Location: 69 mi (110 km) Northwest of Cusco Map
Open: 6am- 5pm daily
Info: Av. El Sol 103, Galerias Touristicas, Cusco
Open: Mon- Sat
Machu Picchu is an ancient archeological Inca site 69 mi (110 km) Northwest of Cusco in Peru. Peruvian government secured 326 sq km or 126 miles as a "Historical Sanctuary" to preserve Machu Picchu archaeological site. In 1983 Machu Picchu was added to a UNESCO World Heritage Site and in 2007 it was chosen as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World.
Machu Picchu was found around 1450 by the Incas during reign of the two great Incas or rulers Pachacutec Inca Yupanqui (1438- 71) and Tupac Inca Yupanqui (1472- 93). New city was situated at the end of the Inca Trail on a mountain (450 meters or 1480 feet) above Urubamba River. It served as a private residence of the main ruler as well as noblemen that served the royal family. Judging by older ruins around this archaeological site peasants were first settlers in the area. However their small hamlets were dwarfed by extensive building project of Incas. Machu Picchu served as a home for hundreds of people during dry season of the year, while during wet rainy season (October- April) most of the royal court left Machu Picchu and moved back to Cuzco situated 80 kilometers (50 miles) away. It is likely that only 200 residents remained to keep an eye over palace, temples and other buildings. Rainy season is still a dangerous today and often forces the tourists and locals to evacuate from a region. Keep in mind that you can get soaked even during "dry" season of the year.
Machu Picchu was abandoned around 1572. We have no evidence that the Spanish conquistadors ever made to the Lost City of the Incas. No sacred sites were defaced and pagan cult buildings were damaged by the invaders. More likely it was abandoned due to small pox epidemic that swept through the region. Those who survived the initial wave of the deadly disease simply ran away to look for isolated regions of the Andean mountains to escape death.
Machu Picchu was entirely lost despite its romantic stories that surround it. Local natives often came here and looked for the shelter. Europeans also passed through this area, but in smaller numbers. In 1867 a German businessman Augusto Berns visited the site and looted several objects that he liked. Further discoveries were made, but most of these were lesser known and included uncontrolled plundering of the Inca ruins. First official of re- discovery of Machu Picchu occurred in 1911 by Hiram Bingham III who performed first scientific digs in the area.
There are several ways to get to Machu Picchu. Longer and more romantic way to get here is by hiking the Inca Path. Unfortunately high number of tourists left a mark on this ancient system of roads. The only way to hike this road is by taking a hired local guide and reserve a spot for a hike.
Another way to visit Machu Picchu is by taking a Cuzco railroad (PeruRail) to Aguas Calienters. It is a small town situated four miles away from the lost town. Its name is translated as "hot waters" in Spanish. It gets its name from hot springs that are abundant here. Spending a night near Machu Picchu will allow you to travel to the site early in the morning before hordes of tourists will descend on ancient ruins. Some of the more popular hotels in the city include Inka Terra Machu Picchu Hotel as well as several hostels like Presidente, Pachacutec and La Cabana.
Sacred Plaza is second largest plaza in Machu Picchu. Some of the most important buildings in the city are found here. This includes the Main Temple of the city. The Sacred Plaza itself was probably a site of spiritual rituals that were carried out here.
Funerary Rock Hut
Funerary Rock Hut is a medium sized building near the main entrance to the site and end of the Inca Road. Early archaeologists believed it was used to mummify bodies from the royal family as well as nobility and religious figures.
Temple of the Condor
Temple of the Condor is a name given to a structure that was probably a temple. Much of the base consists from the natural rock that was shaped by Inca stone masons. Archaeologists saw a shape of a condor with its wings spread, thus they gave the building its current name. Scientists also speculated that the head of the birds served as a sacrificial altar for ceremonies. Additionally during digs cave was discovered that contained a mummy. We don't know the identity of the person who buried here, but it was probably an important figure, probably a religious leader of some sort.
Central Plaza or Main Square of Machu Picchu takes the central part of the medieval city. It probably played an important role in religious rituals, celebrations and other important events in the life of the royal court and its servants.
Ritual fountain is located just outside of the Royal Tomb. It consists of 16 baths that probably carried religious and ceremonial significance. They are all joined by intricate aqueduct system.
Prison Area is situated near the Temple of the Condor. It consists of several small niches. Historians believe it was used to keep prisoners since similar structures were found in other parts of Incan Empire. Unlike modern prisons Incan cells were not intended for long stay. It usually took no more than three days to deliberated on the fate of the prisoner. He or she could be released, forced to pay a tribute for a crime or be executed. The concept of the crime was also somewhat foreign to modern man. Lust, laziness, disrespect of elders and other unacceptable behaviour was punishable crimes.
The Royal Tomb
Royal Tomb is a cave like structure that was used to burry important member of the Inca society. Archaeologists discovered over 100 mummies of well preserved ancient people. Most of them were women, indicating that Machu Picchu was probably an important spiritual and religious site inhabited by women priests. Inside the tomb you see now empty ceremonial niches as well as so called Inca cross. It consists of three stairs representing three layers of Universe according to Natives beliefs. The first step represents the kingdom of the Underworld or Afterlife. It is symbolized by a snake. A second step is a present human existence. It is symbolized by the jaguar, while the highest and smallest step is a realm of spiritual or celestial existence of many gods in the pagan pantheon. It is symbolized by the condor.
Terraces of Machu Picchu were cut straight through mountain rock along the slopes. They served a dual purpose. On one hand it provided an area for farming plants. Local peasants grew food for their families and members of the royal court. On the other hand terraces served as a protection of city structures from collapsing due to flash floods and earthquakes that hit this area multiple times.
Sacred Rock is a religious formation in the far corner of the Machu Picchu archaeological site. It was the heart of every Incan settlement. Before buildings, temples and palaces were erected here Incan priests blessed the site by establishing the central Sacred Rock. A path to Huayna Picchu (Little Peak) begins here.
Huayna Picchu or Little Peak is a picturesque mountain that forms the back drop for most of pictures and videos made here. However few tourists realize that it is part of the complex. Historians believe that it was home to women priests that lived on top of the mountain. Keep in mind that only 400 people per day are allowed to climb the mountain. If you choose to climb the mountain keep in mind that it is very steep. Dizzying heights also adds to the experience. First buildings were constructed around this mountain before Machu Picchu was even found.