Machu Picchu is a 15th-century Inca site located 2,430 metres (7,970 ft) above sea level. It is located in the Cusco Region, Urubamba Province, Machu Picchu District in Peru. In native Quechua, machu means old person while pikchu means peak or mountain.
We departed the Aranwa Hotel shortly after breakfast and made our way to Machu Picchu Pueblo at the base of the mountain via train.
Upon arrival, we enjoyed a quick picnic lunch at the train station. There is a nice little deli on site with picnic tables beneath shade umbrellas for comfort. International Expeditions had arranged for our meals in advance so there was no need to wait in line. Porters transported our luggage to the motel so we didn’t have to worry about anything.
Something hidden. Go and find it.
Go and look behind the Ranges –
Something lost behind the Ranges.
Lost and waiting for you. Go!
~ Rudyard Kipling’s poem, The Explorer
We walked through town relatively swiftly – there would be time to shop and browse in the early evening if we desired. We boarded a bus on the edge of town and made our way along the switch backs to the entrance of Machu Picchu.
Majestic Machu Picchu
Machu Picchu stands in the middle of a tropical mountain forest, in an extraordinarily majestic setting. It was probably the most amazing urban creation of the Inca Empire at its height; its giant walls, terraces and ramps seem as if they have been cut naturally in the continuous rock escarpments. The natural setting, on the slopes of the Andes, encompasses a rich diversity of flora and fauna.
Machu Picchu is among the greatest artistic, architectural and land use achievements anywhere. The World Heritage property covers 32,592 hectares of mountain slopes, peaks and valleys surrounding its heart, the spectacular archaeological monument of “La Ciudadela” (the Citadel).
Built in the fifteenth century, it was abandoned when the Inca Empire was conquered by the Spaniards in the sixteenth century. It was not until 1911 that the archaeological complex was made known to the outside world by the American historian Hiram Bingham. Since then, Machu Picchu has become the largest tourist attraction in South America.
We entered the site with our IE guide, Harvey, in the early afternoon and were not surprised by the number of people. He led us to a few key locations within the citadel, speaking at length about the historical significance and the incredible architecture of the area. I loved listening to our guide as he shared his anecdotes, peppered with Quechua. We got a real feeling for the lifestyle of the Inca before the arrival of the Spanish.
The Incan homes were built with a slight trapezoidal construction to withstand earthquakes. Niches, built into the walls, release weight and pressure – each perfectly matched to another directly across the room from it. Where there is a door or entrance-way, two niches balance.
The design is modeled after nature. What is not visible are the more than 130 underground channels that divert and redirect water through the city. Most evidence shows that Machu Picchu was built in the 1400s. The engineering feats are outstanding – a skill that is NOT matched even with today’s technology.
In the early evening, we returned Aquas Calientes where we meandered the stalls of the open market only briefly. The altitude coupled with the intensity at which we traversed the ruins led us home to our hotel. The Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel, where we resided the next two nights, was incredible. As before, however, I will reserve my review for another time.
The small town of Aguas Calientes, otherwise known as Machu Picchu Pueblo is the village/town in the Urubamba Valley, northeast of the ruins of Machu Picchu. This is where trains come in from Cuzco and from where buses take tourists all the way up to the famous archaeological site. The Vilcanota River rapidly rushes near the town.
While it is estimated that a million tourist come to Aguas Clients each year, most don’t take the time to walk around and explore the pueblo. It has its own attractions and it might be interesting for you to check them out, if you have the time. There are many hotels and restaurants in the town, which lives primarily out of the travel industry. From cheap hotels to expensive ones in the luxury segment, you will find almost anything here.
Return to Machu Picchu
The following day, we had hoped to be amongst the 200 to hike Huayna Picchu, but it didn’t work out. This is likely for the best considering it had rained over night and the rocks were undoubtedly slick – making an already narrow trail all the more treacherous.
Instead, we spent the morning within the citadel of Machu Picchu. Harvey was with us for only a short time – providing a little more interpretive information bur thereafter we were on our own.
Geneva wasn’t feeling all too well so we didn’t stay too long. We hiked up to one of the higher viewpoints to take more photos. Patrick tried to do a short time-lapse video, but the park ranger asked him to move along.
In the afternoon, we returned to the Inkaterra where we enjoyed a leisurely orchid walk on the hotel grounds. I’ll share highlights from that walk in my review of the hotel.
Join me later this week as I share our discoveries in:
Arriving in Cusco & the Sacred Valley
Ollantaytambo Temple & Peruvian Paso (coming Wednesday)
Cusco – The Imperial City (coming Thursday)
Lima – The City of the Kings (coming Friday)
When we travel, I always purchase a DK Eyewitness Travel Guide to familiarize myself with the country and the culture. Updated annually, each book provides a detailed description of popular tourist attractions, restaurants, and lodging options.
Each guide divides the country (or city) into color coded regions enabling quick browsing while on the road. The DK Eyewitness Travel Guides are comprehensive guides that provide everything to see at a location. While comprehensive, the books give just the right amount of information to spark interest in the particular sights you want to see. They are organized intelligently for the traveler, and they always provide a map.
As a special expression of gratitude to you, I am giving away one DK Eyewitness Travel Guide of choice to a lucky reader. The contest closes on the 20th of September at 12 a.m.