May be the question is strange, because you will see Machu Picchu in Machu Picchu, of course. The Inca citadel is a highlight itself. But, the visit of this incredible place on earth include many different areas that could be interesting to know.
Machu Picchu: a bit of history
Since its rediscovery in 1911 and initial exploration by an American team of archaeologists from Yale during the following 4 years, the ruins of Machu Picchu have resonated far beyond the status of an archaeological site. Reputed to be the legendary “lost city of the Incas,” it is steeped in mystery and folklore. The unearthed complex, the only significant Inca site to escape the ravenous appetites of the Spanish conquistadors in the 16th century, ranks as the top attraction in Peru, arguably the greatest in South America and no doubt, one of the world’s most incredible places, declared recently as one of the new 7-wonders of the world. So, it´s a must-see when you visit Peru of course, but South America for sure.
The place is not visible from the Urubamba Valley located below, but Machu Picchu was there for more than 4 centuries, nestled 2,430m (7,970 ft.) above sea level under thick jungle and known only to a handful of Amerindian peasants. Never mentioned in the Spanish chronicles, it was seemingly lost in the collective memory of the Incas and their descendants. But, what was Machu Picchu? Was it a citadel? An agricultural site? An astronomical observatory? A ceremonial city? Adding to the mystery, this complex city of exceedingly fine architecture and masonry was constructed, inhabited, and deliberately abandoned all in less than a century. It´s incredible isn´t it?
Mr Hiram Bingham mistook Machu Picchu for the lost city of Vilcabamba, the last refuge of the rebellious Inca Manco Cápac (see “Bingham, the ‘Discoverer’ of Machu Picchu”. Machu Picchu, though, is not that lost city (which was discovered deeper in the jungle at Espíritu Pampa). Most historians believe that the 9th Inca emperor, Pachacútec (also called Pachacuti Inca Yupanqui)—who founded the Inca Empire, established many of the hallmarks of its society, and built most of the greatest and most recognizable of Inca monuments—had the complex constructed sometime in the mid-1400s, probably after the defeat of the Chancas, a rival group, in 1438. Machu Picchu appears to have been both a ceremonial and agricultural center. Half its buildings were sacred in nature, but the latest research findings indicate that it was a royal retreat for Inca leaders rather than a sacred city, per se. Never looted by the Spaniards, many of its architectural features remain in excellent condition—even if they ultimately do little to advance our understanding of the exact nature of Machu Picchu.
Visiting Machu Picchu: The principal Temple
One of the great things to do in Machu Picchu is to visit Principal Temple since it is another finest example of the sophistication of Inca masonry. In the different tours in Peru, you will be able to appreciate this beauty. Situated on Machu Picchu’s Sacred Plaza, Principal Temple derives its name from its large size and perfection of its construction. This impressive three-sided building consists of two lateral walls and one real wall, all of them beautifully cut stone. The trapezoidal-shaped niches at Principal Temple were used for ceremonial offerings and rituals.
Visiting the terraces
Agriculture was one of the most significant activities for the Incas. They had the great and impressive ability to adapt to the mountainous terrain of the Andes for cultivation. For this reason, your Machu Picchu journey wouldn’t be complete without visiting the thousands of terraces where you can appreciate the Incan techniques for agriculture. Besides, they are quiet and the perfect spot for a nice rest from the crowds. One of the things to do in Machu Picchu is to appreciate the views of the terraces.
Machu Picchu Museum
This interesting museum is officially called the Manuel Chavez Ballon Site Museum. Despite its small size, this informative museum will allow you to get detailed information and more background about Machu Picchu. So, it is worth visiting. Machu Travel Peru considers that apart from knowing how to get to Machu Picchu, you must be informed and learn about the place you will visit.
Different things to see during your visit to Machu Picchu
It´s just a list of diffent sites you can visit during your trip to the incredible Inca Citadel of Machu Picchu:
This square is surrounded by some of the most impressive structures of Machu Picchu : the Temple of the 3 Windows, the Main Temple and the House of the Priest.
It is possible that this square has been the main place of worship of the city.
The Main Temple
It is one of the three buildings that are located around the Sacred Square and one of the most spiritual precincts of the Inca City. This would be the most important temple of Machu Picchu and that the most important ceremonies and rituals of the city were held inside. The large number of cavities in the form of niches in the walls suggests that this place could have been destined for burials. At the front of this temple, you can see a small carved stone that apparently represents the Southern Cross.
The Royal tomb
While this structure is not exactly in the Sacred Square it is of great importance because it is located below it. The royal mausoleum is just below the Temple of the Sun, carved into the rock of the mountain. The structures present inside the mausoleum indicate that it would be a place to watch over the dead, belonging to the elite of the city.
The Inca civilization based its architectural work on spiritual symbolism by building beautiful buildings attributed to its gods: the sun, the moon, the stars, nature, the mountains, etc.
The Temple of the Sun
It is accessed through a double-frame door, which had a security system. The Temple of the Sun is one of the few structures in which the Incas used circular walls.
It is built with fine blocks of stone on a huge rock. Under it is the famous Royal Tomb.
Temple of the Three Windows
The Temple of the 3 Windows is located in the southwest corner of the Main Square of Machu Picchu. It is a room 10 meters long and 4 meters wide. On one of its walls it has 3 trapezoidal windows. The importance of this beautiful enclosure lies in the meaning represented by the number ‘3’ for the Inca worldview. The Inca trilogy is represented by: the condor, the puma and the snake. According to the Incas, these three animals represent the celestial world, the earthly world and the world of the dead.
Temple of the Condor
The whole Condor Temple is made up of somewhat irregularly shaped buildings that were adapted in such a way that it shapes the body of a condor. It is located in the so-called ‘Sacred Sector’ of Machu Picchu. Near the Temple of the Sun and the Royal Tomb. The head of the condor is carved on the ground while the body and wings are represented by the carving inside the structure.
To appreciate the condor, the tourist must be placed in front of the condor peak and take a few steps back.
Huayna Picchu Mountain
The Huayna Picchu mountain is one of the most impressive places in Machu Picchu, very famous around the world. The ascent to its top is one of the most amazing short walks you can do.
Climbing this mountain is an adventure full of adrenaline because its trails are built next to cliffs. On its top you can see the Inca City from above, as very few tourists can see it.
In Huayna Picchu, tourists can also visit the Temple of the Moon, one of the most mysterious Inca structures in Machu Picchu.
Huayna Picchu and the Temple of the Moon.
The Temple of the Moon is built inside a natural cave and is one of the most impressive structures in Machu Picchu. The caves were of great importance to the Incas since, according to their beliefs, they could communicate them with the dead. The Temple of the Moon is also known as the Great Cavern. It is made up of 2 natural caverns and other lithic structures carved by hand.
Due to the presence of an altar-shaped rock, it is believed that the Temple of the Moon served as a place of sacrifices and rituals.
The Inti Punku
This construction was the main entrance to Machu Picchu in the time of the Incas. Inti Punku is a Quechua word (the language of the Incas) that means ‘The door of the Sun’. During the summer solstice, the sun’s rays appear through this door. This construction is made up of walls and stone windows. Tourists who make the Inca Trail will have the first view of Machu Picchu through this construction. From the Inti Punku you can see Machu Picchu, the Urubamba river, the Huayna Picchu mountain and its surroundings. The view is amazing!
The Secret Door
Machu Picchu has not yet revealed all his secrets. French engineer David Crespy discovered a secret door under the three-door enclosure.
After the investigations of infrared light and rebound of ultrasound, it was thrown that the Secret Door leads to an enclosure full of gold, silver and mummies.
Some hypotheses suggest that this secret place would be the tomb of the Inca ruler Pachacutec.
The Sacred Rock
his sacred stone takes the shape of Putucusi Mountain which is considered the hidden gem of Machu Picchu. According to history, musical and poetry recitals took place in front of this giant and intriguing rock. And since we mentioned Putucusi, this round-shaped Andean mountain located on the opposite side to Machu Picchu is considered a must for those seeking a mind-blowing adventure.