Machu Picchu (Quechua language "Old Mountain") is known throughout
the world for its amazing ruins and its unusual location on
a high mountain overlooking the mighty currents of the Urubamba
Even today nobody has been able to solve the mystery
how the builders and designers managed to transport the huge
blocks of limestone to the top of the mountain required for
the construction of the city.
Probably built during the 15th century in a very difficult
location, it is the greatest achievement of the Incas architects
due to the intelligence and dare demonstrated by their design.
It has an extent of 13 sq/km and its main functions were military
and religious. It used to be surrounded by an outer wall with
a height of 6.00 m. and a width of 1.80 m. and it is estimated
that it was inhabited by 10000 people. Built of limestone (the
outer and inner walls), wood (doors and frames), and ceilings
made of straw.
Machu Picchu is located 2300 meters above sea level (7546
ft.), at 112 km. (70 miles) from Cuzco, in the Urubamba valley
in the lowest part of the Sacred Valley of the Incas in a area
of direct access to the upper jungle. Without doubt, Machu Picchu
was part of a very big complex of fortresses which defended
the Andean lands in Sacred valley of any assault from native
people out of the jungle.
Having Huayna Picchu as a background they divided Machu
Picchu in four sectors. Northwest is located the area that was
probably used for the main religious purposes, that includes
a Plaza named by Hiram Bingham as "Sacred Plaza", also the temple
of the "Three Windows", "The Sacred Temple", the "Priests Mansion",
and the "Intihuatana" that is a large block of limestone used
during Inca ceremonies.
The "Intihuatana" (Quechua "place where the sun is bonded")
is a solar observatory that allowed the Incas to keep track
of the seasons of the year and the flow of time based on the
shadows caused by the sun over the stone.
The largest residences are located on the northeast of
the complex. The most luxurious residences and also a watch
tower are located on the southwest of the complex and therefore
it is assumed that this part of the Citadel was probably the
heart of all the urban activities.
To the southeast of the complex are located the
smallest and most humble of the buildings built around very
narrow streets, close to numerous terraces constructed for agricultural
purposes as denoted by the existence of a very complex aqueduct
system in this area. In the lowest
part of the terraces is a cemetery, where during a search were
discovered 135 skeletons and 109 of them were identified as
females. This fact has allowed historians and archeologists
to believe that Machu Picchu's inhabitants were mostly females
that could have been the chosen ones of the Inca, fleeing from
Cusco when it was overrun by the Conquerors of Spain and seeking
refuge in Machu Picchu that, by the way, was never discovered
by the Spaniards.
Machu Picchu was introduced to the scientific world by
Hiram Bingham, who was led to the site by the folk that lived
in the area. He reached it on July 24th,1911. Bingham, an American
Anthropologist from Yale University, was the one that began
the Archaeological studies of the area, and it was him who gave
the city the title of the "Lost City of the Incas" that was
also the name he used for his book on the subject.
Since 1981 it has been declared Historical Sanctuary
as well as World Heritage Site by UNESCO because of its archaeological
importance as well as its unique flora such as the orchids that
you may find aplenty.
The Monumental Mausoleum is a construction
made of limestone with carved walls which interiors were used
for religious rituals as well as sacrifices.
Inside the Citadel can be found
a sector used as a jail where torment and punishment were given
to the prisoners that were kept inside small niches carved in
The residential area includes a sector
used by the nobles of the Citadel. It can be distinguished by
the fact that it is constructed over a slope and the constructions
are neatly separated from each other. Those residences were
used by the "Amautas" (Quechua language " wise people") and
by the "Ñustas" (Quechua language "princess") and their rooms
had trapezoidal shape.
During the time of the Incas, Machu Picchu
was reached following a mountain trail at 3281 ft. over the
left bank of Urubamba river. This trail went through the following
locations where interesting ruins in typical Inca style can
still be found and visited, if you decide to follow the Inca
Trail: Patallacta, Huallabamba, Runku Rakay, Sayacmarca, Phuyu
Pata Marca and Huiñay Huayna.
From Machu Picchu you can take a trail shaped
to the resemblance of a horse shoe that will take you through
high mountains and lead you to the breathtaking summit of the
Huayna Picchu that is located to the Northeast of the Citadel.
From there you will see the most beautiful view of the whole
Citadel of Machu Picchu and you may experience being close to
the Gods that took the Incas through their History. During the
trip you will see natural caves, sculpted caverns, and terraces
with volleys of very steep stairwells that were shaped out of
the natural rock formations by the Incas. Also, at the top of
the Huayna Picchu you will see the Andenes (structures in the
shape of terraces that were used for agricultural purposes and
semi circular walls).
If you enjoy good books and poems and if your travel
plans include Machu Picchu we may suggest to read the poem "Heights
of Machu Picchu" (Alturas de Machu Picchu) written by the famous
Chilean writer and Nobel Prize winner Pablo Neruda.