Waqrapukara: The Hidden Jewel of the Incas in Peru


Waqrapukara is an ancient Inca fortress and ceremonial center, located in the mountains of the Cusco region in Peru. Often described as a hidden gem, Waqrapukara offers a unique experience of Inca history and architecture, with breathtaking landscapes and a sense of mystery and adventure.

This archaeological site is less explored than other Peruvian tourist destinations, giving it an air of exclusivity and allowing visitors to enjoy the tranquility and majesty of the surrounding nature.

What is Waqrapukara?

Waqrapukara is an ancient Inca fortress that may have also served as a ceremonial center. The site consists of architectural structures, including walls, platforms, staircases, and terraces, all embedded in a rugged and rocky environment.

The distinctive image of Waqrapukara comes from its two prominent horn-shaped peaks, which rise above the valley and can be seen from afar.

History and Origin of Waqrapukara

The history of Waqrapukara is relatively unknown, but it is believed to have originated during the Inca era, possibly during the expansion period of the Inca Empire. Some studies suggest it may have served as a defensive fortress or an important ceremonial site for the Inca civilization.

Given its strategic location and architectural features, it likely played a significant role in the defense and control of the region. Despite its historical importance, the site was forgotten for a long time and has only recently begun to gain attention as a tourist destination.

Location of Waqrapukara

Waqrapukara is located in the province of Acomayo, in the Cusco region, about 130 kilometers southeast of the city of Cusco. The site is situated at a considerable height in the Andean mountains, offering panoramic views of the valley and the surrounding mountains.

How to Get to Waqrapukara: Routes and Tips

To reach Waqrapukara, there are two main routes. The first route is from the city of Cusco to the city of Acomayo, then to the village of Huayqui, from where a hike of approximately 4 hours begins to reach the site. The second route is from Cusco to the village of Sangarará, from where the hike is a bit shorter, about 2-3 hours.

Both routes require a moderate level of physical fitness, as they involve high-altitude hikes with uneven terrain. It is recommended to have a local guide familiar with the area for safety and additional information about the history of the place.

Waqrapukara Location

Altitude and Climate: Preparations for the Visit

Waqrapukara is located at an altitude of approximately 4,300 meters above sea level. Due to this altitude, the weather can be cold and windy, especially at night and in the early morning. Visitors should be prepared for abrupt weather changes and bring warm, wind-resistant, and rain-resistant clothing.

To avoid altitude sickness, it is recommended to acclimatize in Cusco for a few days before embarking on the hike to Waqrapukara. Additionally, it is advisable to bring enough supplies, such as water and energy snacks, as there are no food services along the way.

Significance and Importance of Waqrapukara

The significance of Waqrapukara is linked to its historical role as a possible fortress and ceremonial center. Its strategic location and architecture suggest that it may have been used for defense and as a place of worship or ceremony for the Inca civilization. Additionally, the site offers archaeologists and visitors a glimpse into the Inca culture and their ability to build structures in remote and challenging locations.

Etimología: What Does Waqrapukara Mean?

The name “Waqrapukara” comes from Quechua, the most widely spoken indigenous language in the Peruvian Andes. The term “waqra” means “horn,” and “pukara” means “fortress.” Thus, Waqrapukara translates to “fortress with horns,” referring to the two prominent rock formations resembling horns, which are characteristic features of the site.

Historical and Cultural Function of the Fortress

The historical and cultural function of Waqrapukara is based on its potential use as a defensive fortress and ceremonial center. Due to its location and design, it was likely used to control access to the region and as an observation point for the Inca communities. Culturally, the site may have been used for religious rituals and ceremonies, reinforcing the Inca civilization’s connection with nature and its gods.

Tips for Visiting Waqrapukara

To visit Waqrapukara, it is important to keep in mind several helpful tips to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience:

  • Physical Fitness: The hike to Waqrapukara can be demanding due to the altitude and terrain. A moderate level of physical fitness is recommended, as well as being prepared for long walks.
  • Appropriate Clothing and Gear: Bring suitable clothing for cold and windy weather, as well as sturdy and comfortable footwear for trekking.
  • Accompaniment by Local Guides: Hire a local guide who knows the area and can provide information about the site and its surroundings.
  • Acclimatization Time: Given the high altitude, acclimatizing in Cusco before embarking on the trip to Waqrapukara is essential to avoid altitude sickness.
  • Basic Supplies: Bring enough water and light food, as access to services is limited.
  • Best Times to Visit and Why?

    The best time to visit Waqrapukara is during the dry season, which generally extends from May to September. During this period, temperatures are milder, and rainfall is minimal, making the hike easier and reducing the risk of adverse weather conditions. Avoid the rainy season, which runs from November to March, as the terrain can become slippery and difficult to navigate.

    What to Bring: Essential Gear for the Adventure

    For the visit to Waqrapukara, essential gear includes:

    • Warm and windproof clothing
    • Trekking shoes
    • Lightweight backpack to carry water and snacks
    • Sunscreen and a hat to protect from the sun
    • Raincoat or poncho in case of rain
    • Flashlight or headlamp for low-light conditions
    • First aid kit for emergencies

    Guided Tours vs. Independent Exploration: Which to Choose?

    Both guided tours and independent exploration have their advantages and disadvantages. With a guided tour, visitors benefit from the experience of a local guide who is familiar with the area and can provide additional historical and cultural information. This can also be useful for safety and getting assistance in case of emergencies.

    On the other hand, independent exploration provides more freedom and flexibility for visitors who prefer to design their own itinerary and enjoy the place at their own pace. However, this can require more planning and preparation to ensure a safe experience.

    The choice between guided tours and independent exploration will depend on personal preferences, prior experience with hiking and trekking, and comfort level with exploring challenging natural environments.