Machu Picchu ~ Lost City of the Incas
Like many visitors traveling to Peru for the first time, our ultimate goal was to visit the ancient and legendary site of Machu Picchu. It's an extraordinary experience to see it with your own eyes. While most photos you've probably seen are taken from a particular vantage point which may mistakenly lead you to believe it encompasses the entire site, it isn't necessarily true -- the photos don't prepare you for just how sweeping the vista is that you see in person.
For example, when entering the park, the path brings you into Machu Picchu at a point where the vast majority of ruins seem to lay before you, but you will find even more that are not in direct view in virtually any direction you decide to take. The site is panoramic and more expansive than I could have previously imagined. Many people, including myself, previously believed that Machu Picchu ("old mountain") is the jutting peak which you see as a back drop to the ruins; however, that instantly recognizable mountain is actually "Huayna Picchu" ("new mountain"). Huayna Picchu is a destination in itself, and a steep and endlessly fascinating climb requiring it's own ticket -- only 400 people per day are admitted for the climb.
For an exciting look at the climb of Huayna Picchu, check out this YouTube video:
Unless you have previously visited Machu Picchu or have done an exhaustive amount of advance research with the result that every nook and cranny is instantly recognizable to you, I would advise not only having a good map of the site, but more importantly using a guide for at least the first few hours. Our group was very lucky to have an expert Machu Picchu guide, Diego, who not only offered a wealth of information, but was also a very congenial person to explore with.
Diego patiently explained the historical origins of this Inca masterpiece, current speculation on its purpose, a good deal about Inca engineering techniques, the use of major the structures, the Inca way of life while ensconced at Machu Picchu, farming and food supply, the Inca spiritual belief system and so much more. It is difficult to recall all that he tried to impart to us and most certainly a self-guided tour wouldn't have been as interesting. Of course, the history of Machu Picchu and the Incas is far too extensive to cover here and deserves to be studied in more detail.
Some of the important sites we were able to see and learn facts about were the Central and Sacred Plazas, the Temple of the Sun, the Royal Tomb, cultivation terraces, the royal enclosures, storage houses, Plaza de los Templos including the Main Temple and the Temple of the Three Windows and probably a few structures I can't remember. That being said, there were a lot of unique structures we missed which was my own fault.
By this time, it had already had been quite a long day, and keeping in mind that there are no facilities within the park itself, a little after mid-day was a good point at which to take a break and stop for some lunch at the Tinkuy Buffet Restaurant which was included as part of our tour to Machu Picchu. Afterwards we would have additional time to explore more of the ruins on our own.Related to:
- Historical Travel
A Bit About Practical Matters
The green bus you boarded in Aguas Calientes jostles alongside the Urubamba River (Vilcanota) on the Avenida Hermanos Ayar for a few kilometers before crossing a bridge and arriving at the foot of the mountain. The name of the road which actually ascends the mountain is the Hiram Bingham Highway, named in honor of Hiram Bingham, the man who in 1911 rediscovered the Inca masterpiece known as Machu Picchu.
The Hiram Bingham Highway -- the term 'highway' certainly seems to be a misnomer so not to be thought of literally -- ends near the entrance to the Machu Picchu park, and just beside the Sanctuary Lodge. Walking pass the buses and past the Lodge and Buffet Restaurant you will see steps leading up to the park entrance where no doubt there will already be a line of people waiting to gain entrance to the park. (According to the information on my ticket entrance is from 6am to 4pm; does your bus ticket mention this?)
Be aware that the necessary ticket for entrance to Machu Picchu is not available for sale at the entrance gate. You must have purchased it in advance from one of 3 places: a) online at http://www.machupicchu.gob.pe/; b) in Aguas Calientes at the Machu Picchu Culturacentral -- from the Plaza (statue of Pacahcuti) walk 10 minutes to reach Machu Picchu Cultural Center. Centre Hours are 5:15am to 7pm. Tickets must be paid for in soles and be sure you have the exact amount just in case they have no change; c) in Cuzco at the Instituto Nacional de Cultura (INC) at Cultura Avenida #15, near the Plaza de Armas in the historic center. Tickets are valid for 3 days from the date of purchase, BUT once admitted, can only be used for that day. If you decide you need 2 days to visit, you must buy another ticket. Students get admission for half price with the appropriate ISIC card.
Your boleto touristico/ticket (126 soles for non-Peruvian adults - 2014 Price) to be used solely for Machu Picchu will be checked and stamped and returned to you. Our tickets were purchased in advance and came preprinted with our name, date of admission, and other important information --- I'll treasure this 'souvenir' for a long time to come. Hint: If you love collecting country stamps in your passport, be sure to bring yours to Machu Picchu as just after the admission gate you can get a stamp for this purpose!! You are allowed to re-enter the site on the same day with your stamped boleto touristico/ticket. It's good to be aware that once inside the site no food is allowed, water or other drinks must be in non-glass containers, there are no restrooms and there is no shelter from bad weather.
From the park entrance it's a short walk to see the sight you've been waiting for, the Lost City of the Incas.
Be prepared for the crowds
Mark and I traveled to Machu Picchu in January which is the low season for tourists. But even in the off season remember Machu Picchu is the most visited location in Peru, so be prepared for large groups of tourists. We did not take a guided tour. They were available at a cost. Instead we kind of cheated. We took a self guided tour, but allowed ourselves time to listen to some of the information the guides were sharing with their groups.
Forget everything else and just enjoy the view
Most people traveling to Machu Picchu do a lot of research in advance. After reading all of the books and internet sites, after studying the history, take some time to put all of that aside after you arrive. Put the books down, get out our camera, take some photos, and then just take your time to look, experience, and absorb all that Machu Picchu offers. When you get back home, look at your photos, pull out the guide books and reread the history. But don't get so into the story that you miss the experience while you are ther.
Waina Pichu Peru
Not everyone who visit Machu Pichu climb Waina Pichu as most of them are unaware about this other hill and most visitors are informed only when they reach the peak of Machu Pichu.The fact that they will be a little tired by this time most people do not attempt to climb so i presume it will not be too busy at the top of Waina Pichu.
The climb itself will take you about 1 hour and i suggest you go for it straight away after you finish the Machu Pichu tour with your leader...enjoy
The Grand Machu Picchu
This monumental masterpiece is a sight to behold! I am extremely happy to have finally seen this world wonder. Take in as much as you can visually, emotionally and spiritually. It is a GREAT travel experience.Related to:
- Hiking and Walking
- Women's Travel
Inca Bridge Hike
One hiking trail from Macchu Picchu takes the visitor to the Inca Bridge, an old bridge constructed of a stone arch and topped by a wooden walkway which has since decayed. The path to the bridge is beautiful, with tropical flora surrounding the trail that overlooks the valley below. A stone wall protects the hiker from falling to the valley floor at several points, and beautiful mosses, fungi, and other tropical plants grow in the cracks of the wall.
going on your own: what you need to know...
If you arent visiting the ruins at Macchu Picchu as part of a guided tour then there are a few things you need to know:
You need to get your tix before you get there. You can either go to the INC office in Cusco or Aguas Calientes but I would recommend the former as its bigger so better able to handle queues if its busier. As at Sept 07 it will cost you S/-120.50 (payable only in soles)
When you get up to Aguas Calientes you then need to get bus tickets, these cost USD$12 for a return (payable only in USD) The ticket office is on the main street in AC (you cant miss it), right beside where the buses leave to go up to MP. The bus goes up a VERY winding road to MP and takes about 30 mins.
When you get there hire a guide, there are no handy signs telling you what you are looking at and the map is rubbish. I was quoted S/-100 for a personal guide or S/-25 to join a group, the tour took about 2hrs.Related to:
- Hiking and Walking
- Historical Travel
Two days in MP
I highly suggest that you go out to the ruins twice. I went the first day in the afternoon, after the trains have left, and was surprised at how beautiful, peaceful, and intimate it felt up there. I got photos of the ruins with no one else in the photo! The people who end up staying that long are typically relaxing and soaking in the beautiful scenery. The next morning, we got to the gate once the park opened up. It was still still way busier than the afternoon before. The lighting at both times of the day was different, yet beautiful. We spent the morning doing a self-guided tour (there's a good book that provides excellent details and takes you off the beaten path where organized tours may not take you.)
Not that the Inca Trail was hard enough, but I had my heart set on climbing the mountain that sits next to Machu Picchu.
Putukusi is a tough, steep mountain that starts by the river in Aguas Calientes. What makes this an even tougher climb is the lack of shade after the first 20 mins.
It took 1 hour for me to climb, and about 30 mins to get back down.
What makes this so famous is the view from the side on angle of Machu Picchu. Oh, and the vertical ladders that you need to climb to get to the top.
Forget the long line and wait for Wyna Picchu, get yourself up Putakusi instead. far more rewarding!
Taking the bus to MP
When you take the bus in Aguas Calientes to go up to Machu Picchu take a seat on the left side of the bus. The view is beautiful and those who sit in the other side don´t get the chance to see it much.
Train from Cusco takes a long time
If you stay in Cusco, the train is four hours each way, leaving you only about three hours at the ruins. This is enough to see everything, but it won't leave you time to just sit down and "take it all in." We took the train, and I felt that I did not really have time to appreciate the site as much as if I had some quiet time to stop and reflect.
The alternative is to stay one night in Aguas Caliente, which would give you a pretty full day at the site.
Piedras / Stones
Pasear por Machu Picchu y ver su "piedras" es algo que no se olvida
(Puertas con jambas y sin jambas , ventanas trapezoidales verdaderas y falsas , los sillares tallados y las grandes piedras... )
To walk by Machu Picchu and to see its "stones" is some thing that you will not forget
(doors with and without edges , Trapezoidal false and real windows , the carved stone (sillares) and the big stones...)
Contraste / Contrast
Machu Picchu está en un sitio realmente inaccesible con el río Urubamba a sus pies y grandes montañas a sus alrededores
Machu Pichu is in a place really inaccessible with the Urubamba river at his feet and big mountains surrounding
El Intiwatana o "lugar donde se amarra al sol" está en la cima de la "Colina Sagrada", formada por varias terrazas y andenes, adonde se llega subiendo 78 escalones
El Intiwatana cumplió dos funciones: medición del tiempo (solsticio y equinoccio) por efecto de luz y sombra y como piedra altar
The Intiwatana or "place to tight the sun" is in the top of the "Sacred hill" that is formed by several terraces and were you arrive climbing 78 steps
The Intiwatana had two functions : time measuring ( solstice and equinoxe ) with the effect of the light and shades and as an altar stone
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