legendary 'Lost City of Machu Picchu' is without a doubt the most important
tourist attraction in Peru and one of the world's most impressive archaeological
Built by the Incas on the summit of "Machu Picchu" (Old Peak), overlooking
the deep canyon of the Urubamba river in a semi-tropical area 120 Km. (75 miles)
from the city of Cusco at 7,000 feet above sea level.
It sits on a mountain site of extraordinary beauty, in the middle of a
tropical mountain forest, Machu Picchu was probably the most amazing urban
creation of the Inca Empire at its height, with its giant walls, terraces and
ramps, which appear as though they have been cut naturally in the continuous
The natural setting on the eastern slope of the Andes encompasses the upper
Amazon basin with its rich diversity of species.
The whole archaeological complex covers approximately 5 square kms. It is
situated in the high jungle. Its climate is semi-tropical, warm and humid.
TRANSPORTATION TO MACHU PICCHU
There are two routes leading to Machu Picchu:
By rail - the most rapid and comfortable - following the course of the
On foot - following the traditional and true route of entry, best known as
the Inka Trail.
A minimum of one whole day is needed to visit these ruins and upon arrival
there, one should have approximately 2 hours to go over the main part and have
lunch at the hotel on your return, before taking the mini-bus anew down to the
Puente Ruinas Station (2.30 pm). The traveler who has more time to spare may
stay overnight at the Machu Picchu Ruinas Hotel
Machu Picchu is also one of the Inca's best kept secrets, since they did not
left written records and Spanish chronicles make no mention of the citadel, it
remains a mystery. Discovered only in 1911 by the American Yale professor Hiram
Bingham. The building style is "late imperial Inca" thought to have been a
sanctuary or temple inhabited by high priests and the "Virgins of the Sun"
(chosen women). Excavations revealed that of the 135 skeletons found,109 were
women. No signs of post Conquest occupation were unearthed.
The original entrance to the complex is on the southwestern side of the
citadel at the end of the Inca Trail, a short walk away from "Intipunko " (Sun
Gate), the ancient final check point to Machu Picchu. The present entrance on
the southeastern side leads to the agricultural section. The complex can be
divided in three distinct sections: Agricultural, Urban, and Religious.
The agricultural area consists of a series of terraces and irrigation
channels that serve dual purpose, as cultivation platforms making it self
sustained, and as retention walls to avoid erosion. Some smaller buildings next
to large terraces are part of this section and thought to have served as lookout
The urban section starts at the wall that separates it from the agricultural
area, this group of buildings were constructed on the ridge that descends
abruptly to the Urubamba valley. In the southern part of this section are found
a series of niches carved on rock known as "the jail" with elements that include
man size niches, stone rings would have served to hold the prisoner's arms, and
The group of refined structures next to "the jail" is known as the
"intellectuals' quarters", with tall walls, nooks, and windows built with
reddish stone are considered to have been accommodations for the Amautas (high
ranked teachers). One of the buildings has several circular holes carved on the
rock floor named the "mortar room" believed to have been used for preparation of
dyes. The largest urban section in Machu Picchu located on the north western
part, is reached by a 67 steps staircase and involves a group of buildings not
as finely constructed as other parts of the complex.
The central plaza that separates the religious from the urban section, has a
great rock in the center. The religious section contains splendid architecture
an masonry work, one of the most important and enigmatic is probably the
Intihuatana shrine, this block of granite was presumably used to make
Descending the hill next to this site is the Great Central Temple, a three
walled building with fine stonework and an attached smaller temple called the
"Sacristy". Next to this structure is another three walled building, known as
the 'Temple of the Three Windows', so called because of the trapezoidal openings
on the east wall. Directly across is the Royal sector, with ample buildings
typical of Inca royalty. A very important structure in this section is the
"Temple of the Sun", a: circular tower with the best stonework of Machu Picchu.
Its base forms a cavern known as the Royal Tomb. Recent studies show that the
actual purpose was for astronomical observance.
Huayna Picchu, young peak, is as much a part of the site as the buildings of
the citadel, the towering granite peak overlooks Machu Picchu to the North with
a steep well preserved original Inca path, well worth the one hour climb for an
astounding view of the citadel and the entire valley.
'The Temple of the Moon', located halfway down in an underground chamber on
the north side of the Huayna Picchu, is a fairly recent discovery. The access to
this site is rather difficult and diverges left from the main trail. It contains
finely carved structures on large boulders. The climb to the top takes about
THE CITY AND ITS PEOPLE
Only from the nearby hilltop observatory of Intipunku can you realize the
full extent of Machu Picchu's colossal conception.
The citadel is a stupendous achievement- in urban planning, civil
engineering, architecture and stonemasonry.
Who built this symphony in stone, this vast complex of buildings so well
constructed that even five centuries in the inexorable grip of the Peruvian
jungle has deprived them only of their thatch and reed roofs?
The architectural forms are unmistakably characteristic of the Incas but
beyond that its origins are veiled in a mystery as thick as the early morning
mist swirling around its craggy fastness.