Surely, Machu Picchu is on the list of almost every visitor who comes to Peru. I’m no exemption as I have been looking forward to this trip the moment I booked the flights! After a few days in Cusco, it was finally time to see the glorious Incan symbol.
As the site is popular, it is quite easy to find tour operators to arrange the visit to Machu Picchu. I chose to go with a tour for the following reasons: 1) There was not much difference in price if you do it independently or with a tour guide. 2) The price of the tour (the basic package) was not expensive as there are lots of tour operators found in the area. 3) It saves you a lot of time and effort in arranging the tour as they take care of everything you need. Tip: Look for companies that are located far from the main plaza for bargains. Our tour was $200 USD which included transport to Cusco-Ollantaytambo, Peru Rail tickets, hostel for the night in Aguas Calientes, entrance ticket, and a two hour tour with a guide.
We left Cusco for Ollantaytambo where we took the train to Aguas Calientes. It took about an hour before we reached Aguas Calientes. We stayed the night in Aguas Calientes and headed towards Machu Picchu the day after. Aguas Calientes is a quaint town but most of the restaurants and shops there only offered fares mostly suited for tourists. There are two ways to reach Machu Picchu from Aguas Calientes: by bus or by walking/hiking. We opted the hike option and took about an hour and a half to finally reach the site’s entrance.
Machu Picchu opens around six in the morning. If you want to walk up, the best time to go is before six to take your time hiking (it’s not easy climbing up). Otherwise, the first bus trip going up to Machu Picchu is at six, best to go earlier to avoid long queues.
The daze of seeing the majestic Machu Picchu
So there I was, drenched from the rain and a bit muddied, staring with awe at this beautiful place. Despite being shrouded with clouds, I could already see its beauty.
Machu Picchu is an ancient citadel that lies atop a high slope, surrounded on three sides by the turbulent Urubamba River 2,000 feet below and overlooking the lush valley which is occupied by forests and agricultural lands. The site was unknown to majority until it was accidentally found by an American academic, Hiram Bingham III. The explorer was originally looking for another ancient city, Vilcabamba but instead stumbled to the now-famous landmark.
Machu Picchu is considered as one of the “Lost Cities”, deemed to be one the last sanctuaries of the Incan rulers away from the Spanish conquistadors. The location of the city itself is hard to reach to due to the mountains and forests which surround the area.
The city was built complete with a residential area, agricultural terraces and temples for ceremonial purposes. The agricultural terracing and aqueducts are located in slopes while the lower areas contain the residential sector. The most important religious areas are located at the crest of the hill.
Being unfit and combining that with my bone problems, I did not do any climbing after our morning climb. Instead, I just explored the area. I would have climbed the Huayna Picchu but the steep climb could actually be fatal to me.
There are three primary components in Machu Picchu: the Inti Watana, the Temple of the Sun, and the Toom of the Three Windows. The Inti Watana stone which are ritual stones arranged to point directly at the sun during the winter solstice. An Incan belief says that the stone held the sun in its place along its annual path in the sky.
The Temple of Three Windows consists of three walls on a rectangular base and covered by a roof made of adobe walls constructed from large blocks of solid rock. The roof is supported by a column of stone and the temple contains engravings that represent the three how the Inca civilization divided the Andean world: the sky spirituality (Hanan-Pacha), the Earth’s surface (Kay-Pacha) and inner life (Ukju-Pacha).
The Temple of the Sun is a semi-circular construction built over the highest part of the citadel. The tower contains a trapezoidal window, built over a rock of pure granite. Ceremonies in honor of Inti, the sun deity were held in the temple. It was also said that the priests of Inti kept a royal mausoleum wherein several mummies were worshiped.
The trip to Machu Picchu concludes my trip to Peru. Sadly, I have to leave this beautiful country. I haven’t even left the country but my list of destinations to visit upon returning is already long!