The Inca city of Machu Picchu is located at an altitude of 2,430 meters in a place of great beauty, in the middle of a tropical mountain forest, Machu Picchu was probably the most amazing architectural achievement of the Inca Empire at its height. Its walls, terraces and gigantic ramps give the impression of having been carved into the rock as if they were part of it.
Machu Picchu is a place full of mysticism, it is a monument to divinity, where man really feels like a creature of the gods, the overwhelming face of his spirit, seems to transport him to a magical place where anything is possible, in an unimaginable way. It is a place where the strange forces of nature transport one to an incomparable cosmic state, a state that can only be experienced in Machu Picchu.
Machu Picchu is a World Heritage Site, one of the 7 new wonders of the world, one of the 100 places to visit before you die, the Lost City of the Incas….
Machu Picchu, the Lost City of the Incas
Peru is well known in the world for Cusco, and Cusco for Machu Picchu. This Inca citadel, for its incomparable beauty, its scenic harmony and the spiritual strength that emanates from it, has the privilege of being part of the select group of world class monuments that millions of people from the five continents dream of knowing.
In July 1911, a North American scientific expedition led by Hiram Bingham entered the canyon of the Urubamba River, a warm and humid region covered by dense vegetation: the imposing landscape, combining snow-capped peaks in the distance with gigantic cliffs overlooking the sparkling rapids of the river, left the expedition members stunned. But Bingham’s obsession was to discover Tampu Tocco, the mythical city of the early Incas that some chronicles reported about. On July 24th, after a difficult ascent to the mountain known by the locals as Machu Picchu (2,350 m.a.s.l.), Bingham found an extraordinary set of ruins in the undergrowth. The explorer believed he had found the lost capital of the Incas, without imagining that instead of solving one mystery he was giving rise to another that would last throughout the 20th century. If that citadel with buildings that did not envy the most beautiful in Cusco was not Tampu Tocco, what was it then? why didn’t the chroniclers tell us about this marvel of Inca architecture? The impotence of science to answer these questions further fertilized the mystery, upon which the most imaginative theories grew.
The territories where it is located were conquered by Pachacutec, ruler who had the merit of turning the small kingdom of the Incas, which did not extend far beyond Cusco, into a vast and powerful empire. It was this remarkable ruler who decided to build Machu Picchu as a testimony of his military exploits. He had done the same thing before, when he was younger and conquered Ollantaytambo and Písac, two places where remarkable Inca constructions stood. Pachacútec remained in the memory of his people not only as a brave conqueror, but also as the ruler who reformed religion and organized official worship in all its details. This is the basis for thinking that Machu Picchu was seen by its founder as an appropriate place to worship the gods of the empire. In fact, beside the finely finished buildings, suitable for the ruler’s residence, there are others, more numerous, that suggest religious functions. The topography of the place, with its rocks and conical peaks, caves, snow-capped mountains and location on the sharp bend of an impressive canyon, combines essential features for a religion centered on the relationship between man and nature.
It is probable that Pachacútec visited Machu Picchu from time to time, where families belonging to the royal lineage lived, as well as priests and priestesses who worshipped the Sun, the snow-capped peaks (apus) and the phenomena of nature. The inhabitants of the place did not pass from one to two thousand and they sustained with what was cultivated in the platforms that surround the citadel in great sets of nearby terraces like Wiñay Wayna. When the Spanish conquest took place, a sacred place that could only exist as the gear of a highly organized state, it lost its raison d’être. Not only were there other gods who had triumphed, but the farmers and servants who fed the priests – from faraway lands, as was usual in the Inca Empire – felt that the time had come to return to their places of origin. It was natural, on the other hand, that the conquerors did not value a place like Machu Picchu: the agricultural complexes of the Incas, prodigies of agronomic science and hydraulic engineering, only interested them if they were located close to the cities, where they felt safe, or to large populations of tributaries. Thus, the sanctuary was gradually devoured by weeds and oblivion, which, although it seems paradoxical, has made it possible to preserve it to the present day.
Machu Picchu is by far the most important tourist attraction in Peru. It is located 3 hours away by train from Cusco city, although it can also be reached on foot (4 days on the Inca Trail). Considered one of the most extraordinary works of landscape architecture in the world, Machu Picchu is nestled on the top of a mountain overlooking the deep canyon of the Urubamba River, in the middle of the rainforest. It consists of two large areas: one agricultural and one urban. The first is basically made up of five groups of platforms irrigated with water that descends through canals and pools, food stores and barracks for farmers. The second, the sacred area, includes temples, squares and royal mausoleums worked with exquisite perfection, such as the Temple of the Three Windows, which recalls the mythical origins of the founding Incas coming out of the three sacred caves of the Paqarictambo. Among the adoratories, the rocky outcrops and carved stones, known as Intiwatanas, with astronomical and religious functions, stand out. In the central square rests a sacred stone, characteristic of the Inca centers of importance. They complete the whole house of priests, lodgings and tombs. The stairs, streets, passages and channels of carved stone are a constant in this archaeological site, in front of which stands the spectacular Huayna Picchu hill, which is accessed by a steep stone path.
Visits to the Inca City of Machu Picchu
Machu Picchu can be visited at any time of the year, and has a limit of 1,500 visitors per day.
The traditional way to get to Machu Picchu is by train from Cusco or the Sacred Valley of the Incas.
The archeological zone of the Inca citadel of Machu Picchu is located within the Historic Sanctuary of Machu Picchu, declared as Natural and Cultural Patrimony of Humanity, is located 6 km. from Machu Picchu Village, urban and commercial area, hotels and restaurants, to where tourists can access from Cusco or the Sacred Valley of the Incas to start their visit.
Manuel Chávez Ballón Site Museum: Located in front of the Ruins Bridge, at the foot of the citadel of Machu Picchu Picchu, 1.7 km from Machu Picchu Pueblo.
All visitors must purchase a ticket to the archaeological zone in Machu Picchu Pueblo. Climbing the mountain can be done on foot or by mini-buses, whose tickets must also be purchased in the village.
Alternatively you can reach the archaeological site of Machu Picchu through a walk on the Inca Trail.
Inside the archaeological zone there are no toilets, no food or drink sales. These services are located in the area adjacent to the checkpoint, at the top of the mountain.
In order to prevent setbacks and long queues at ticket offices, it is recommended to take an organized tour that includes guiding, tickets and transportation.
Transportation by mini bus to the Inca city of Machu Picchu
The daily service begins the ascent from the village to the archaeological site at 5:30 am to 3 pm, every 15 minutes, the journey takes approximately 25 minutes. The return of the mini buses starts at 6:30 am and the last service leaves at 5:45 pm.
Entrance tickets to the Inca city of Machu Picchu
All persons must show an entry ticket at the checkpoint (upper part of the mountain), which is only sold in the village. People who want to extend their visit to the mountain of Huayna Picchu must buy the extension of visit (it is limited to 400 people per day).