Tambomachay: History, Significance, and Visit

Tambomachay stands out as one of the most prominent examples when learning about the extensive knowledge of Incan construction. Not much is known about this ancient structure, but thanks to its unique architecture, we can deduce a lot about this mysterious place.

The renowned Incan culture was well-known for assimilating the wisdom of the conquered peoples. This included their artistic skills, cultural practices, and construction techniques. By absorbing these insights, the Incas reached a highly advanced level of culture for their time.

The Incan culture possessed advanced hydraulic techniques, as evidenced by their constructions around Cusco. In sites like Moray, Tipón, and even Machu Picchu, their ingenious designs remain impressive even in modern times. However, Tambomachay, a temple dedicated to the worship of water, stands as the pinnacle of Incan hydraulic engineering.

What makes Tambomachay so special? The techniques employed in its construction, its significance in Incan religion, and its remote location make it a destination that cannot be missed. Keep reading to discover the most important details about this archaeological site for your visit to Cusco.

History of Tambomachay

Ruins tambomachay
Ruins tambomachay

The name Tambomachay originates from Quechua, the native language of the Incas. In Quechua, “Tampu” means “place” or “lodging,” and “Machay” means “resting place.” This provides an intriguing hint about the origin of this site.

Fortunately, only a small part of this site was damaged during the Spanish conquest. A significant portion of the main structure of the site remains intact, including its unique carved stones. The aqueducts and channels still function to this day!

The way the walls were constructed at Tambomachay indicates that this complex was a sacred place for the Incas. It likely served as a sanctuary for the Inca, a location for ceremonial cleansing. This explains why this place is also known as the “Baths of the Inca.”

In Incan religion, water held a sacred role as it was considered the source of life. According to their beliefs, water symbolized the masculine, while the earth represented the feminine. The union between water and earth was a symbol of fertility, something sacred in their agriculture-centered culture. It’s no wonder they had temples dedicated to water throughout the empire!

Tambomachay is composed of a series of cascades and aqueducts constructed with precisely carved stones. The main water source in this complex is similar to the water temple found in Ollantaytambo, in the Sacred Valley. From this water source, two secondary cascades separate, each releasing precisely the same amount of water. What an impressive design!

And where does the crystal-clear water flowing through Tambomachay come from?

It appears that the Incas managed to channel water that comes from a spring. However, the exact source of the water remains a mystery.

It’s not just the fountains that amaze us today; there’s also a royal garden perfectly irrigated by the same spring. The channels that maintain this garden are a marvel in their own right.

The history of Tambomachay is closely linked to that of Puka Pukara, another Incan complex located about a 5-minute walk away. Everything indicates that only Incan royalty could enter the sacred water temple. So, it’s possible that their servants and soldiers waited for the Inca while lodged in Puca Pucara. In one way or another, both places are a must-visit during your trip to Cusco.

Where is Tambomachay located?

The archaeological site of Tambomachay is located in Peru, near the city of Cusco. It is situated approximately 7 kilometers northeast of Cusco. Tambomachay is part of the complex of Inca ruins that includes Sacsayhuamán, Q’enqo, Pukapukara, and Tambomachay itself. This site is renowned for its stone structures, water channels, and fountains, which were likely used for ceremonial purposes and as a resting place for travelers during the Inca Empire.

How to get to Tambomachay from Cusco?

To get to Tambomachay from Cusco, you have several options:

Through a Travel Agency:
Most travel companies include Tambomachay in their city tour programs. Prices are usually reasonable, but be cautious of excessively low rates. The typical itinerary starts around 9:00 AM or 1:00 PM, visiting places like the Santo Domingo Convent (or Qorikancha), the Cathedral, and then heading out of the city to Tambomachay, Pukapukara, Qenko, and Saqsaywaman archaeological sites. The tour usually ends around 2:00 PM or 6:00 PM, depending on the schedule chosen.

Travel agency recommendation for all-inclusive city tours.

Private Taxi:
Hiring a private taxi is a good option, especially if you want to explore not only Tambomachay but also Qenko, Pukapukara, Cristo Blanco, and Saqsaywaman. The cost for this service should not exceed 100 Peruvian soles.

Public Transport (Buses, Vans, or Shared Taxis):
You can take public transportation to Tambomachay. Head to the main stop near the Universidad Nacional de San Antonio Abad del Cusco, which shouldn’t take more than 15 minutes from the historic center. At this stop, you’ll find “Huerto” buses that will take you directly to the archaeological site. It’s approximately a 30-minute ride, and the staff on the transport will gladly assist you.

Regarding entrance fees:
To enter Tambomachay, you’ll need to purchase the Cusco tourist ticket, available in partial or full options. There’s no separate entrance fee for Tambomachay. The site operates from 7:00 AM to 6:00 PM every day, Monday through Sunday.

Important information:

  • Entrance Fee: Entry to Tambomachay is included in the General Tourist Ticket. The cost is S/. 130.00 for adults or S/. 70.00 for children and students.It’s also possible to purchase a Partial Tourist Ticket to visit only Sacsayhuaman and the nearby ruins. The price for this ticket is S/. 70.00 for adults or S/. 40.00 for children and students. Please note that this ticket is valid for only one day.
  • Opening Hours: Tambomachay is open from Monday to Sunday, from 7:00 am to 6:00
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