- South America’s top archeological site .
- Located at 2,430m (7,900ft) above sea level.
- Cloud Forest Climate .
- Con only be reached by train or on foot .
- Discovered in 1911 by Hiram Bingham
Machu Picchu is without doubt Peru’s most enigmatic site and best known landmark. The Lost City of the Incas as the site is also known was discovered relatively recently in 1911 by the American explorer Hiram Bingham (even though there is some proof of earlier foreign visitors) and ever since did not stop visitors imagination run wild.
THINGS TO DO
Machu Picchu History
The history of Machu Picchu is still very much a mystery as there are remaining a lot of question marks about the motives for the construction as well as the construction itself. This UNESCO World heritage site; was built around 1450’s but the exact year of construction has never been pinned down. Perched on a mountain ridge 2,400m (7,900ft) in the Andes Mountains, overlooking the Urubamba River, this city of the Incas is one of South America’s prime archaeological sites. The true motives behind this engineering marvel is something still very much at discussion amongst archeologists. Possible hypothesizes include a royal estate for Inca king Pachacuti Inca Yupanqui as well as a funerary place for important Inca Rulers. As the Inca empire never left behind any written testimony and the Spanish never discovered Machu Picchu, the city is often referred to as the “Lost City” of the Incas. The real motivations behind this city in the clouds will most likely remain a mystery – perhaps in the end only adding to the beauty and mystery of the place. It is not known when Machu Picchu was abandoned but assumed is that this was during the Spanish conquest. In Inca times the site could only be accessed using the Inca Trail -a huge network of paved paths reaching to the far corners of the empire- coming from Cusco and arriving to Machu Picchu through the Sun Gate. Machu Picchu can be divided into 4 sectors; an urban and agricultural sector, and an upper and lower town. The temples can be found in the upper town, the storage and other houses in the lower sections. The most important parts of Machu Picchu can be found in the urban area with the Intihuatana stone, the Temple of the Sun, the Room of the Three Windows and the Temple of the Condor being the best known ones. On the northern end of the site you can find the mountain of Huayna Picchu with the temple of the Moon located on the top. The site was officially discovered by explorer Hiram Bingham, an American professor at Yale University in 1911 and ever since did not stop fascinating.
Machu Picchu Geography
The lost city of Machu Picchu is located about 80km (50mi) northwest from Cusco at an altitude of 2,400 meters above sea level (7,900ft) – about 1,000m lower than Cusco. This city of the Incas is perched on a mountain ridge on the final outskirts of the Andes mountain range before flowing out into the Amazon Rainforest basin. Machu Picchu is located above a river bow in the Vilcanote (Urubamba) River allowing to appreciate the river on both sides of the ruins. The site is located on a mountain ridge that was flattened at parts and protected on both sides by other mountains; Huayna Picchu on the north and Mountain Machu Picchu on the south. The terraces on the site are all handmade and filled up with soil from the Urubamba River to increase production. The historic sanctuary is located in the Machu Picchu National Park which, apart from its archaeological sites, is also home to a lot of flora and fauna. The park has one of the largest diversity in orchids on the planet and animal life ranges from the only native bear in South America; the Spectacled Bear to hummingbirds and the beautiful Cock of the Rock. With such a location and surroundings this must have been and still is the highlight of the Inca Empire.
Machu Picchu Weather
- Rainy season from November through April
- Dry season April through October
- Average Min / Max Rainy season 10ºC/50ºF – 23ºC/73ºF
- Average Min / Max Dry season 5ºC/41ºF – 21ºC/70ºF
- Most rain falls in January and February
- Throughout the year mornings can often be cloudy but clear later in the day
- Machu Picchu is known for its rapid weather changes due to its location
Machu Picchu Attractions
Being such an extensive site it may be worth considering two days at the Inca ruins of Machu Picchu. One morning and one afternoon visit of the ruins. This will allow you to visit the central parts of the lost city of the Incas on day one and visit the outer laying parts such as Huayna Picchu, the Sun Gate or the Inca Bridge on day two. For the central part one cannot miss the Intihuatana stone, the Temple of the Sun, the Room of the Three Windows, the Sacred Plaza and the Temple of the Condor. In order to get a more of a bird’s eye perspective you can head to the Guardhouse from where most of the famous Machu Picchu pictures have been taken. Hiking Huayna Picchu is not for the fainthearted as the final part of the climb is sometimes done on hands and feet and it is best not to look down. On top you will be rewarded with one of the best views imaginable as well as the mystery of how it is possible for the Incas to these temples and terraces on this mountain top. Machu Picchu Mountain is the other option and slightly higher than Huayna Picchu. The hike is longer but less steep and with wider paths. From here the views are equally rewarding as you can actually fully grasp the environment this place was built in and how well it integrates in the surrounding. For longer hikes Machu Picchu offers the unique Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. These original paved trails from Inca times were the highways of the Inca and used to get to the far corners of their empire. Nowadays some parts are still being used, among them the Inca Trail from the Sacred Valley to Machu Picchu. There is a four and two day version of the trail with the four day version camping for three nights along the trail. This may not be for everybody but is the closest you can get to experience the Machu Picchu experience as the Incas did.