up of enclosures, stairs, canals, platforms and more. In the lower part are the platforms, smaller enclosures and stairs that lead to the highest part. There, in the upper part, are the largest enclosures, the temples and the finest constructions (of the Inca elite).


Waqrapukara Fortress

The Waqrapukara fortress had great importance for the Andean worldview in the Inca era. Thus, "waqra" means horn and "pukara" means strength. However, for the Acos communities, this fortress is known as Llamapukara, as they claim that the horns are actually the ears of a llama that remains alert to the presence of foreigners.


Waqrapukara, likewise, is a first-class Inca sanctuary, this means that it had great political and religious power. Under these functions, it is made up of two groups of buildings. The first group is located in the highest area of ​​the building. There are two groups of enclosures separated by a fairly large central space. These enclosures also have passages, double jamb portals and niches that function as ornaments.


The second group is located in the lowest area and is comprised of 8 terraces 150 meters long and 2 meters high. Like the first group, two rooms with double jambs and niches can be seen. However, 5 more enclosures are added that are located at the eastern end.


In addition to being a complex building, the beauty of the Waqrapukara fortress lies in the silhouettes of giants that can be seen. Built as a result of radical changes in temperature, rains and hailstorms, these silhouettes seem to protect the fortress.


How to get to Waqrapukara?

The Waqrapukara fortress is located in the district of Acos, in the province of Acomayo. To reach this archaeological destination you can choose between three Inca trails. To take any of these three routes, you must leave from the city of Cusco.


To get to Cusco from Lima, you can use bus companies like Tepsa or Ferkaxi. The ticket price starts at 60 soles.


Unlike other destinations with many visitors, in Waqrapukara you can camp in the surroundings. I recommend enjoying the night sky. Perhaps you will find the reason why its ancient builders chose this magical and mysterious place.


Sangarará, Huayqui and Santa Lucia

The three routes you can take to get to the Waqrapukara fortress pass through Sangarará, through the community of Huayqui and through Santa Lucía.


Arrive by Sangarará (short route)

To take the first route, you have to leave the city of Cusco in private mobility towards the district of Sangarará. Then, you have to take the detour until you reach the car park. From there the trek to Waqrapukara will begin. Since this route has an extension of 8 kilometers, the duration of the walk is 2 hours and 30 minutes one way and the return is approximately 3 hours and 30 minutes.


In addition to being the shortest route to the fortress, from Sangarará you will be able to observe the fauna of the Andes region. If you are lucky, you will be able to witness a large number of vicuñas walking around in their natural habitat.


Arrive through the Community of Huayqui

The second route is to leave Cusco towards Acomayo, which usually takes 3 hours of travel. That is where the Huayqui community is located on the Huáscar branch. This route is comprised of a bridle path with an extension of 7.5 kilometers, so it will take you 1 hour to walk.


Arrive through Santa Lucia

The third route is to take a bus or group that leaves from the city of Cusco and goes to the Acomayo turnoff, taking the direction of Sicuani. Arrived at the detour you must take a taxi or bus to Pomacanchi. From there you must go to Santa Lucía, which is 1 hour away.


All routes involve a walk that is usually long and uphill, so it is recommended to have a minimum level of resistance and experience in trekking.


Climate and Temperature:

The climate of the place corresponds to that of the entire region of Cusco with the two respective seasons that between May and October are in the cold - dry period and between the months of November and April in the rainy period, on the other hand, the winds can be constant and increase between the months of August and September due to the geography of the place.


Finally, temperatures can have a maximum of 19 degrees Celsius and a minimum of -6 degrees in the coldest and rawest nights.


Degree of difficulty:

Depending on the route you take, it is possible to travel a route that goes from moderate to strong, remember to take good care of yourself in the case of undertaking an adventure on your own.


Other activities you can do


Waqrapukara Festival:

The Waqrapukara festival is a cultural activity promoted every year by the local government of the district of Acos, this with the purpose of promoting the folkloric encounter and the cultural revaluation of the archaeological landscape of Waqrapukara. The activities consist of the staging of the already legendary Qanchis resistance against the Inca Wayna Qapaq, which is divided into 4 acts that are followed by around 15 typical dances of the region, which brighten the current festivity.


This activity is carried out in the month of August, being a perfect date for the visit to the place.


Mountain biking:

With a scheduled activity on a properly designed route, it is possible to cycle as part of the activities towards the archaeological center of Waqrapukara.



In the calm lagoons surrounding the route towards Waqrapukara it is possible to kayak as a complementary activity.



It can be done as a complementary activity and as part of the route to the attraction.


Can I go on my own?

Waqrapukara is also a destination that can be visited on your own. To do this, you must take public transport to Cusipata (located on Huayruropata Avenue in the city of Cusco). Once there, you must take another public transport to the town of Sangarará. There begins the trek to the Inca archaeological site. The return trip takes the same return route.


Some other recommendations for an awesome experience.

  • Wear shoes suitable for walking, or at least a pair of thick soles.
  • Do warm-up exercises prior to the start of the walk, this will prevent possible muscle contractures.
  • Take into account the weather that is ruling at the time you perform the activity.
  • Take into account that it is preferable to leave this activity for days after your arrival.
  • We advise you to acclimatize, which implies that you follow up on the affects produced by height from the first moment you set foot on Cusco soil.
  • Bring something extra to eat, water and some dried fruit, they will be the best answer to your physical needs.
  • Bring a change of clothes to use at the end of the activity.
  • Warm and light and warm clothing.
  • Use trekking poles, they help a lot with physical effort.
  • Don't stop using sunscreen.
  • Do not drink alcohol the day before the activity.

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  • From the top of Waqrapukara the winds are strong. The temperature in the day can reach 23ºC. while at night the cold can drop to 0ºC. During the visit, it is best to wear a windbreaker jacket, comfortable pants and slippers, as well as a poncho in case of rain.
  • The walk that leads to Waqrapukara follows ancient routes built by the Incas (the famous qhapac ñan or network of Inca roads). Some researchers suggest that the route there was a pilgrimage. There are still many mysteries to unravel in Waqrapukara.
  • The best time to visit Waqrapukara is during the low-rain months (May through October). The rest of the year, especially January, February and March, the constant rains can prevent a comfortable walk there.

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