DID YOU KNOW?
That Machu Picchu probably has been discovered twice before Hiram Bingham discovered the site and that from one occasion there are still carvings in the rocks to be found
That Stephen, one of the starting partners of SATO played the part of Hiram Bingham during the 100 year Aniversary of Machu Picchu, braodcasted live on national TV.
That besides the Classic 4 day Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, there is also a shorter 2 day version for the people who may not have much time but would like to hike to Machu Picchu.
Machu Picchu Information
Machu Picchu is one of the biggest attractions in Peru, and not surprisingly. Located on a steep mountain ridge surrounded by lush green mountains and snowcapped peaks in the distance, this is a site that was built to impress and hence holds several of the biggest attractions in Peru. Machu Picchu information and knowledge has been gathered throughout the years by hundreds of archeologists and still much of the Machu Picchu information is incomplete or unsure at the least. This is why to discover and hike Machu Picchu feels like actually discovering the site. As the Machu Picchu information is still somewhat incomplete you can contemplate about the significance, the whether or not a certain stone or detail was intentional or not, and all the questions this site asks its visitors to think about.
Following we will give you a quick overview of Machu Picchu information and places within the site you would want to visit on a one or two day Machu Picchu visit.
Hike Machu Picchu;
Not only is the site itself declared a UNESCO patrimony, it is one of the ways to get there as well. Hiking Machu Picchu via the famous Inca Trail is probably the most impressive way to get to Machu Picchu. This hike will help you appreciate the highly elaborated Inca culture not only by one of its most famous constructions, but also by seeing the maze of Inca highways they built to maintain such a vast empire. The main Inca Trail takes 4 days to complete and takes you over mountain passes and highlands to lower altitudes and warmer climate as you arrive to Machu Picchu. On route you will see some other fascinating Inca sites such as Llactapata, Runkurakay, Sayacmarca, Phuyupatamarca and Wiñay Wayna. On the fourth day you will get up really early to do the last kilometers and arrive at Machu Picchu at sunrise. The way you enter the site in the way many Incas did, through the Sungate and by the Guardhouse. From here the sight of Machu Picchu is unforgettable and with a bit of goodwill from the sun, maybe one of the most impressive sites you’ll ever see. Another option is the 2 day Inca Trail, this shorter version takes you over the last part of the official Inca Trail and also grants you the honor to enter this city through the Sungate. Of course the Inca Trail is one of the major attractions in Peru and as there is a limited number of 500 people daily it often gets sold out so booking well in advance is advised. But still this is no reason to worry; there are two alternative ways to hike Machu Picchu.
Part of the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu
The 4 day Lares trek takes you from the Thermal Baths of Lares just outside of the Sacred Valley over mountain passes and plains, visiting some authentic Quechua villages on the way, to Ollantaytambo, from where you will take the train to Aguas Calientes.
The 5 day Salkantay Trek is a highland trek giving you the opportunity to get to know one of the “Apu’s” of the region; Sacred Mountains. This hike takes you over some high passes and shows you the change in climate and vegetation when rising to almost 5000 meters of altitude before reaching Ollantaytambo to take the train to Machu Picchu.
As mentioned above, the Sungate is where the famous Inca trail ends and goes up into the site of Machu Picchu. Here there is a gateway constructed which one can see as the official entrance gate of the site. In ancient times the gate was probably guarded and maybe even in charge of denying people access to this sacred place. The visitors not doing the Inca Trail are also free to go to the Sungate. This is definitely recommended as some of the most beautiful pictures from Machu Picchu can be taken from this angle. The Guardhouse can also be found in this region of the site.
Probably the opposite point from the Sungate is Huayna Picchu, or Young Mountain. This impressive mountain stands out for its steep slopes covered in green. The mountain can be climbed via a small and steep path that gives you altitude over the site below. Once you reach the top you can see Machu Picchu way below and get the true impact of what an amazing place the Inca’s choose to construct their citadel. On Huayna Picchu itself there are other buildings erected and artificial caves dug out of big rocks.
Wayna Picchu seen from the Sun Gate
Sectors and architecture of the site:
The site of Machu Picchu is divided into two main sections known as the Urban and Agricultural Sectors, divided by a wall. The Agricultural Sector is further subdivided into Upper and Lower sectors, while the Urban Sector is split into East and West sectors, separated by wide plazas.
The central buildings of Machu Picchu use the classical Inca architectural style of polished dry-stone walls of regular shape. Many junctions in the central city are so perfect that it is said not even a blade of grass fits between the stones.
Detail of an Inca Wall - Machu Picchu
Some Inca buildings were constructed using mortar, but by Inca standards this was quick, shoddy construction, and was not used in the building of important structures. Peru is a highly seismic land, and mortar-free construction was more earthquake-resistant than using mortar. The stones of the dry-stone walls built by the Incas can move slightly and resettle without the walls collapsing.
Inca walls had numerous design details that helped protect them against collapsing in an earthquake. Doors and windows are trapezoidal and tilt inward from bottom to top, corners usually are rounded, inside corners often incline slightly into the rooms, and "L"-shaped blocks often were used to tie outside corners of the structure together. These walls do not rise straight from bottom to top but are offset slightly from row to row. How they moved and placed the enormous blocks of stones remains a mystery, although the general belief is that they used hundreds of men to push the stones up inclined planes. A few of the stones still have knobs on them that could have been used to lever them into position, it is believed that after the stones were placed, the Incas would have sanded the knobs away, but a few were overlooked.
The space is composed of 140 structures or features, including temples, sanctuaries, parks, and residences that include houses with thatched roofs. There are more than one hundred flights of stone steps –often completely carved from a single block of granite –and numerous water fountains. These were interconnected by channels and water-drains perforated in the rock that were designed for the original irrigation system. Evidence suggests that the irrigation system was used to carry water from a holy spring to each of the houses in turn.
According to archaeologists, the urban sector of Machu Picchu was divided into three great districts: the Sacred District, the Popular District to the south, and the District of the Priests and the Nobility.
View on the Urban Sector
Located in the first zone are the primary archaeological treasures: the Intihuatana, the Temple of the Sun and the Room of the Three Windows.
Room of the Three Windows - Machu Picchu
These were dedicated to Inti, their sun god and greatest deity. The Popular District, or Residential District, is the place where the lower-class people lived. It includes storage buildings and simple houses.
The royalty area, a sector for the nobility, is a group of houses located in rows over a slope; the residence of the Amautas (wise persons) was characterized by its reddish walls, and the zone of the Ñustas (princesses) had trapezoid-shaped rooms. The Monumental Mausoleum is a carved statue with vaulted interior and carved drawings.
View towards the Sun Gate - Machu Picchu
The Guardhouse is a three-sided building, with one of its long sides opening onto the Terrace of the Ceremonial Rock. The three-sided style of Inca architecture is known as the wayrona style.