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Machu Picchu

Listed under Archaeological Sites in Sacred Valley, Peru.

  • Photo of Machu Picchu
  • Photo of Machu Picchu
  • Photo of Machu Picchu
  • Photo of Machu Picchu
  • Photo of Machu Picchu
  • Photo of Machu Picchu
  • Photo of Machu Picchu
  • Photo of Machu Picchu
Photo of Machu Picchu
Photo by mikelyvers
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The ruins of Machu Picchu, rediscovered in 1911 by Yale archaeologist Hiram Bingham, are one of the most beautiful ancient sites in the world.

While the Inca people utilized the Andean mountain top (9060 feet), erecting massive stone structures from the early 1400's, legends and myths indicate that Machu Picchu (meaning 'Old Peak' in the Quechua language) was revered as a sacred place from a far earlier time.

Whatever its origins, the Inca turned the site into a small but extraordinary city. Invisible from below and completely self-contained, surrounded by agricultural terraces sufficient to feed the population, and watered by natural springs, Machu Picchu seems to have been utilized by the Inca as a secret ceremonial city.

The structures, carved from the gray granite of the mountain top are wonders of both architectural and aesthetic genius. Many of the building blocks weigh 50 tons or more yet they are sculpted so precisely and fitted together with such exactitude that the mortar-less joints will not permit the insertion of even a thin knife blade.

One of Machu Picchu's primary functions was as an astronomical observatory and several stone structures around the site have been shown to record the exact dates of key periods in both solar and lunar cycles. One particularly fascinating astronomical sighting device is called the Intihuatana Stone, the ‘Hitching Post of the Sun,’ and shamanic legends say that when sensitive persons touch their foreheads to this stone, the Intihuatana opens one's vision to the spirit world. When an Intihuatana stone was broken at an Inca shrine, the Inca believed that the deities of the place died or departed. The Spanish conquistadors never found Machu Picchu therefore the Intihuatana stone and its resident spirits remain at the site.

The mountain top sanctuary fell into disuse and was abandoned some forty years after the Spanish conquered Cuzco in 1533.

More on Machu Picchu from Sacred Sites.

Written by  Martin Gray.

Other expert and press reviews

“We arrived at 4:45 AM, just as the entrance was opened.”

The streets of Aguas Calientes were dark and empty at 4:20 AM, when I met up with the others from the Salkantay Trek. Together, we began the 20-minute walk down the road to the main entrance of Machu Picchu. We arrived at 4:45 AM, just as the entranc… Read more...

Written by  David Lee. Read more about Dave's Machu Picchu Experience

“Machu Picchu”

I agree with Kevin, Machu Picchu is best appreciated at dawn. This is truly one of the most remarkable archaeological sites on earth. I'd say give it a couple of days to see as much as you can. Climb the pinnacle of Huayna Picchu as well as hike to the … Read more...

Written by  Mike Lyvers.

Comments, reviews and questions by other travellers

Wow... It's beautiful

how many people go see machu picchu a year

what do they say about it after they see it

1 Reply

Last year (2008) they estimated Machu Picchu would have had a million visitors, despite the limit to the number of visitors allowed per day.

Machu Picchu

Nestled high in the Andes Mountains of Peru, at 2500 meters it is certainly the most extraordinary ruin on the planet. How did the Incas build this incredible complex so high on the side of a cliff? Built in the 1400’s Machu Picchu is remarkably well preserved. Arriving early in the morning, it is shrouded in cloud, but as the sun rises and burns off the fog, a majestic vision unfolds. 200 buildings, terraced high on the side of the mountain surrounded by jungle, vegetation and clear blue skies.

The highlight is looking at the entire complex from an adjacent peak. Sitting on a ledge plunging into the abyss, I was a little worried about the children running around and hanging their feet over the side. But the breathtaking views quickly drew my focus back to the temples. Luckily no one fell over, and I could enjoy its beauty as Llama’s and El Paccas grazed in a step below.

We should have hired a guide for our journey throughout the complex and because we went to Peru on a whim, we didn’t have time to book a trek on the Inca trail. You have to book a year in advance if you are going at high season. I really didn’t feel that I missed too much, but I do think that it would have put it higher on our list if we actually hiked the Inca Trail to the ruins. But taking the train through the Andes and spending time in Aguas Calientas was certainly special in its own right.

Arriving at Machu Picchu at sunrise

A lot of trek groups try and time their arrival at the Sun Gate for sunrise but most don't quite make the logistics work for some reason. Looking out over the valley through the gap in the Sun Gate peak as the yellow orb comes up is breathtaking. After you recover from a spiritual adrenalin rush, there is a nice short walk down into the city itself. The other benefit of being there so early is you avoid the tourist hordes that start pouring in from the Aguas Calientes train later that morning. Machu Picchu is all yours. Enjoy.

Machu Picchu

Located on a ridge top, high up in a Peruvian mountain range, Machu Picchu is an awe-inspiring and well preserved stone ruin of a Columbian Inca city. Recent archaeological study has revealed that Machu Picchu wasn't a conventional city, but more like a country retreat for Inca royalty. It is thought that only 750 people would have lived at Machu Picchu at any one time. The site has 140 constructions, comprising a large palace and temples dedicated to Inca deities around a central courtyard.

The city was built in about 1440 and was inhabited until about 1532.

Locals knew of Machu Picchu's existence, but it was rediscovered by the outside world in 1911 at which point thousands of artefacts were removed form the site. It's now one of the most popular destinations in South America, though the long distances needed to travel to get there means it's still the preserve of the more intrepid tourist.

Best way to arrive here? Take the Hiram Bingham train from Cuzco - a fabulous experience.

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