Machu Picchu – “Lost city of the Incas” is the main destination for many tourists visiting Peru. The citadel was built in the 15th century during the reign of the great sovereign of Pachacuti (1438-1471) and then was abandoned after the conquest of the Inca Empire by the Spanish in the 16th century. It is definitely one of the best preserved Inca city (other also very well-know and very good preserved Inca ruins: Choquequirao ruins, Pisac ruins, Ollantaytambo ruins).
The archeological complex of Machupicchu is located in the middle of a tropical mountain forest. In the Peruvian Andes at an altitude of 2430 m and covers a huge area about 32,500 ha.
It is perfectly integrated into the landscape and terrain, an example of extraordinary aesthetics, harmony and integration with the nature. On the steep slopes of the city there are many terraces with a width of 2-4 meters, which allowed the cultivation and feeding of the entire community.
I think that this place will amaze everyone.
Everyone who visits Machu Picchu needs to know, that Incas did not discover steel but somehow their city was built with the stones matched to each other perfectly, without any mortar. It is amazing how they polished stones and fit them together, even more amazing considering that they did not have a lot of tools to do it.
They also did not have horses which could have helped them to carry incredible big pieces of stones.
Without any equipment used in our times, Incas created something that even now would be near impossible to do.
Machu Picchu was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983 and on July 7, 2007 it was announced one of the seven new wonders of the world. This archaeological complex was recognized by UNESCO as a masterpiece of art, urban planning, architecture and engineering Inca civilization.
Still no one knows what was the reason of abandoning the city as well as there is not an agreed upon theory for what purpose it was built. To this day the many mysteries of Machu Picchu remain unsolved, definitely making this old citadel more interesting.
Why was Machu Picchu built?
There is no simple answer for this question. It is assumed that Machupicchu was a ceremonial center as well as economic and defense center. Other theories say that Machu Picchu was built to honor a sacred landscape, others that was for the Virgins of the Sun or a royal retreat.
There are also theories that Machu Picchu was a kind of observatory. In this area new discoveries were made recently (July 2014). Thanks to Polish-Peruvian team it was proved recently (July 2014) that Incas “used observatories on Machu Picchu to track the movement of heavenly bodies”. Their discovery confirms that the Inca were family with astronomy.
The Polish-Peruvian investigators looked specifically at the Intimachay area of Machu Picchu, and reported that “Inca astronomers could have watched and tracked a number of astronomical phenomena from the area, including summer and winter solstices and the movement of the moon”. It means that Intimachay was probably a sacred space for Incas. There is also another observatory in the Inkaraqay area, located on Huayna Picchu. The Polish-Peruvian team used the newest technology in their investigation using 3D scanning software to analyze the structures and compare their shape and placement with the positions of the stars as they would have been seen by the Incas.
How to get to Lost city of the Incas Machu Picchu?
In recent years the number of people visiting Machu Picchu has increased and I am not surprised.
It is spectacular to see the city on the top of the hill, surrounded by beautiful landscapes. The access to Machupicchu is controlled and there are a limited number of visitors who can enter this archaeological site per day. The ruins are opened from 6 am till 5 pm and if you planning a trip, I recommend you get there as early as possible.
There are a lot of possibilities to reach this famous place. You can go there on foot – (choosing your route depends on your time, likes and dislikes, energy, physical condition), or you can go there by bus or train. You can organize the trip on your own or with a company.
Exploring Machupichu on your own
All roads to Machu Picchu are possible to do on your own, except Inca Trail, which is possible to organize only through a travel agency who has been permitted to do the tour.
However solo you can choose between Salkantay trek or Inca Jungle trek. It is also possible to do a trek from Ollantaytambo or better from the so-called km 82 near Ollantaytambo to Aguas Calientes. The hike will take you some hours 6-8 or more (depends on your walking skills), but is easy to do. You just need to follow the path which is situated near railway tracks going through a beautiful valley. The landscapes are very nice, with the snowy peak of Veronica in view.
In a separate article I will write about some roads going to Machu Picchu, to give you more tips and details.
Exploring Machupicchu with the travel agency
The other option is to organize the tour with travel agency. They offer different options of tours going to Machu Picchu like: Lares trek, Choquequirao trek, Inca Jungle Tour, Inca Trail, Salkantay trekk. You can also chose if you want to do them in 3,4,5 days. Only the Choquequirao trek is a much longer 8-9 days because it includes not only Machu Picchu ruins, but also Choquequirao ruins. The most popular among tourists are two tours to MachuPicchu: Inca Jungle Tour and Salkantay trek. You can find the differences between these two trips in my article here. If you are interested to do one of these tours, I am sure an article about them will help you with the decision and give you a lot of ideas how these adventures look and which one will match you and your personality better.
If you do not like walking to much or you do not have time you can visit Machupicchu by train or by bus (from the other side).
Exploring Machupicchu by train:
There are different options of the tours by train. The fastest is a one day tour. You can go very early in the morning by train to Aguas Calientes (the train goes from Ollantaytambo – 2 hours by bus from Cusco) then you have some hours for exploring the ruins and in the evening you can come back to Cusco, Poroy (which is near Cusco) or Ollantaytambo. All details about train tickets (the prices different depends on the time and from the service of the train), you will find on the website of perurail.
Exploring Machupicchu by bus:
There are companies who offer transfer from Cusco to Hidroelectrica (from where you have only 3 hours on foot to Aguas Calientes) for really reasonable prices. I recommend you to take this option. It will be around 10-15 soles more expensive than organizing transport by bus on your own, but for sure will take less time. You will have direct connection Cusco- Hidroelectrica and you will avoid the changes of the transport on the way.
If you have more time, or you want to see and explore villages and towns on the way Cusco – Hidroelectrica, or maybe want to trek some parts on foot, than you can organize a bus trip on your own. In this case you need to take first bus in Cusco to Santa Maria town. Then you have to hire taxi, or a collectivo from Santa Maria to Santa Teresa town and from here another taxi to Hidroelectrica.
We describe more details about this option\ in a separate article. It is quite interesting because here you can easily combine a bus trip with hiking. Simply you can go to a specific place by bus and then the rest overcome on foot.
We hope you get to see Machu Picchu one day soon! It is truly incredibly and really really worth it.