Machu Picchu Historic Sanctuary What is Machu Picchu?
Machu Picchu lost city - Located at an altitude of 2,430 meters in a place of great beauty, in the middle of a tropical mountain forest, the sanctuary of Machu Picchu was probably the most amazing architectural achievement of the Inca Empire in its heyday. Its walls, terraces and gigantic ramps give the impression of having been carved into the rock escarpments, as if they were part of it. The natural setting, located on the eastern slopes of the Andes, is part of the upper Amazon basin, which has a very varied flora and fauna.
Machu Picchu, a Quechua term whose meaning is Old Mountain. Today it is universally known, both for its imposing archaeological remains, and for its incomparable location, on the edge of an abyss at the bottom of which run the mighty waters of the Urubamba River.
Machu Picchu, more than a citadel, is an architectural complex with only the roofs missing. This complex is called a city because of the large number of houses that currently number more than 200, and in its heyday there must have been more. In addition, its design includes plazas, temples, roads, staircases, terraces, aqueducts, etc.
Where is Machu Picchu located?
The archaeological site of Machu Picchu is located on the left bank of the Vilcanota River, in the ravine of Kusi Chaka, to the mouth of the Aobamba River. In the district of Machu Picchu, province of Urubamba, northwestern department of Cusco, 112.5 km. northeast of the city of Cusco in Peru.
There is no road that communicates the city of Cusco and the Citadel of Machu Picchu, due to the complicated geography of the place, since the Citadel is located on top of a mountain in the middle of a mountain range cut only by the Urubamba River so that access can only be by train or by the Inca Trail.
Which city is closest to Machu Picchu?
The closest town to the citadel of Machu Picchu is the town of Ollantaytambo, province of Urubamba. Ollantaytambo is a well-known town located in the Sacred Valley of the Incas in Cusco. Ollantaytambo is the obligatory route before reaching Machu Picchu and both destinations are separated by 32 kilometers of distance.
In addition to Ollantaytambo, we have the town of Aguas Calientes or Machu Picchu Pueblo which is located about 25 minutes by bus from the citadel of Machu Picchu and is the mandatory stop for every visitor to the Inca Citadel.
What is the name of the town of Machu Picchu?
The village (half an hour from Machu Picchu), which is at the bottom of the Machu Picchu Citadel is called Aguas Calientes. It is a small and peculiar town - no more than 5000 inhabitants - located on the banks of the Urubamba River and is the closest point to the Inca Citadel of Machu Picchu. The distance between the two places is approximately 9 kilometers. It is also known as Machu Picchu Pueblo. It is here where travelers will find the bus station that connects Aguas Calientes with the Machu Picchu Citadel. They can also find restaurants, hotels, bars and even a handicraft market. It is worth mentioning that Aguas Calientes, being very small and not having access by land, may not be able to offer a wide variety of products as in the city of Cusco.
Is Machu Picchu open? What are the protocols for entering Machu Picchu?
The Citadel of Machu Picchu opened its doors to the general public for the third time since the pandemic was declared in March 2020. The capacity was reduced to 40% of the total income so that only 897 tourists can enter per day divided into the different shifts that are available.
To visit the Machu Picchu Citadel it is mandatory to wear a mask at all times, take temperature, wash and disinfect hands, disinfect footwear, and social distancing with people who do not belong to the guided group. It is important to mention that the tour with a tour guide is mandatory for both domestic and foreign visitors. It is no longer possible to have extra time inside the Machu Picchu Citadel due to the above mentioned measures.
Huayna Picchu Mountain and Machu Picchu Mountain (different from Machu Picchu Citadel) remain closed until further notice so it is not possible to make any reservations for entrance tickets.
All visitors to the Citadel of Machu Picchu can purchase their tickets through the website of the Ministry of Culture of Peru (online) or in person at their offices located in the center of the city of Cusco.
How to get to Machu Picchu?
First of all, you must move to the city of Cusco starting from the city of Lima. There are 2 ways to do it, one is by land which we do not recommend since the bus trip takes between 20 and 22 hours from the city of Lima or by air which is highly recommended since it only takes 1 hour and 30 minutes of travel.
The steps to reach the city of Cusco by plane are as follows:
At the Jorge Chavez International Airport in Lima all travelers must carry at all times: mask, face shield as well as the required documents such as: passport, boarding pass, flight reservation and the electronic or physical affidavit in which they affirm to be in good health and commit to comply with all the protocols established by the authorities.
To reach the citadel of Machu Picchu, starting from the city of Cusco, you have 2 options: By train in which you have to move by car or mini van from the city of Cusco to the towns of Poroy or Ollantaytambo where you can board the train that will take you to the citadel of Machu Picchu. Another way by which you can access the Citadel of Machu Picchu is through the Inca Trail either 02 or more days of travel, but currently only the Inca Trail 02 day is enabled for visitors to the Inca Citadel. If you visit the Citadel of Machu Picchu through the Inca Trail, it is only necessary to purchase train tickets for the return leg, since the outbound leg is done on foot.
How to get to Machu Picchu from Cusco by train? Where can I buy train tickets?
Leaving from Cusco to Machu Picchu Citadel, you must first purchase the train ticket some time in advance to ensure space, you can book it at the train station in San Pedro, authorized offices of Peru Rail/Inca Rail or at the same train station in Poroy or Ollantaytambo. Nowadays, due to the pandemic, online sales channels have grown a lot so that conglomerations in the offices of the railway companies are avoided, but face-to-face sales are still in place for all passengers who wish to purchase tickets physically. The train departs from Poroy station, located 20 minutes from the city of Cusco, also departures are made from Ollantaytambo station, which has more schedules available. The trip takes approximately 4 hours from Poroy and 2 hours from Ollantaytambo, to the town of Aguas Calientes or Machu Picchu Pueblo. From Machu Picchu Pueblo or Aguas Calientes there are two ways to ascend to the citadel of Machu Picchu Picchu, the first one is using the buses in a 25 minute trip and the second one is by walking that lasts approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes. This means has no cost, but nowadays it is forbidden due to the protocols established by the Ministry of Culture.
How to get to Machu Picchu by the Inca Trail? What is the Inca Trail?
Recommended for those who want a little more adventure. It starts at KM 82 of the railroad that goes from Cusco to Machu Picchu, this tour has a duration of 4 days and 3 nights, time in which one can travel the ancient and enigmatic stone road or Inca Trail. If you want to embark on this adventure, the first thing you have to do is to book your entrance ticket, which must be done at least 5 months in advance and the best way to do it is through travel agencies, which are responsible for making all the necessary arrangements for you to enjoy your stay in the best way. The access to the Inca Trail is done in groups of no more than 10 people and accompanied by qualified and certified guides who will help you in any event that may arise. There is also another shorter route with a duration of 2 days and 1 night, which starts at Km 104.
Currently, the Inca Trail of 4 days or more has just been opened since its closure in March 2020 by order of the Ministry of Culture of Peru, but only has a capacity of 250 visitors per day (50% of the capacity); and you can also reach the Citadel of Machu Picchu through the Inca Trail of 2 days and 1 night that has a capacity of 100 people per day.
What is the weather like in Machu Picchu?
The climate in Aguas Calientes or Machu Picchu Pueblo as well as in the Machu Picchu Citadel is warm due to the fact that the Machu Picchu Citadel is located in the jungle of our territory. In other words, Machu Picchu Citadel has a tropical climate with warm and humid characteristics during the day and a cool environment at night.
There is usually rainfall in Machu Picchu Citadel, especially between the months of November and March, which is the rainy season in Machu Picchu, but it is alternated with intense sunshine after the rainfall ends.
To have a much more accurate idea of the climate in the citadel of Machu Picchu, you can observe the following chart:
What is the best time to visit Machu Picchu?
Choosing the best season to visit the Citadel of Machu Picchu will depend on the personal taste of each visitor.
The dry season that goes from April to October is the most visited by tourists since it coincides with the anniversary month of the city of Cusco (June) and is the preferred season for travelers who wish to go trekking and hiking in the various destinations around the city of Cusco. Despite the dry climate in the city of Cusco, the citadel of Machu Picchu has a tropical climate in which small rainfalls can occur during the day for very short intervals of time. For the dry season, despite the warm weather, we recommend always wearing warm clothes because the nights are usually very cold.
The rainy season between November and March is a bit more complicated for walks that involve prolonged outdoor treks. Rainfall is a little more frequent (2 to 3 times per week) both in the city of Cusco and in the citadel of Machu Picchu. We recommend wearing a waterproof jacket or rain poncho at all times.
What items should I bring to Machu Picchu?
The most important thing you should have with you for your trip to the Machu Picchu Citadel is the identification document you used to purchase all the entrance tickets for both the Citadel and to make use of the train and bus services. If you do not have the physical document, it is recommended to have a virtual version and communicate it to your travel agent so that he/she can make the corresponding arrangements with governmental and private entities.
In addition to personal documents and entrance tickets. We recommend always carrying a warm and waterproof garment so that you can be prepared for any unforeseen situation. It is also essential to wear a cap and sunglasses so as not to strain your eyesight, as well as sunscreen and insect repellent since the Machu Picchu Citadel is located in the Peruvian jungle and it is common to find many insects along the route. Regarding clothing, the ideal is to travel with light clothing, but always having a waterproof or warm jacket at hand. Wear long-sleeved polo shirts to avoid insect bites or overexposure to sunlight, which is usually very strong both in the city of Cusco and in the citadel of Machu Picchu. Always wear comfortable shoes since the route is not at all rugged and does not require special footwear.
he citadel of Machu Picchu, comprises well differentiated areas, which historians classified into sectors, by the possible uses that the Incas gave it.
- SUPERIOR AGRICULTURAL AREA: It is the one located on the current access road, from the middle upwards composed of a series of agricultural terraces. In the upper part is what most people call ¨The Cemetery¨ which was actually an agricultural ceremonial sector, which is strewn with an infinite number of stones. In this small square is a construction which is called ¨The Superior Guardians¨ which is nothing more than a utilitarian construction of Wayrana or Masma type (Inca construction of three walls). Then, almost in the middle of the square is a carved rock called "The Funerary Rock" which is given different functions related to funeral rites, but in reality it was a ceremonial altar of agricultural character. In the background you can see several constructions called ¨Qholqas¨ or large deposits. This is followed by a series of agricultural terraces usually called terraces, but a large number of these are found with lots of vegetation.
- INFERIOR AGRICULTURAL AREA: Located in the lower part of what is the current access road to the citadel. In this sector are ¨Los Guardianes Inferiores¨, places that were actually the homes of farmers. It is also worth mentioning that here there are agricultural terraces covered by vegetation. The soil found in these terraces is vegetable humus that was brought from another place and placed in these terraces.
THE RELIGIOUS SECTOR:Composed of four constructions and some special lithics. It is a group of constructions clearly related to religious functions. This group is broken down as follows:
- The Main Temple:This sector is better known as the ¨Temple of the Sun¨. It should be clarified that in Inca times the sun was not the most important deity, its conception is linked more with the concept of light. This construction is made of isodomos blocks of a surprising elaboration and fit. The characteristic is that they are lithic blocks that as it is observed, those of the low part are of semi megalithic character and those of the superior parts are of small dimensions. The building has several trapezoidal niches arranged in 5-7-5 (5 in each lateral parameter and 7 in the center). Apart from this, in the lower part of the front parameter three lithics of considerable dimensions. This block is the ceremonial area of the temple and the two small blocks are secondary elements or accessory tables of the main altar for the placement of objects that were used for the placement of objects that were used for the paraphernalia of the rites performed in this place.
- The Temple of the Three Windows:Construction of Masma or Wayrana type of three walls, although this one has a small difference in the front part, where there is not a wall but a lithic pillar for the support of the low beam of the roof. The physical element of the presence of the three windows is directly related to the symbolic-ideological trilogy of the religion of the Andean world:
Spark - Lightning - Thunder
Sun - Moon - Stars
Puma - Serpent - Condor
That is to say, a clearly symbolic ritual architectural element. In addition to the three windows, this place has two trapezoidal blind niches, which leads us to another idea that would be much more linked to the ideological relationship of memories of the origins. This construction is linked to the symbolism of the three lands (pachas) or union of worlds within the Andean ideology. All this for the reason of the existence of the lithic that possesses the sculpted stepped sign.
- The Priest's House: A construction of ritual and utilitarian character, i.e., as a repository of paraphernal objects.
- La piedra de los ritos o roca de las ceremonias: Este es un gran bloque se halla en el ángulo de acceso a la plaza de los templos. Se indica que este gran bloque fue un altar ritual, una roca sagrada, en la cual se llevaron a cabo ciertos ritos religiosos relacionados al sector, como eran ofrendas, sacrificios, etc.
- The Hall of the Priests or Temple of the Stars: Construction that is in the later part of the main temple. Its walls are elaborated of rectangular lithic of ashlar type or rectangular isodome. It has 13 trapezoidal niches and a monolithic lithic that has 24 angles. For these characteristics and also for the type of construction and the location of the same one, this one was related to ceremonial rites, although we cannot specify for that rites it was dedicated.
EL INTIHUATANA:It was an element of astronomical observation and calendrical use; at no time was it a sundial, it also had ceremonial and liturgical functions, it is not possible to specify what kind of religious activities were carried out in this place, nor the type of deity worshiped.
THE SECTOR OF THE SACRED ROCK OR TEMPLE TO THE EARTH: In the Quechua state there was a double representation of the earth, that is to say two concepts: the first, of the world in the cosmos or the physical and ideological circular earth called ¨Teqse Muyo¨; and the second, was the carving of a rock with the profiles of a mountain, this element represented the concept of the visible and workable land, for which it was a waka. In this way, the sector was directly linked to agrarian rites and rites to the land.
THE QUARTER OF THE INTELLECTUALS OR CALLED THE QUARTER OF THE THREE DOORS: According to a logic of social architecture and the system of the Inca urban layout, and finally by the ethnohistoric and ethnoarchaeological appreciation, we see that these were utilitarian neighborhoods, i.e. housing, warehouses, workshops, etc.. Therefore, the idea of an exclusive neighborhood for thinkers and intellectuals is discarded.
THE SACRED ROCK OR TEMPLE OF THE CONDOR: This carved rock cannot be denied a ritual function because it was a symbol linked to a totemic element which is a bird (condor or perhaps a huaman = eagle or hawk) linked to the trilogy of totemic animals of the Andean ideology, utilitarian, because it must have fulfilled the functions of a work table.