Visiting Machu Picchu is one of the best travel experiences one can have , the place that has thrilled rogues and royalty alike for centuries is perched at 7,710 feet ( 2,350 meters) above sea level overlooking the Urubamba Valley in Southeastern Peru .
Legend tells of the Incas or “sons of the sun” , founding the empire that , by the 15th century , under their leader Pachucutek , was as large as the Roman empire had ever been .
But this golden age lasted less than 100 years , brought to an end by Spanish conquerors and the civil war , and Machu Picchu was abandoned .
When the ruins were discovered , they laid smothered between layers of jungle , known only to a handful of local farmers .
From the maze of temples , getaways , palaces , chambers and squares – clinging to terraces cut from the almost vertical hillside – archaeologists pieced together the story of a civilisation that once ruled supreme in this high altitude , exotic region .
Its original purpose is still unknown, but one thing is clear: It’s an engineering marvel . No one knows precisely its genesis, intended purpose, how many lived there or why they left.
Among the popular theories – each one has the proofs , of course are the following :
- royal estate for Inca emperors
- religious site
- as a prison
- a trade hub
- a station for testing new crops
- a women’s retreat
- a city devoted to the coronation of kings
I’m sure there are more theories with “the proof” but one thing we know for sure : Machu Picchu was the city .
How do we know it was the city ?
Archaeologists have identified several distinct sectors that together comprise the city, including a farming zone, a residential neighborhood, a royal district and a sacred area.
The Incas were some of the best masons in the world.They used the technique called ashlar (stones that are cut to fit together without mortar) that not even a knife blade can fit in between stones.
Temple of the Sun
The two of the most famous structures inside Machu Picchu are the Temple of the Sun – one of the most sacred temples in all of Machu Picchu. In this sacred temple, it is believed the Inca’s worshiped their sun god.. A rock inside the temple could have served as an altar. During the June solstice the rising sun shines directly into one of the temple’s windows, and this indicates an alignment between the window, rock and solstice sun.
Only priests and higher nobles were permitted to enter the Temple . The Temple of the three windows is linked to the Andean Cosmology
The Intihuatana stone (“hitching post of the sun”)- a granite rock , that supposedly had the function of a solar clock calendar .
It is located in the ritual area of the site, to the west of the main plaza. Carved boulders were a part of the Inka relationship with the earth, and expressions of belief in a landscape inhabited by supernatural forces.
Machu Picchu was an astronomical observatory, and its sacred Intihuatana stone accurately indicates the two equinoxes. Twice a year, the sun sits directly over the stone creating no shadow. At the winter solstice the sun shining directly on the altar stone in the temple of the sun.
On the Sacred Square , the Main Tempe has five walls , ornamental niches , and priest’s chambers .
Machu Picchu is probably the most well preserved sight with 70 per cent of the ruins in their original state . Most cities built by the Inca civilization were destroyed by the Spanish conquest. Machu Picchu was in a hidden location—invisible from below.
The structures at Machu Picchu have survived centuries of earthquakes.What makes that so remarkable, is that it was built entirely without mortar. The rocks are perfectly cut to fit closely together. So closely, in fact, that you can’t even fit a credit card between two bricks! Modern architects suspect that by allowing the individual bricks to move slightly during an earthquake they took on far less damage than if they were glued together.
Many modern-day archaeologists now believe that Machu Picchu residences were only used for sleeping and cooking, with the sole furniture consisting of beds. Life in Machu Picchu was conducted outside the house .
Most of the people who lived there permanently were retainers and colonists obligated to move to their location. Graves at Machu Picchu have yielded evidence that many of the yanaconas there were craftspeople, including metalsmiths, who came from all over the empire.
If you are looking to hike up to Machu Picchu and explore its surrounding area, there are a number of routes available to you. My suggestion for those who are visiting Machu Picchu is to hike up Huanya Picchu, the neighbouring peak to get a full view of the ruins on Machu Picchu mountain. Huanya Picchu is less crowded, however they only let in 400 people a day, so be sure to get there early. The hike is also not for beginners, but take your time, there is so much to take in!
Visiting Machu Picchu is a very special experience, I hope this blog inspired you to travel there !