Beautiful Day in The Lost City of the Incas Machu Picchu
Probably everyone alive has ever heard about the world’s most dramatic ruins, the Machu Picchu. Machu Picchu is a city located high in the Andes Mountains in modern Peru. It lies 43 miles northwest of Cuzco at the top of a ridge, hiding it from theUrabamba gorge below. The ridge is between a block of highland and the massive Huaynac Picchu, around which the Urubamba River takes a sharp bend. The surrounding area is covered in dense bush, some of it covering Pre-Colombian cultivation terraces.
Machu Picchu is probably the most familiar symbol of the Inca Empire. Machu Picchu (which means “manly peak”) was most likely a royal estate and religious retreat. It was built between 1460 and 1470 AD by Pachacuti Inca Yupanqui, an Incan ruler. The site has a large palace and temples dedicated to Inca deities around a courtyard, with other buildings for support staff. It is estimated that a maximum of only about 750 people resided in Machu Picchu at any one time, and probably only a small fraction of that number lived in the town during the rainy season and when none of the nobility were visiting. After Pachacutiâ€™s death, Machu Picchu became the property of his allus, or kinship group, which was responsible for itâ€™s maintenance, administration, and any new construction.
According to the archaeologists, Machu Picchu was divided in three great sectors: the Sacred District, the Popular District, to the south, and the District of the Priests and the Nobility (royalty zone). Located in the twentieth zone are the primary archaeological treasures: the intihuatana (which is a column of stone rising from a block of stone the size of a grand piano, Intihuatana literally means â€˜for tying the sun”, although it is usually translated as “hitching post of the sun”), the Temple of the Colors and the Room of the Three Dirt Pebbles. These were dedicated to Inti, their sun god and greatest deity.
Machu Picchu is comprised of approximately 200 buildings, most being residences, although there are temples, storage structures and other public buildings. It has polygonal masonry, characteristic of the late Inca period. About 1,200 people lived in and around Machu Picchu, most of them women, children, and priests. The buildings are thought to have been planned and built under the supervision of professional Inca architects. Most of the structures are built of granite blocks cut with bronze or stone tools, and smoothed with sand. The blocks fit together perfectly without mortar, although none of the blocks are the same size and have many faces; some have as many as 30 corners. The joints are so tight that even the thinnest of knife blades can’t be forced between the stones. Another unique thing about Machu Picchu is the integration of the architecture into the landscape. Existing stone formations were used in the construction of structures, sculptures are carved into the rock, water flows through cisterns and stone channels, and temples hang on steep precipices.
The Incas planted crops such as potatoes and maize at Machu Picchu. To get the highest yield possible, they used advanced terracing and irrigation methods to reduce erosion and increase the area available for cultivation. However, it probably did not produce a large enough surplus to export agricultural products to Cuzco, the Incan capital.
Getting to Machu Picchu Nearly all tourists reach Machu Picchu by flying from Lima to the city of Cuzco (1 hour 15 minutes), staying overnight, then catching an early morning train to a village at the base of the ruins (several hours). They then transfer to a bus that zig-zags up a steep 2,000 foot high mountain slope to reach the Macchu Picchu site (30 minutes).You can also hike from the Cuzco area to Macchu Picchu on a network of ancient paths collectively named the Inca (or Inka) Trail. The journey takes 2 to 10 days, depending on your speed and choice of paths. Helicopter service between Cuzco and Machu Picchu is now available.
Machu Picchu travel tips
The best months for visiting are May to September. May is the prettiest month (the dense, subtropical mountain forests are exceptionally green) while August is the best all around month. The least desirable period is from October to April, the rainy season.
Most travelers take a day trip to Machu Picchu (they take the mid afternoon train back to their hotels in Cuzco). This leaves just about two hours at the site - and part of that precious time is expended by having lunch at the hotel. You’ll have more hours to enjoy and explore the ruins if you stay overnight at the hotel at the site. You will be able to explore this travel wonder in the late afternoon and early the next morning when the tourist count is low. Rooms are scarce, so book well ahead.
The huge granite stone building blocks were hewn so precisely that they fit tightly together by themselves. No mortar or other adhesive was used. You cannot even insert a thin blade between their joints.
You can climb Huayna Picchu, the sharp peak immediately behind the ruins. The reward is a spectacular view of Machu Picchu below you. However, be fit and sure footed as the ancient stone steps to the top are steep and primitive. If you do climb the peak, avoid inclement weather as the stones could be slippery. And, in 2004, a visitor was struck by lightning when he reached the summit.
The conquering Spanish did not know of Machu Picchu because its existence was known only by local insiders.