Tambomachay Archaeological Center


The archaeological site of Tambomachay is, together with Qenqo, Puca Pucara and Sacsayhuaman, one of the most important archaeological complexes in the city of Cusco. It is located just 7 kilometers from the ancient capital of the Incas. Due to its location, it belongs to one of the important centers in the ‘ceques’ or imaginary lines that departed from Cuzco and served the Incas to organize their sanctuaries and important centers. Its function was to provide water to nearby sites and as Inca baths. The harmony that exists between its stone walls and the surrounding nature make it one of the most important places in the incanato. Meet some interesting facts of this archaeological site.

Meaning of your Name

There is no accurate definition, it is believed that Tambomachay comes from 2 Quechua words: ‘Tampu’ (collective housing) and ‘Mach’ay (resting place). This definition would explain the function that it had as ‘Baños del Inca’ and water shrine. However, other studies indicate that ‘Machay’ means ‘Caverns’. This also makes sense due to the rock formations that stand out in the archaeological site. According to the Inca worldview, these rock formations were sites that connected with the world of the dead. In any case, Tambomachay was a place that enjoyed great importance during the incanato.

Inca hunting place

Tambomachay is located at 3,700 meters above sea level (m.s.n.m.) Due to its altitudinal location on the slopes of a mountain and on the river of the same name, it is presumed that ancient Andean fauna existed in the place. It is for that reason that some chroniclers assure that the enclosure was the area of casería of the Inca Túpac Yupanqui. Among the non-domesticated animals that lived in the Andes, vicuna and guanaco stand out.

The Inca baths

Tambomachay is one of the best examples of the ability of the Incas to handle water. The enclosure has water channels made of carved stone that end in two slopes where crystalline water flows every day of the year. There is located a platform that served as a liturgical source and, probably, Inca baths. In allusion to this well of pure water and due to the expertise of the builders to subtract transparent water in Tambomachay, the entire archaeological site was called ‘The Inca Baths’ or the “Ñusta Baths”.

Water cult

Ayes like Tambomachay, the Incas dedicated special interest in their constructions in the use of water in other important enclosures such as Tipón, Ollantaytambo and even the Inca Citadel of Machu Picchu. According to the Andean worldview, water was a source of life. It was believed that this symbolized the masculine and the earth (pachamama) the feminine, so that the union of both caused fertility. The network of channels that filtered water in Tambomachay poured the liquid into a platform at the bottom where the Inca worshiped the water.

Where does the water come from?

Tambomachay was built on a river, springs and streams. Although it is not known for sure where exactly the water flowing in its channels comes from, the magnificent distribution of the liquid surprises the world. These follow an uneven cascade course in equal proportion so that nothing of the liquid element is wasted. It is believed that the Incas calculated the flow of water in the canals so that they do not collide. Whether or not it was so, these buildings continue to flow water after 600 years.

Harmony with the environment

The archaeological site of Tambomachay is located under the protection of a chain of mountains and over rivers and underground springs. The surrounding nature is characterized by the abundance of ichu, natural grass that grows in altitudinal areas. In certain seasons the ‘cantu’ grows, a flower of various colors. The construction of the enclosure was in harmony with its surroundings. The sound of the water flowing in the stone walls provides an ideal resting environment. It is no coincidence that the Inca has chosen this place as his center of rest. Some tour guides call it the "Inca resort".

Perfection in stone handling

Tambomachay hydraulic systems were finely carved for perfect water flow. In addition, the enclosure has four walls in the form of andenería arranged in a main complex. There the stones were carved and assembled irregularly but with such perfection that they still stand erect after almost 600 years. The main wall is located at the top. This construction consists of 4 trapezoidal niches of up to 2 meters. Due to the height of these walls, it is presumed that they also served as a defense against possible enemy attacks. These techniques in stone management are also observed in the archeological centers of Qenqo, Puca Pucara and Sacsayhuaman.

Travel Categories