Machu Picchu – Info for Tourists

Located at 2,430 metres (8,000 ft) high in the Peruvian Andes, Machu Picchu is the site of an ancient Inca city. The ruins were rediscovered in 1911 by the American archaeologist Hiram Bingham. The site is a UNESCO World Heritage site and is often referred to as “The Lost City of the Incas”. Today it is known as one of the most famous ruins in the world and is a familiar symbol of the Incan Empire. Machu Picchu is at the end of the Inca Trail, the most popular hike in South America.

No one knows for sure exactly what role the site played in Inca Life. There were never more than 750 people living there, less in the rainy season. Some believe it was a resort for elite Incans. Building started around AD1430 and was abandoned a hundred years later when the Spanish conquered the Inca Empire.

The site is well hidden and protected high in the Peruvian Mountains. The route to the site had many long valleys with check points and watch tours. The Spanish conquistadors missed the site. Bingham only found it by chance when climbing in the area on a wet day in 1911 and local peasants told him of ancient ruins that covered the area. These were the ruins of Machu Picchu.

The site became a Peruvian Historical Sanctuary in 1981 and a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983. It is considered important as both a cultural and sacred place. Any construction in the area is now restricted.

Built in classical Inca style, with polished dry-stone walls, its main buildings are the Intihuatana, located in what is known as the Sacred District of Machu Picchu. These are the Temple of the Sun, and the Room of the Three Windows. Artifacts removed by Bingham have been returned by Yale University.

Visitors to Machu Picchu arrive from Cuzco on a day trip, or Aguas Calientes if they have overnighted in the area. There are several ways to reach the site, 2 or 4 day hikes along the Inca Trail, an 8km Walk, or by bus from Aguas Calientes. There are often long line ups for the bus.

Take your passport with you as there is a stamp booth as you exit where you can have your passport stamped as a souvenir to prove you have been there.

Only small bags are allowed in the park, and food and drink is prohibited and could be taken if your bags are checked.

The main ruins are quite compact and easily walked. There is no transport of any kind in the park, so ensure you wear comfortable walking shoes. No walking sticks are permitted.

Allow plenty of time to explore the site. There are guided tours, that provide deeper insight into the city, its uses and geography. Little is known of the history and use of the ruins, so any info the guide might give you would be based on hearsay.

Some of the Main ruins:

Sun Gate(Inti Punku) – If you arrive via the Inca Trail this will be your first experience of the ruins.

Temple of the Sun– Near to the top of main city, observe it from the side going down the main staircase in the main plaza, the stonework is amazing. The walls are made up with distinctive and impressive closely-fit stonework.

Intihuatana– A stone carved so that at dawn on certain days, the sun makes a shadow, acting as a sun dial. From Quechua: Inti = sun, huatana = to take or grab (measuring) the sun. (pronounced ‘intiwatana’)

Temple of the Three Window


Temple of the Condor– Guides will say this was a temple, but there is a chamber between the wings of the condor with grooves cut in stone to secure manacles. There is a walkway behind that a torturer could use to whip prisoners, and a pit presumably for the draining of the prisoners blood. The condor was obviously used for torture, but Guides downplay it to sanitize it for visitors.


Wayna Picchu. A steep mountain at the north end Machu Picchu. Not as difficult as it looks for reasonably active persons. Visits are limited to 400 a day and you must sign in and out. Stone steps are along most of the path with steel cables providing a handrail in steeper parts. There is a tiny cave near the top to pass through that is a tight squeeze. From the top there are stunning views, including a birds eye view of the whole site.

MoonTemple(Templo de la Luna) and the Great Cave (Gran Caverne) are a long adventurous walk including ladders. You might see wildlife and partway through you will come upon a forest. Take water and snacks for this long hike. The hike to the caves adds about 2 hours to the hike. Today World Info


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