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Machu Picchu: All About the Inca Citadel of Machu Picchu in Peru

The new wonder of the world located to 100km from the city of Cusco now is open for tourism.

We cannot say that Machu Picchu is an Inca city whose history can impact you too much, this because it has no written history. Some of the most important parts of what was known about her were erased from people’s minds with her abandonment. However, it is very interesting to imagine how they built it, how they made to fit the stones so exactly, how they molded them, why they chose such a hidden place to build it because the Inca city has been designed for the most important people of the Inca Empire.

Why is MACHU PICCHU so famous?

  • Machu Picchu was built as a retirement home for the “Inca Pachakutec” and his family. Evidence such as carbon 14 indicates that it was built at the end of the 14th century (around 100 years before the Spanish arrived on the continent).
  • Machu Picchu is inundated with temples and beautiful residences, as well as platforms, water channels and roads leading to the top of the mountains.
  • The city was designed to be completely self-sufficient and to comfortably house its inhabitants, without depending in any way on the outside.
  • He had his own agricultural fields, textile workshops, servants, cattle pens and water all day and everywhere.

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Machu Picchu limits the north with the mountain Huayna Picchu, which allows the visit of the Temple of the Moon. To the south, with the network of trails known as the Inca Trail, a 4-day, 3-night hiking route. To the east with the road that leads to the town of Aguas Calientes. And to the west with the road that leads to the Inca Bridge and marked the limits of the Inca city.

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Machu Picchu – ¿The jewel of the emperor?

  • Machu Picchu was ordered to be built by the famous Inca emperor Pachacutec (1438 – 1471) to be his place of rest in a strategic point of the empire: the limits with the Amazon rainforest.
  • The buildings of Machu Picchu were built in harmony with their natural environment. The Incas adapted the shapes of the mountains to build their city.
  • Most of their construction is underground, as they have developed a complete irrigation system to grow plants of different species in various parts.
  • In Machu Picchu all types of crops have been found: from tubers in the highest areas to hallucinogenic plants from the jungle parts of the empire.
  • Like many of the most important Inca settlements, it was built on terraces linked by steep paths and stone steps.

Where Machu Picchu is located?

  • Currently; the Inca citadel of Machu Picchu is located in the district of the same name, in the province of Urubamba, in the department of Cusco, in the south of Peru (South America).
  • If we take into account the geography, Machu Picchu is located at 2,438 meters above sea level (m.s.n.m.), between the Andes and the front of the Amazon jungle.
  • There are 3 mountains that surround the Inca wonder: The Mountain of Machu Picchu, The Mountain of Huayna Picchu and Putucusi mountain. All these mountains belong to the so called «Batholith of Vilcabamba».
  • Due to its location on top of an inaccessible mountain, Machu Picchu was little known to Spanish invaders and neighboring settlers, until it became known to the whole world by the investigations of American explorer Hiram Bingham in 1911.

Map to get to Inca Citadel of Machu Picchu

  • By train from Ollantaytambo – The trip begins with a road trip from the city of Cusco to the town of Ollantaytambo, in the Sacred Valley of the Incas (almost 2-hour journey). Then you have to take a train that will take you to the town of Aguas Calientes (another 2-hours journey). Finally, you must take a bus to Machu Picchu (30-minutes journey).
  • By the route of Santa Teresa (hydroelectric) – The route begins in the city of Cusco with the journey by bus to the station ‘Hidroeléctrica’, crossing the towns of Santa Maria and Santa Teresa in the jungle of Cusco (almost 5-hour trip). Then you have to take a walk of about 3 hours to the town of Aguas Calientes. Finally, you take the bus that takes you to Machu Picchu in 30 minutes. It is recommended to do this route on a 2-days tour.

The geography

  • Where Machu Picchu is located is characterized by the presence of mountains and peaks belonging to the so-called «Cordillera de Vilcabamba» where the imposing snow of Salkantay stands out.
  • The area has geological faults, which generated an abundance of granite stones (which facilitated the construction of the Inca citadel). Two mountains stand out against the Inca citadel: The mountain of Huayna Picchu and Machupicchu. Currently, the two mountains offer the two most popular hiking trails next to Machu Picchu Inca citadel. Another of the neighboring mountains is the Mountain of “Putucusi”. Just 10 kilometers away is the famous town of Aguas Calientes.

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Flora and fauna

  • Machu Picchu has a great diversity of butterflies and birds where the “Cock of the rocks” stands out, recognized as the national bird of Peru.
  • There are also some wild animals like the pudu, the sachacabra, the ucumari, the llama, the vizcachas and the spectacle bear, the latter in danger of extinction.
  • Among the species of flowers stand out, without a doubt, the more than 300 species of orchids, a flower much appreciated for its beauty and multicolored shapes. Likewise, there are many species of ferns, shrubs, and more.

What does Machu Picchu mean?

  • The word Machu Picchu comes from the Quechua language (language of the Incas and many current peoples settled in the Andes) which means «old mountain». This name was chosen arbitrarily by the settlers who called the mountain this way.
  • However, according to various surveys, the real name of Machu Picchu is “Patallaqta”, a Quechua word which means “people of the marches”.
  • Currently Machu Picchu is also the name by which the famous city of Aguas Calientes is known, located at the foot of the Inca wonder. The huge mountain on which the archaeological site is located is also known by this name.
  • Likewise, the Peruvians have baptized “Machu Picchu” a famous cocktail made from pisco (brandy symbol of Peru) and whose presentation combines the colors green, yellow and red.

Is Machu Picchu unbelievable?

Machu Picchu receives just over 1.5 million visitors per year. It’s true, the fame of the Inca wonder invites tourists from all over the planet. However, just how much does Machu Picchu really have to offer its visitors?

The landscapes.- Tourists whose see Machu Picchu for the first time are in awe of the beautiful landscapes that surround the archaeological site. Views include mountains, blue (sometimes cloudy) skies, an impressive area of ​​platforms, trees, and more.

Energy.- Although it may seem surprising, many tourists say they feel a special energy when visiting Machu Picchu. One of the famous attractions for radiating energy is the Intihuatana (solar clock). To do this, you just need to bring your hand closer to this construction. Touching is currently prohibited.

History.- The Incas did not have a writing system. Most of its history has been written by the Spanish chroniclers who arrived with the conquest. For this reason, everything that we know about the Inca wonder is still shrouded in mysteries. To get a clearer idea of ​​this enigmatic place, it is important to hire a tourist guide service who will lead you in a comfortable and informative Machu Picchu Tour.

What to see in Machu Picchu?

Machu Picchu is impressive: it has temples, residences, platforms, photo scenic trails and more. Most of these places are included in the Machu Picchu tour itinerary. To enter others, you have to take optional routes, as in the case of Intipunku and the Inca Bridge. In other cases, like the Temple of the Moon, the visit is included in a different ticket (entrance which includes Huayna Picchu mountain).

The Guardian’s House.- Famous construction from which the whole environment of Machu Picchu has been observed as it offers a panoramic view of the place. Currently, in this place, tourists take the classic postcard photo.

Intipunku.- The famous sun gate or “Puerta del Sol” through which the Incas entered to Machu Picchu from Cusco. There the sun’s rays were received at the summer solstices. It consists of several walls and windows, as well as a main door through which enter the tourists who make the famous 4-day Inca Trail. Getting to the top from the current entrance to the archaeological site takes around 1 hour.

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Inca Bridge.- The Inca Bridge is a rustic stone construction that limited the boundaries of the Inca Empire to the east. Faced with a possible threat, the Incas destroyed the bridge to prevent invasions. Currently there is an optional route which takes approximately 30 minutes. It goes through sections close to the cliffs but 100% safe.

The Intihuatana.- This construction is made of a large stone carved on three levels which receives direct sunlight. This sundial was used to know the sowing and harvest seasons of the place. It is believed that the villagers who bring their hands to this construction are filled with the energy that comes from the sun.

Main temple.- The main temple consists of an enclosure with three walls and a main platform serving as an offering table. It also has large windows where the decorations have been placed. Here a geological foul is visible that affect the eastern wall of the temple. Now the temple is named as the “Wiracocha´s” temple.

The temple of the 3 windows.- The temple of the 3 windows, as its name suggests, consists of a stone structure with three open windows which symbolize the division of the Inca world into three levels: The Hanan Pasha (celestial world), the Kay Pasha (underworld) and Ukhu Pasha (world of the dead); two windows was closed.

The Temple of the Condor.- This temple consists of an irregularly shaped rock, as well as a stone figure on the ground; which visually united form a figure of a condor, a sacred bird to the Incas. According to the Inca worldview, the condor communicated the terrestrial world with the celestial world of the gods.

The Temple of the Sun.- This temple was one of the main religious sites in Machu Picchu. It is made up of many regularly carved stones that form a circumference at the top of a cave. It is on the highest point of the place so it received the sun’s rays inside. Below is a staircase that leads to what would be a royal tomb, due to the relics found there when it was discovered.

Temple of the Moon.- This construction is also known as the “Great Cave” because it is built inside a cave. It has intricately carved walls and windows, as well as a sort of altar where sacrifices are believed to have been made. The Temple of the Moon is on Huayna Picchu Mountain, one hour from a fork. Visitors who come to the temple will find themselves almost alone as few people approach it.

The Mountain of Machu Picchu

Machupicchu not only offers temples, enclosures and mysterious Inca buildings. It also includes incredible hikes to its most famous mountains: Huayna Picchu and Machu Picchu Mountain. Both routes were mapped out by the Incas themselves to honor their gods at the top of the square. From its peaks there are beautiful views of the archaeological site. Moreover, you can see abundant flora, fauna and mysterious temples.

  • Huayna Picchu Mountain.- This peak is the one that stands out in the classic postcard photo of Machu Picchu. At its peaks, the Incas have built hundreds of stone steps, some of which are close to precipices. This is why entry is only allowed for tourists over 12 years old. This adventure is considered an exciting experience. You can also visit mysterious constructions such as the Temple of the Moon. Entrance is with the «Machupicchu + Huayna Picchu» ticket.
  • Machupicchu Mountain.- This imposing mountain is where the archaeological site of Machu Picchu is located. Its name was taken to name the Inca city, although it is believed that its real name was «Patallacta». In the mountain, the Incas traced ascending paths to its summit. From here you have the highest view of the Inca complex. You can also observe a diversity of flora and fauna. Entrance is for visitors of all ages and is done with the “Machupicchu + Mountain” ticket.

Other things you can do while traveling

In addition to the adventure routes through its mountains and its archaeological site full of buildings and history, during the trip, the tourist can visit other incredible places. For example, one of the most important attractions in the region is the 7-colored mountain, also known as «Vinicunca» or The Rainbow Mountain. Likewise, the tourist can visit the city of Cusco, the Sacred Valley, The Picturesque lagoon of Humantay or hike the Inca Trail.

The City of Cusco.- The capital of Cusco has countless tourist attractions and options for the visitor. Its most famous archaeological sites are Sacsayhuaman and Coricancha. Its museums, churches, culture and nightlife are also attractive. There are most of the hotels, restaurants, bars and tourist services.

The Sacred Valley of the Incas.- This collection of cities and geographic areas was an important place for the Incas who built citadels and palaces such as Pisac, Ollantaytambo and Chinchero. The salt mines of Maras and the circular platforms of Moray are also famous. Today, the tourist can practice different types of adventure sports in the Sacred Valley.

The Mountain of the 7 Colors.- Vinicunca is the second most popular tourist attraction in Cusco, after Machu Picchu. It is a natural mountain located at an altitude of over 5,000 meters (16,400 feet). Due to a process of natural mineralization, the mountain bears different colors that resemble a rainbow. However, on cold days and heavy rains, snow partially covers the area.

The Inca Trail.- According to the tourists who made the 4-day Inca Trail; there is no better way to get to Machu Picchu. In total, each tourist travels 45 kilometers through the ancient roads traced by the Incas and which linked Cusco to Machu Picchu. Entrance is via “Puerta del Sol” or (Intipunku). To do this walk, yes or yes, you must rent a tour online 5 or 6 months before.

How to get there?

To get to Machu Picchu, you can choose from the only 3 access routes:

  • The train journey through Ollantaytambo.- This short train ride is one of the most incredible route. Travel through the magnificent landscapes of the Sacred Valley of the Incas until you reach Machu Picchu. Most visitors take the minibus ride from Cusco to Ollantaytambo and from there by train to Aguas Calientes. In this town you take a bus or walk to the entrance gate of Machu Picchu.
  • The bus trip through Hidroeléctrica.- This little-known route begins in Cusco, crosses landscapes of the High Andes and ends in the town of Aguas Calientes, in the jungle of the region. The route starts in the city of Cusco from where you take a bus to the city of Santa María. Then the route continues to the town of Santa Teresa and, from there, to the hydroelectric power station. Finally, you must continue on foot or by train to Aguas Calientes, at the foot of Machu Picchu. In total, the route can take 6 to 7 hours.
  • The classic Inca Trail route.- This hiking route covers a section of the Inca road network that linked Cusco to Machu Picchu. Each visitor will travel 45 kilometers during 4 days and 3 nights of camping until arriving at the Inca city by the sun gate or “Puerta del Sol” (old entrance way used by the Incas). There is an alternative route of only 2 days called “Short Inca Trail”.

When is the best time to go to Machu Picchu?

During the year, Machu Pcchu has two well differentiated seasons: the dry season (from April to October) and the rainy season (from November to March). The first is characterized by the low presence of rain and clouds. The second, because of the greater frequency of rains and clouds. The rainiest months are January, February and March.

According to visitors who have been to Machupicchu before, the best time to go is during the dry season (April to October). During these months, the days are sunnier and with less chance of rain. This allows you to take the best photos of the Inca citadel. For many, May, June and July are the best months to visit; these months are the tourist peak season so, it is very important to reserve your entrance and your tours in advance.

Some tips for your Machupicchu visit

  • If you are visiting Machupicchu on your own, you can buy your tickets online. Tickets are sold on the website of the Ministry of Culture of Peru. You can also make your purchase through the website of an approved tourist agency.
  • Machu Picchu is 2430 meters above sea level. At this altitude, the symptoms of altitude sickness (also called soroche), such as fatigue, nausea, and excessive restlessness when exercising in physical activity, are less severe. To reduce these symptoms, avoid alcoholic drinks and fatty foods.
  • Inside Machu Picchu, the use of umbrellas, baby cars and high heels is prohibited. Instead, the visitor should wear a rain poncho, backpack-style baby carrier, and slippers. In addition, selfie sticks and drones are prohibited.

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