Machu Picchu Wonder of the World
Machu Picchu Wonder is a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1983 and designated one of the New Seven Wonders of the World in 2007. It is Peru’s most visited attraction and South America’s most famous ruins, welcoming hundreds of thousands of people a year. What makes this place so special? Why should you visit it?
Let’s start with some interesting facts about this amazing site:
Machu Picchu stands 2,430 m.a.s.l. It is located about 80 km (50 miles) northwest of Cusco, Peru, in the Cordillera de Vilcabamba of the Andes Mountains.
Machu Picchu is located in a tropical cloud forest and rain is present throughout the year, even in the dry season months. The average temperature ranges between 12ºC and 24ºC (54ºF and 75ºF). On the hottest days, it is possible to reach 26°C (79ºF).
During the dry season months (winter months in the southern hemisphere) there is a greater fluctuation between daytime and nighttime temps.
Rainy season: From November to March
Dry season: From April to November.
What is Machu Picchu?
Most modern archaeologists and historians agree that Machu Picchu was built by the Inca Pachacutec, the greatest statesman of Tahuantinsuyo (what the Inca called their expansive empire), who ruled from 1438 to 1471.
The origin of Machu Picchu is attributed with some certainty to Pachacutec. Likely built as a refuge for elite members of the Inca aristocracy.
Its strategic location was chosen with admirable success. Surrounded by steep cliffs and away from the sight of strangers in a tangled forest, the citadel of Machu Picchu had the quality of having only one narrow entrance so that only a few warriors were needed for defense in the event of a surprise attack.
Research conducted by John Rowe, Richard Burger, and Lucy Salazar-Burger indicates that Machu Picchu was a retreat built by and for the Inca ruler Pachacuti. Burger has suggested it was built for elites wanting to escape the noise and congestion of the city.
Brian Bauer, an expert in Andean civilization at the University of Illinois at Chicago and a National Geographic grantee, says Machu Picchu was, in fact, relatively small by Inca standards and maintained only about 500 to 750 people.
What is the real name of Machu Picchu?
Machu Picchu is a Quechua word that comes from “Machu” which means old or ancient, and “Picchu” meaning mountain. Therefore, Machu Picchu translates as “Old Mountain.”
There are many theories about the real name of Machu Picchu. Some said it may be Patallaqta, which comes from two words in Quechua, Pata which means steps, and Llaqta, which means town.
Federico Kauffman Doig, an important archaeologist, said that “Machu Picchu” is the way that the people of these places, using their very poor Spanish, kept referring to the Sanctuary. He said that the real and original name is not Patallaqta, but instead Llaqta Pata, because that is the correct way to pronounce it in the Quechua language.
Among local natives, Machu Picchu has many names. It needs to be investigated to finally know the real name of Machu Picchu. Machu Picchu is divided into two sectors:
- Agricultural Sector: The Incas built artificial agricultural terraces that increased the area available for cultivation. The terraces were built in two levels, the upper level was comprised of forty terraces and the lower of eighty.
- Urban Sector: It was divided into three districts: the Sacred District, the Popular District, and the Royalty District. This sector was connected by narrow passages with stairs along the way allowing people to access structures built on steep hills. The Popular District is where the common people or the low class lived.
Who discovered Machu Picchu?
While the rediscovery of the citadel is attributed to the American historian Hiram Bingham, there are sources that indicate that Agustin Lizarraga, a tenant of Cusco homelands came to the ruins nine years before the historian. According to Hiram Bingham, Lizarraga would have left an inscription on one of the walls of the Temple of the Three Windows. This registration would have been subsequently deleted.
Although Hiram Bingham was not the true discoverer of Machu Picchu, he promoted the site through his connections with Yale University, the National Geographic Society, and the Peruvian government, and made it known to the world.
Inkayni additional notes:
- In 1983 the Historic Sanctuary of Machu Picchu was inscribed by UNESCO on the List of World Cultural and Natural Heritage.
- In September 2007, Yale University agreed to return to Peru some of the thousands of artifacts that Bingham removed to Yale to study during his years of exploration and research.
Mountains that surround Machu Picchu citadel:
There are two beautiful mountains from which you can have the most spectacular view of the city, they are placed near the jungle brow: Huayna Picchu and Machu Picchu Mountain.
Huayna Picchu Mountain:
It is located at 2,720 m.a.s.l. north of the Inca Citadel. It is known as ‘Young Mountain’. You can find the Temple of the Moon there. The Huayna Picchu is currently one of the most popular attractions of the Wonder of the World. It takes an hour and a half to hike it roundtrip. To access this trekking route you need the Ticket Machu Picchu + Huayna Picchu.
Machu Picchu Mountain:
It is located at 3,082 meters above sea level and whose name was adopted from the Inca Citadel located in its lower part. Currently, its route is one of the tourist attractions in the Inca llaqta. The journey to the top is an adventure for the whole family. From the top, you can enjoy an incredible view from a unique viewpoint. To access its stone paths and reach the top you need the Ticket Machu Picchu + Mountain.
What can you find in Machu Picchu?
Almost everyone has seen pictures of the impressive Machu Picchu. However, not everyone is that familiar with all the interesting things you can see in the complex. Here are 9 things to see in Machu Picchu to make your visit worthwhile.
The Guardhouse or Caretaker’s Hut:
Although it isn’t one of the more important structures at Machu Picchu, it was an important building for security and defense. The building sits on a terraced hill overlooking the Sacred Plaza and served as a strategic watchtower over two main entrances to Machu Picchu. It is near the Guardhouse that most tourists take the popular panoramic photo of Machu Picchu.
The Sun Gate:
The sun gate (2,720 m / 8,924 ft), also known as Inti Punku in Quechua, is a viewpoint of Machu Picchu on one side of the Machu Picchu Mountain.
It’s more than just “a viewpoint of Machu Picchu”, it is the first viewpoint of Machu Picchu for all the people that do the Classic Inca Trail.
It used to be a control gate for people who entered and left the holy city of the Incas. Due to its rather remote location from the ruins, it is believed that Machu Picchu only welcomed people from the elite of the empire.
The Inca Bridge:
The Inca Bridge is believed to be a secret entrance to Machu Picchu. Built into a spectacular path along a sheer mountainside, the simple plank bridge could quickly be removed to scupper the progress of any unwanted arrivals.
Most people reach the Inca Bridge in about 20 to 30 minutes. It’s not a strenuous hike, but some of the drop-offs along the edges of the trail may be scary for anyone who suffers from vertigo.
The Incas had the sun (or Inti in Quechua) as one of their main gods. It was important for priests to observe the sun and understand it. So, they had an astronomic clock or calendar that indicated some significant celestial periods for them. This clock was called Intihuatana.
Intihuatana is derived from Quechua. Inti means “sun”, and Wata-, a verb meaning “to tie”. So, Intiwatana is literally an instrument or place to “tie up the sun” or known as the “hitching post of the sun” in English.
The Intihuatana is a monolithic structure carved in gray granite stone of the mountain top. It has 1 to 2 meters high and 2 meters in diameter. Its base does not have a defined shape but at the top stands out an upright stone column whose four sides indicate the four cardinal points: North, South, East, and West.
The Principal or Main Temple is located in the Sacred Plaza in the Urban Sector in Machu Picchu. It is an impressive rectangular-shaped building consisting of two lateral walls and one rear wall.
The expert anthropologists are based on the thesis that it was the most important of the Citadel Temple and it housed the most important celebrations and the sacred rituals of greater spiritual significance for the city.
The Temple of the Three Windows
The Three Windows are made of huge blocks of stone and have the typical trapezoidal shape the Incas used for designing them.
These were thought by the Incas as the windows of the universe, they were the representation of their division of the cosmos: The underground (Uku-Pacha) the heaven (Hanan-Pacha) and the present or the actual time (Kay-Pacha). These windows also represent the rise of the sun, an important event in the everyday life of the Inca population.
The Temple of the Condor:
The Condor was a sacred symbol for the Inca civilization and is one of the holy animals of Andean ideology today. It represents wisdom and the celestial domain which is called Hanan pacha in Quechua.
In the Temple of the Condor, you will see a gigantic condor made of stone, with its wings extended as if it were flying.
A natural rock formation began to take shape millions of years ago and the Inca skillfully shaped the rock. The attention to detail is spectacular with the rock on the left not touching the ground, symbolizing the bird flying through the air.
The Temple of the Sun:
The Temple of the Sun, or Templo Del Sol, was a sacred temple built by the Inca for ceremonies to pay tribute and give offerings to the sun. It sits on top of a large rocky mountain. Only priests and higher nobles were permitted to enter, with no commoners allowed inside. The temple’s structure mixes man-made and natural features. The most striking feature is the Torreón (“tower”), with its semicircular outer wall — a rarity in Inca construction. Under the large rock mass on which is the tower, it was found the entrance to a small underground cave which has excellent construction. This camera is behind where one can appreciate an extremely delicate work of masonry. There is the theory that it was designed as a crypt to house the mummified corpses several of the highest aristocracy members of the Inca civilization.
The temple of the Moon:
The Temple of the Moon itself is a wall of doors and windows sculpted perfectly into the space created by a giant overhanging rock.
The Incas had an admiration for the caves because they believed that they could connect them with the world of the dead.
There is a surface like a throne in the center of the Temple of the Moon. Some researchers suggest that sacrifices could be made there. However, no one has an exact idea of what the Moon Temple was.
The Temple of the Moon is located below the top of the Huayna Picchu mountain, at 2,720 meters above sea level. To get there you need the entrance ticket to climb Huayna Picchu Mountain.
What things should you bring?
- Original Passport
- Waterproof jacket/rain poncho
- Warm jacket
- Comfortable Trousers
- Sun hat
- Sun cream (factor 35 or higher)
- Insect repellent
- Personal medication
- Camera and film
“Investment in travel is an investment in yourself.” – Matthew Karsten.