The Fortress of Puca Pucara

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    General Data of Puca Pucara

    Puca Pucara or Pukapukara is one of the main archaeological sites near the city of Cusco along with Sacsayhuaman, Qenqo and Tambomachay. It is located 7 kilometers from Cuzco, about 3,850 meters above sea level. Due to being on an elevated platform, it was given the name of fortress. However, its function is still uncertain. Currently it is a must visit place during the stay in the Imperial City and before knowing Machu Picchu. It has terraces, rooms, stairs and terraces. Learn a little more about the mysteries of this popular site.

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    The Meaning of His Name

    Since the XX century, this archaeological site has been called Puca Pucara or Pukapukara, which in Quechua means roja red fortress ’. This is due to the color of the land with abundant ichu (Andean straw) and vegetation characteristic of high altitude areas such as that of this site. In the afternoons, the limestone rocks of a large part of its buildings take on a reddish hue due to twilight rays. Due to these characteristics it was given the current name. However, it is not yet proven whether or not it served as an Inca fortress

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    Red fortress

    Despite its name "red fortress" there is no evidence that Puca Pucara was built as a place or fortress for Inca military defense. The name is mainly due to its fortified appearance on top of an irregular mountain formation. Sacsayhuaman, the largest archaeological site in the place, did serve as a fortress during the Inca resistance after the conquest of the Spanish. It is likely that if necessary, Pukapukara would have been the scene of defensive actions like these.

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    Settlement of Soldiers

    Although there is no evidence of armed confrontations in Puca Pucara, it is believed that there were specific sites in the compound intended for the settlement of soldiers. It would be the personal guards of the Inca who visited the neighboring archaeological site: Tambomachay. This complex served as baths and resting place of the Inca. Also there, the ruler of Tahuantinsuyo carried out solemn acts of water worship, the source of life according to the Inca worldview. While the Inca remained at Tambomachay, his soldiers and servants remained at Pukapukara.

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    Qhapac Ñan

    The Qhapac Ñan was a network of roads that the Incas created with the aim of uniting the main urban centers of the Tahuantinsuyo or Inca Empire. Cusco was the center of these trails that started from there in various directions. One of these centuries-old roads crossed Puca Pucara. After more than 600 years, this stone path is partially destroyed but is still easily distinguishable. The qhapac ñan linked the main Inca urban and religious centers for up to 30 thousand kilometers of road. They expanded to Ecuador and part of Colombia to the north, part of Chile and Argentina to the south, and almost all of Peru.

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    The tambos were buildings that served as rest and that contained various supply products such as various foods, wool, firewood and more. The Incas used it to assist chasquis or messengers who traveled several kilometers and rested in these places. Because the Inca road network crossed the Puca Pucara site, the place also served as a tambo or shelter. The Inca soldiers and servants who accompanied him to Tambomachay probably also provided themselves with food and other products in Pukapukara.

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    Difference with Sacsayhuaman

    Along with Qenqo, Tambomachay and Sacsayhuaman; Puca Pucara was one of the most important places for the Incas. However, unlike the Sacsayhuaman Fortress, the roja red fortress ’was not built with the huge stones or granite blocks. Pukapukara was built mainly with limestone rocks of medium and small dimensions. The quality of the walls is lower compared to buildings such as Coricancha, Ollantaytambo, Tipón or other sites. The archaeological site has 3 levels or walls. The first and bottom have a sinuous shape with irregular rooms. The second, higher one, surrounds the central buildings and has fewer rooms. The third, at the top, is destroyed by the passage of time.

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    The chincana

    It is believed that in the time of the Incas there were chincanas or labyrinths that secretly communicated different places through underground tunnels. In Sacsayhuaman, there are 2 caves or chincanas, one small and one large. The first has a short distance and tourists are allowed to enter. However, the second and largest is closed. It is believed that this cave leads to the Coricancha (Temple of the Sun) located in the current city of Cusco. These secret roads are also believed to contain treasures hidden by the Incas. In Puca Pucara there is an underground cave, which is believed to connect with the Tambomachay. However, this is not proven.

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    Visit Puca Pucara

    There are many mysteries behind the Pukapukara archaeological site. There are 3 ways to visit it: the first is by going directly to the entrance door of the place. Attention is from Monday to Sunday from 07:00 a.m. at 06:00 p.m. The other is acquiring the so-called Cusco Tourist Ticket, which allows access to this and other important Inca archaeological sites, such as: Sacsayhuaman, Qenqo, Tambomachay, Piquillacta, Tipón, Pisac, Ollantaytambo and Chinchero. This ticket is purchased at the Municipality of Cusco. City Tour Here

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