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Machu Picchu Facts

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Machu Picchu Facts

For many visitors to Peru and even South America itself, a visit to the ¨lost¨ Inca city of Machu Picchu is the defining moment of their trip. Undeniably the most spectacular archaeological site on the continent, it tantalizes with its mysterious past and is deservedly world-famous for its stunning location and craftsmanship. From June to September as many as 1000 people arrive daily. Despite this great influx, this must-see site manages to retain its air of grandeur and mystery. Many backpackers reach Machu Picchu on foot, walking along the popular Inca Trail. Here you can find some Machu Picchu facts that will convince you to visit this impressive citadel.

 

Machu Picchu Facts

  • Hiram Bingham "rediscovered" the lost city in 1911; the Inca city was known by some local families, long before the arrival of the Yale University professor.
  • Bingham's team extracted a total of 40,000 artifacts from the Inca city of Machu Picchu, to be taken to Yale University, these included silver statues, jewelry, bones, ceramics and even mummies. Most of these objects have been returned to Peru as of 2014.
  • Machu Picchu is a Quechua word (the language of the Incas) which means "Old Mountain".
  • The lost city is located in the middle of two mountains at 2,430 meters high, these two mountains seen from "the house of the guardian", form the classic postcard of Machu Picchu, you can also see a human face in profile.
  • Machu Picchu was declared in 1983, cultural heritage of humanity by UNESCO.
  • UNESCO has established a limit of 2,500 visitors per day.
  • Machu Picchu was declared one of the new seven wonders of the world in 2007, next to the Taj Mahal, the Great Wall of China and four other impressive places.
  • Machu Picchu is in the list of observation of the 100 historical monuments that are in danger in the world.
  • The city of Machu Picchu was built as a royal residence for the Inca and his family, in the mid-1400s, by the Inca Pachacútec.
  • The buildings of Machu Picchu are made of stones that fit perfectly, and have remained so for more than 500 years, without the use of any type of forge, mortar or glue.
  • More than 50% of Machu Picchu is underground, as a base for some buildings or as water channels and drainages, for rainwater, irrigation and consumption.
  • Machu Picchu is divided into two zones, agricultural and urban; It is estimated that in this city hidden among the mountains, lived just over 1000 people.
  • The National Park of Machu Picchu hosts the Huayna Picchu mountain, this mountain is so popular that if you want to come in high season, tickets must be reserved 6 months in advance.

Besides this Machu Picchu facts, we left you some important information that you should consider to visit the citadel.

 

Information

The ruins are typically open from dwan till dusk, but they are most heavily visited between 10am and 2pm. One-day tickets cost US$23.50 per adult and US$12 per student with card. You must buy them in advance through a tour operator or at the ticket office in Aguas Calientes. You aren´t allowed to bring large backpacks, walking sticks, food or water bottles into the ruins. There´s a free storage room just before the main entrance.

 

Sights

Proceed from the ticket gate along a narrow path to the mazelike main entrance to Machu Picchu, where the ruins now reveal themselves and stretch out before you. To get a visual fix of the whole site and snap the classic postcard shot, climb the zigzaggins staircase to the Hut of the Caretaker of the Funerary Rock, which is one of the few buildings that has been restored with a thatch roof, making it a good rain shelter. The Inca Trail enters the site just below this hut.

From here, take the steps down and to the left of the plazas into the ruined section containing the Temple of the Sun, a curved, tapering tower containing some of Machu Picchu´s finest stonework. The temple is cordoned off the visitors, but you can see into it from above. Below is an almost-hidden natural rock cave that has been carefully carved with a steplike altar and sacred niches by the Inca´s stonemasons, known as the Royal Tomb, though no mummies were ever found here.

Climbing the stairs above the 16 nearby ceremonial baths that cascade down the ruins brings you to the Sacred Plaza, from which there is a spectacular view of the Río Uruba,mba valley and across to the snowcapped Cordillera Vilcabamba in the distance. The Temple of the Three Windows overlooks the plaza.

Behind the Sacristy, known for the two rocks flanking its entrance, each of which is said to contain 32 angles, a staircase climbs to the major shrine, Intihuatana (Hitching Post of the Sun), which lies a top a small hill. The carved rock at the summit is often called a sundial, though it was connected to the passing of the seasons rather than the time of day. The Spaniards smashed most such shrines in an sttempt to wipe out the pagan blasphemy of sun worship.

At the back of the Intihuatana is another staircase that descends to the Central Plaza, which divides the ceremonial sector of Machu Picchu from the more mundane residential and industrial sectors. At the lower end of this area is the Prison Group, a labyrinthine complex os cells, niches and passageways. The centerpiece of the group is a carving of the head of a condor, the natural rocks behind it resembling the bird´s outstretched wings.

 

Day Tripping vs. Overnight

You can visit Machu Picchu on a day trip, but we recommend staying overnight at the hotel near the entrance or at a hotel in Aguas Calientes. A day trip allows you about four hours at Machu Picchu. If you stay overnight you can wander the ruins after most tourists have gone.

 

Buying a Ticket

If you arrive without an admission ticket, you must purchase one in Aguas Calientes at the Instituto Nacional de Cultura (Avenida Pachacutec s/n, open daily 5 AM-10 PM) just off the Plaza de Armas. There is no ticket booth at the ruin´s entrance. Your ticket must be used within three days. It´s valid for multiple admissions on one calendar day only; a return visit the next morning means a new ticket.

 

Catching the bus

If you´re a day-tripper, follow the crowd out of the rail station about two blocks to the Consettur Machupicchu shuttle buses, which ferry you up a series of swithbacks to the ruins, a journey of 20 minutes. Buy your S/ 40 round-trip ticket at a booth next to the line of buses before boarding. If you´re staying overnight, check in to your lodging first, and then come back to buy a bus ticket.

Buses leave Aguas Calientes for the ruins beginning at 6:30 AM and continue more or less hourly, with a big push in mid-morning as the trains arrive. The last bus up leaves about 1 PM. Buses start coming back down about 11:30 AM, with a last departure at 5:40. If you´re heading back to Cusco, take the bus back down at least an hour before your train departs.

 

Activities

Behind the ruins is the steep-sided mountain of Huayna Picchu. It takes an hour to scramble up the steep path., but for all the puffing it takes to get there., you´ll be rewarded with spectacular views. Take care in wet weather as the steps get dangerously slippery. The trail entrance closes at 1pm (return by 4pm).

Part of the way up Huayna Picchu, another path plunges down to your left via ladders and an overhanging cave to the small Temple of the Moon, from where you can climb steeply to Huayna Picchu - a circuitous route taking two hours. Another option is to walk to a viewpoint of the Inca drawbridge. It´s a flatter walk from the Hut of the Caretaker of the Funerary Rock that hugs a narrow cliff-clinging trail (under 30 minutes each way) with sheer vertical drops into the valley.

 

Being Prepared

Being high above the valley floor makes you forget that Machu Picchu sits 2,490 meters (8,170 ft) above sea level, a much lower altitude than Cusco. It gets warm, and the ruins have little shade. Sunscreen, a hat, and water are musts. Officially, no food or drinks are permitted, but you can get away with a bottle of water. Large packs must be left at the entrance.

 

Practicalities

A snack bar is a few feet from where the buses deposit you at the gate to the ruins, and the Machu Picchu Sanctuary Lodge, the only hotel up here, has a S/100 lunch buffet open to the public. Bathrooms cost S/1, and toilet paper is provided. There are no bathrooms inside the ruins.

 

The Inca Trail, abridged

Some Cusco tour operators market a two-day, one-night Inca Trail excursion as the Sacred Inca Trail or Royal Inca Trail. It´s easier to procure reservations with a licensed operator are still essential. The excursion begins at km 104, a stop on the Cusco-Machu Picchu trains. A three-hour walk along the occasionally very steep path brings you to Huiñay Huayna (also called Wiñaywayna) a terrace complex and the same camp site from which the longer trekking trips begin their pre-sunrise walk to the ruins. Following another couple of hours walk, you´ll arrive at Machu Picchu late in the afternoon via Intipunku, the classic Machhu Picchu overlook. You spend day is not a trail hike, but a visit to the ruins.

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