The sacred Huaca of Tambomachay

As viceregal functionary Juan Polo de Ondegardo y Zárate once told in his book Treaty and investigation about the superstitions of the Indians (1559), “the city of Cuzco was home and dwelling of gods, and thus there was not, in all of it, a fountain, a passage or wall that did not held mystery”. From the 350 shrines surrounding Cusco, 92 belonged to wellsprings and water fountains, being one of them “Quinua Puquio”, known  today as Tambomachay (from the quechua word “tanpu mach’ay”, which means place to rest), a construction which reason to be was the water, as an element of life and worship.


The archeological complex, known also as The Inca Baths, is located above Tambomachay’s river. Jesuit priest Bernabé Cobo locates it at the center of the first seq’e (ceque) out of the nine that belonged to the old Antisuyo path. In his book History of the New World, Cobo defines the ceques as lines that, starting off from the Coricancha -temple of the Sun-, served to organize the sanctuaries or huacas of Cusco, creating a complex spatial-religious system that gave Tahuantisuyo’s capital its eminently sacred character.


According to Cobo, Tambomachay was the ninth huaca of the Collana’s ceque and was “one of the houses of Inca Yupanqui and where he stayed to rest when hunting. It was located in a mountain close to the Inca Trail. There, they used to practice sacrifices of every kind of living beings, except children”. He defines the place as a “fontezuela” (a little water fountain) conformed by two wellsprings.


But apart from the sacred character of Tambomachay, what will surprise you the most is the architectural complex, completely adapted to the natural scenery, in which the Incas demonstrate their amazing dominance of the principles of hydraulic engineering with a meticulous handling of the underground wellspring, achieving a flowing that runs, through the different aqueducts, in a continuous and controlled way.


Tambomachay is in front of Puka Pukara ruines, just seven kilometers away from Cusco’s downtown. It is an excellent departure point to attend other archeological sites in the area, like the Temple of the Moon and Qenco. A good way to get there is also by horseriding, since there are several tour agencies offering that experience. Don’t leave without visiting any of these.