Machu Picchu National Sanctuary"The Holy City of the Incas"
"The Lost City"
World Heritage Site by UNESCO
It is a mystical place, a monument to divinity, where people can feel that they are a creation of God. The high sense of spirituality that inhabits this place seems to transport its visitors to a place where everything "in an unimaginable way" is possible.
It is a place where strange forces of nature allow the individuals to reach an incomparable cosmic state, a state that can only be experimented in Machu Picchu
It is one of the most popular archaeological sites of the world, and therefore, the most visited attraction in Peru.
The Citadel of Machu Picchu (in 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 river.
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 valley of Urubamba 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" (in 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 Cuzco 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.
At 2,430 meters above sea level, 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 rock escarpments. The natural setting on the eastern slope of the Andes encompasses the upper Amazon basin with its rich diversity of species.
The minimum recommended time to visit Machu Picchu is one day.
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 stone.
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 (in Quechua = wise people) and by the Ñustas (in Quechua = 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 the river Urubamba. 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.