The Inca city of Machu Picchu is located in a very special geographical area since it is part of the Historic Sanctuary of Machu Picchu declared National Park in 1981 by the Peruvian Government due to the large number of species of animals, plants and complete ecosystems that this place has.
The Inca buildings are characterized by adapting and becoming part of the natural environment that surrounds them and is probably one of the reasons why the Inca civilization has chosen the location of the citadel of Machu Picchu in such a peculiar area. The area around this ancestral city is also a Natural Historic Sanctuary, where you can find immense mountains like the snow-capped Salkantay with more than 6,000 meters of altitude and temperatures below zero, as well as thick subtropical jungles where temperatures can exceed 30° Celsius degrees, accompanied by abundant rainfall and high humidity.
The flora and fauna of Machu Picchu is no less incredible because in this Historic Sanctuary you can find countless species of animals and plants, which we will detail later.
The citadel of Machu Picchu was rediscovered in 1911 by the American explorer Hiram Bingham but it was not until the early 70's when the number of visitors began to increase and thus began to see the first signs of deterioration, mainly due to human activity. For this reason, on January 8, 1981, the Peruvian government announced the creation of the Machu Picchu Historic Sanctuary through Supreme Decree N° 001-81-AG.
The conservation area of Machu Picchu was declared in 2012 as the best Green Destination by the WTA (Word Travel Awards), in recognition of its biodiversity and its ancient cultural heritage.
The Machu Picchu Natural Conservation Area or Machu Picchu Historic Sanctuary is located between the Cusichaka and Aobamba rivers to the north and south respectively, which are part of the network of small rivers and streams that feed the mighty Urubamba River, with the Urubamba mountain range on the east side and the Vilcabamba mountain range on the west side. Seen from the perspective of a bird in flight, it resembles an open book.
The Andes Mountain Range crosses the western part of the Peruvian territory and in it we can distinguish three mountain ranges: the western mountain range that is closer to the coastline, the eastern mountain range that would be the limit between the jungle and the mountains and the central mountain range, which as its name suggests is located between the two.
The Historic Sanctuary of Machu Picchu is located in the eastern cordillera and among its highest points are the imposing Salkantay (6,271 m.a.s.l.) and Nevado Veronica (5,682 m.a.s.l.). m), these areas are characteristically cold and with the presence of snow and temperatures below zero most of the year, it is from here that the icy water coming from the summits descends abruptly to the jungle areas located in lower lands creating up to 13 altitudinal floors. Each of these floors or ecosystems has its own characteristics of temperature, humidity and soil, which gives rise to different species of plants and animals, making this Sanctuary a place of incredible biodiversity, concentrated in an area of only 32,592 hectares.
FLORA OF THE MACHU PICCHU HISTORICAL SANCTUARY
Among the native tree species are the Q'euña (Polylepis Australis), cedar (Cedrus), alder (Alnus Glutinosay), pisonay (Erythrina edulis), among others.
As for orchids, the Historic Sanctuary has about 400 registered species, many of which have been recently discovered and classified by science, as is the case of the publication N°15 of the specialized scientific journal Icones Orchidacearum that informed the world community of the existence of 38 new records in 2015.
The smallest orchids are only a few millimeters in size and must be appreciated with a magnifying glass, as is the case of the Stenostachya Platystele variety, while the largest ones, such as Sobralia dichotoma, can have branches that reach 4 meters in height, with multiple flower clusters. The fertilization process of orchids depends basically on birds, butterflies, insects and wind, which transport pollen from one region to another. These flowers, when fertile, open their petals spreading aromatic fragrances that invite pollinating agents to land on them. The time it takes for an orchid to reach adulthood or fertility varies but usually takes between 5 to 6 years.
Fauna of Machu Picchu Historic Sanctuary
Among the animals that can be found within the limits of the Historic Sanctuary is the spectacled bear (tremarctos ornatus) also called Andean bear, which was declared an endangered species due to the gradual and progressive destruction of its natural habitat by man, through logging, indiscriminate hunting and forest fires. This animal can reach between 1.30 and 1.90 meters tall, with whitish spots around the eye orbits, which gives rise to its peculiar name.
Other inhabitants of this Natural Sanctuary are the guan (Penelope obscura), the dwarf deer (Pudu mephistophiles), the river otter (Lutrinae), the Andean fox (Lycalopex culpaeus andinus), the capisos (Nasua nasua), among others.
Another species present in the Sanctuary is the Cock of the Rock (Rupicola peruvianis), a bird characterized by the incredible beauty of its plumage of a vermilion red color, which was declared Peru's national bird in 1941. This species usually has a size of 30 centimeters, being the male specimen of this species the most striking, with the red vermilion color described above, orange eyes, yellow legs and beak and with dark black wings and tail. The female of this species has a dark reddish brown plumage. They live in groups consisting of 20 to 30 individuals. This species was seriously threatened due to hunting and the destruction of its natural habitat, but fortunately in the last decade it has shown an increase and improvement in its population.
The Historic Sanctuary is also one of the best places in South America, or perhaps in the world, for bird watching enthusiasts since more than 400 species of animals have been counted. It is also believed that about 11% of the biodiversity present in the entire Peruvian territory is concentrated in this sanctuary. Many of these species live in specific altitudinal levels, that is, they can only be found in certain types of climate and soil, present in Machu Pichu. Among the bird species present in the Historic Sanctuary of Machu Picchu are the Andean Condor (Vultur gryphus) which is the largest bird in the world, the torrent duck (Merganetta armatta), the hooded bird (Carduelis magellanica), the green jay (Cyanocorax yncas), the black-backed (Pheucticus aueroventris), the blue and yellow tanager (Thraupis bonariensis), the giant hummingbird (Patagona gigas), the green-tailed (Lesbia nuna), the cinnamon fisher (Pyrrhomyias cinnamomea), the masked trogon (Trogon personatus), the Nightjar lyrebird (Uropsalis lyra), among many others. As an example, the bird population of all of North America and Europe combined is close to 1,400 specimens, which means that the number of species concentrated here is truly unique in the world. According to a study carried out by the Peruvian Tourism Promotion Department, about 69% of the estimated bird watching tourists in the world have as one of their main objectives to visit this place.
In addition, Machu Picchu Sanctuary is home to more than 500 species of butterflies, many of which can be seen in the butterfly garden in the town of Aguas Calientes. These butterflies are an essential part of the fertilization process of orchids.
The Historic Sanctuary of Machu Picchu never ceases to amaze with its unparalleled diversity, as new species of plants and animals are constantly being discovered, such as the case of the so-called 'Andean Lizard', discovered in May 2018, the Epidendrum Astetei, a species of orchid discovered by biologists in an area near 3,780 meters above sea level.
Visiting and getting to know this place in depth should be one of your priorities when you visit Machu Picchu. We assure you that it will be an experience difficult to forget.
The archaeological site 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, department of Cusco, 112.5 km. northeast of the city of Cusco in Peru. To reach the Inca city of Machu Picchu, you can choose between two routes:
- By Inca Trail
- By railroad to Aguas Calientes and from there by car or walking to the mountain where the citadel is located.
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 contemplates squares, temples, roads, stairways, terraces, aqueducts, etc.
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.
- LOWER 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.
- El Templo de las Tres Ventanas: 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:
Centella - Rayo - Trueno
Sol - Luna - Estrellas
Puma - Serpiente - Cóndor
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.
- The stone of rites or rock of ceremonies:This is a large block found in the access angle to the plaza of the temples. It is indicated that this great block was a ritual altar, a sacred rock, in which certain religious rites related to the sector were carried out, such as offerings, sacrifices, etc.
- The room of the priests or Temple of the Stars: Construction that is in the back part of the main temple. Its walls are made of rectangular lithic of ashlar or rectangular isodome type. 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.
THE 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.
The entrance hours to the citadel of Machu Picchu is from 06:00 to 16:00 hours, the departure time is until 17:00 hours with a capacity of 2500 visitors per day. The rates can be seen in the Electronic Ticket.