Among the different archeological sites in the surroundings of Cusco, many of them have been categorized as unique prehispanic structures. The advanced architectural knowledge of the Incas have marked our lands, and Puca Pucara is certainly one of these examples.
Also spelled as Puka Pukara, it was an ancient Inca construction that has kept us intrigued throughout the years. Although many archeologists theorized about it being a military center, some others believe otherwise.
However, the actual purpose remains uncertain and we can only speculate thanks to its distinctive architecture style and location. Luckily, this was one of the few Inca remains hardly spoiled by the Spanish conquerors, though its structure has been partially damaged over time.
Visiting Cusco is not only about traveling to Machu Picchu, the Incas left a prevailing cultural and monumental legacy that continues to amaze us. Likewise, Puca Pucara is part of an important archeological circuit where sanctuaries, resting places, and military centers have remained even 600 years after their construction.
Dare to uncover the mysteries left behind by this ancient civilization and let yourself be captivated by the spellbinding assets of the Cusqueñan region.
Unfortunately, not much is known about this Incan precinct, even its name was lost during the colonization process. It wasn’t until the 16th century that they called it Puca Pucara, a Quechua word that means “Red Fortress.”
The ancient denomination derives from the unique reddish coloration of the stones used in its structure, which can be appreciated at dusk. Nevertheless, the word “Puca Pucara” does not appear in any of the chronicles from the Colonial Cusco.
While trying to understand more of this ancient building, there are some points to have in mind: Location, distribution, and architectural techniques. Those three keys allow us to interpret the possible purposes of this famous construction.
According to renowned historians and archeologists, the Puca Pucara Archeological Site was a resting point for the Inca elite, others also point it out as an administrative center that granted the access control of the city of Cusco for travelers that came from the Antisuyo, the jungle region of the Empire.
The distribution of the structure seems to confirm its purpose as a resting place for messengers (Chaskis), soldiers, and even for incoming travelers. The complex comprehends several rooms with trapezoidal shapes, luxury bathrooms, water fountains and channels, as well as plazas and potentially storage services.
The walls were irregularly shaped with stones stacked almost messily, thereby, it is believed that the construction of this site could have been rushed since it was highly necessary. Another point to highlight is that Puca Pucara forms part of the 30,000 km Inca Trail, an ancient trail network that connected the whole Tahuantinsuyo Empire during the pre-Columbian era.
Likewise, the strategic location of the place offers an excellent view of the Imperial City’s surroundings, including Sacsayhuaman, and Tambomachay, another sanctuary reserved exclusively for the Inca elite.
These last facts may confirm the military and administrative center theory. In addition, local knowledge claims that a “Chinchana” (subterranean tunnel) secretly communicated the Red Fort with other archeological sites, but this was never proved.
The Incas were recognized for integrating their structures with the surrounding nature, whilst adapting the terrain with irregular terraces as seen in the Puca Pucara complex.
Although its structure has an atypical architecture style of the Incas, part of it has withstood centuries of seismic activity. The archeological site is divided into three important sectors:
• First Wall: Located at the lower part of the complex, this is one of the most well-preserved sections of Puca Pucara. It is composed of six rooms on the north side of the precinct and a small trapezoidal Plaza on its west wing. In this part is where the famous Inca Trail crosses the Red Fortress.
• Second Wall: It comprehends gardens and terraces located in the south and west side of the complex. Also two more rooms are situated behind the Second Wall.
• Third Wall: Unfortunately, this was the most severed part of the archeological site since no vestiges of rooms or buildings have been found.
Puca Pucara is located on top of a mountain which has an altitude of 3,580 meters above sea level. The famous Inca ruins are only 7 km from Cusco, and as aforementioned, is part of the archeological circuit of the Imperial City.
To visit this structure on your own, make sure to take a government certified taxi that can take you back to the city of Cusco. Due to its nearly remote location, transport is limited. However, we highly recommend you taking a tour to visit this and many other Inca remains in one day.
Luckily for you, we offer an exclusive Archeological City Tour, which takes you through the most significant prehispanic settlements of the area, including the sights within the Historic Center of Cusco. Keep in mind that there’s no better way than experiencing these locations rather than by touring with a local expert.
- Operating Hours: Monday to Sunday from 07:00h to 18:00h.
- Entrance: The Touristic Ticket is needed to enter the archeological site, it includes all the sights within the Cusco City Tour. (Already included in all our packages).
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