Machu Picchu was the most magnificent community the Incas built, its name means “Old Mountain” in Quechua. It is believed that Machu Picchu was built around AD1460 by Inca Pachacutec. The Inca citadel is located 80 km northwest the city of Cusco, it sits majestically between the mountains of Machu Picchu and Huayna Picchu in the most unreachable area of the Urubamba River. It was built at an altitude of more than 7,000 feet or 2,133 meters above sea level and is surrounded by steep slopes on sheer cliffs. Despite its challenging location, it was built with a strong sense of beauty and great skill. The location and its terrain were difficult but Inca Pachacutec was determined to build upon it. In 1983 UNESCO added Machu Picchu to its list of World Heritage Sites.
Discovery and History
Because of its remote location, Machu Picchu was never discovered by the Spaniard conquerors. Machu Picchu was re discovered in 1911 by HIram Bingham, an American explorer who was searching for Vilcabamba, the last resting place of the Incas. His project was funded by Yale University and National Geographic Society. The citadel was covered in heavy vegetation and partly looted by local residents. HIram Bingham found invaluable artifacts that tell the unwritten story of the Incas. Read more about the history of Machu Picchu=>
Machu Picchu is divided into two sectors, at the northern part was the urban sector and at the southern the agricultural sector. These sectors were constructed on a natural division due to a geological fault. The agricultural sector was located on the side of a mountain and its terrain was adapted to grow crops. They built more than 700 terraces by cutting part of the mountain vertically to make a flat horizontal terrain suited for agriculture and to prevent soil erosion. They also created a water management system for irrigation. The urban sector was located at the north and was divided into the Sacred, Loyalty and Popular Districts. Read more about sectors in Machu Picchu=>
Machu Picchu was built in perfect harmony with nature. Its buildings and structures blend with the granite mountains surrounding it.
The Urban Sector contains the most magnificent buildings and an example of knowledge and detail of Inca architecture. There are about 200 buildings made of polygonal granite stone each of them individually shaped to fit together. Granite was obtained from the nearby ridge but it is its transportation that leaves everyone puzzled. The Incas did not know the use of the wheel. Small block of granite were transported using llamas, large blocks using pulls and levers to transport to the construction site. Read more about Machu Picchu architecture=>
Among the most impressive buildings in the citadel is The Temple of the Sun also known as the Torreon which may have served as a primitive solar observatory. It was dedicated to their greatest deity, the Sun and it is enclosed by a semicircular wall, the only one in Machu Picchu,
The Intihuatana stone or “Hitching Post of the Sun” was used by the Incas to measure the angle of the sun and shows when the solstice and equinoxes occur. At mid day on March 21st and September 21st the sun stands directly above the pillar forming no shadow at all. At these moments the Incas held a ceremony tying the sun to the rock therefore the name “Hitching Post of the Sun”.
Visit Machu Picchu
From Cusco to Machu Picchua
- Train from Cusco to Aguas Calientes and bus to Machu Picchu
The fastest and most convenient way to get to the citadel of Machu Picchu from Cusco is by a combination of train and bus. Surprisingly, there is no road going to Machu Picchu. Trains depart from Poroy train station in Cusco, train services are run by Peru Rail which is the only company operating trains to Machu Picchu. Tickets can be booked online, for availability, services, departure times and prices go to www.perurail.com.
There are three different types of trains, the Vistadome, Expedition and Andean Explorer which provide different services according to your budget.
The train from Cusco to Aguas Calientes takes about 4 hours. The ride is quiet comfortable and you will certainly enjoy the view of the Urubamba valley.
The town of Aguas Calientes is located in the valley of the Vilcanota River, there are no roads connecting the town to the rest of the world. Upon arrival to the station, you have to go to the bus station and catch the bus towards Machu Picchu. The citadel is only two kilometers away but it takes 20 minutes to reach it. The ride is especially enjoyable; the road is narrow and steep, the bus has too climb a winding road and zigzag its way to reach Machu Picchu.
- Cusco – Ollantaytambo – Machu picchu
Alternatively you can take the bus to Ollantaytambo which 40 miles or 65 km from Cusco, 2.5 hours by bus. Then take the train to Aguas Calientes and the bus to Machu Picchu. Ollantaytambo is a picturesque little town located west of the Sacred Valley built on top of original Inca foundations. The planning of the original Inca city remains almost intact and provides a fantastic understanding of town planning during the Inca Civilization.
- Inca Trail
If you feel adventurous you can take the train from Cusco to Aguas Calientes and trek your way up to Machu Picchu. There are two scenic trails. The longer one covers a distance of 43km and it is done over a period of 3.5 days. The shorter route is done in two days.
More information about Machu Picchu
Machu Picchu History
Hiram Bingham, an American explorer, accidentally discovered the “Lost City of the Incas”, it was covered in dense vegetation.
Machu Picchu Architecture
Inca architecture is most known for its polygonal stones used in many religious buildings. One stone found in a temple wall in Machu Picchu is estimated to have at least 33 corners.
Why was Machu Picchu built?
There must have been a good reason to justify the laborious construction of this magic city in such a challenging land.
Machu Picchu Sectors
There are two sectors in Machu Picchu, each sector was constructed on a natural division due to a geological fault.
Interesting facts about Machu Picchu
A no-fly zone restriction exists above the area.
Significant Machu Picchu archeological sites
Among the most significant archeological sites are the Temple of the Sun, Intihuatana stone, the Room of the Three Windows, water fountains or pools, Royal Mausoleum, the Residence of the Priest.
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