archaeological complex is located in the department
of Cusco, in the Urubamba province and district
of Machupicchu. It is perched on the eastern slopes
of the Vilcanota mountain range, a chain of mountains
curtailed by the Apurimac and Urubamba Rivers.
At latitude 13º7' South and longitude 72035' West
of the Greenwich Meridian, Machupicchu is located
at a height of 2,350 meters above sea level (main
It is located
in a subtropical zone, or dense wood, the reason
why the climate is mild, warm and damp, with an
average year-round temperature of 130C during
the day. One can perceive two distinct seasons
during the year: the rainy season from November
to March, which is a time of heavy rains. Visitors
are advised to dress accordingly during this season.
The dry season from April to October brings on
are abundant and varied. Typical plant life
in the historic reserve of Machupicchu includes
pisonayes, q'eofias, alisos, puya palm trees,
ferns and more than 90 species of orchids.
The fauna in
the reserve includes the spectacled bear,
cock-of-the-rocks or "tunqui",
tankas, wildcats and an impressive variety
of butterflies and insects unique in the
The lie of
the land, the natural surroundings and the
strategic location of Machupicchu lend this
monument a fusion of beauty, harmony and
balance between the work of the ancient
Peruvians and the whims of nature.
pinpoint the first to populate these lands, as
it was a time of occupation rather than foundations.
Machupicchu was visited by explorers well before
Hiram Bingham, although with little success. These
included Antonio Raymondi, the Count of Sartiges
and Charles Wiener. Other visits included one
in July 1909 by the Santander brothers, whose
inscription can be found carved into the base
of the Temple of the Sun. At the same time,
Peruvian explorers Enrique Palma, Augustin Lizárraga
and Gavino Sánchez arrived at the citadel by the
route of San Miguel.
railway line runs parallel to the river in
winding loops that follow the riverbed. From
here one can seethe typical vegetation of
the upper jungle, which climbs up to the top
of the steep mountain range that forms the
Urubamba Canyon. The train passes through
the Chilca train station from where one can
see the snowcapped peak called "Veronica".
With a height of 5,750 meters above sea level,
it is the highest peak in the Urubamba range.
The train stops at Kilometer 88, where the
Inca Trail begins.
train then continues on its way, passing through
the station of Pampacahua and the town of
Aguas Calientes, located at Kilometer 110.
When the train line comes up against a wall
of imposing granite mountains, it then plunges
into two tunnels before arriving at the station
of Puente Ruinas. From here, minibuses take
the travelers up 8 kilometers of roads up
to the Tourist Hotel. The entry control to
the Inca citadel is done near the hotel.
tour of Machupicchu starts on a path that leads
from the bus terminal. The path, built on purpose
for tourism, enters the citadel in the section
that houses a cluster of rooms near the outer
wall. The path continues through a terrace to
gain access to the agricultural zone before arriving
at the urban area.
The citadel is
divided into two sectors: the agricultural
(terracing) and the urban, where there are
main squares, temples, palaces, storehouses,
workshops, stairways, cables and water fountains
which run through both sectors, which measure
20 and 10 hectares respectively.
It is clear
that the architectural design was based
on Cusco, the capital of the Inca empire.
Machupicchu was built according to its natural
surroundings, with its constructions following
the natural curves and dips and rises in
excavation that took place after Bingham discovered
the ruins showed the land was previously given
granite foundations with little surrounding soil.
and urban sectors are split by a dry ditch, the
result of a geographic fault line.
The following chapters
describe the most important constructions in each
The sector is surrounded
by a series of terraces of different types and
sizes which had two main functions: to grow crops
and halt the erosion caused by the rains. The
most eye-catching terraces lie at the entrance
to the citadel. They begin at the cluster of rooms
located at the entrance and climb up to the top
of the mountain until they stop at a large rectangular
room.It is clear that the upper terraces at the
entrance were meant for agricultural purposes
as they have raised steps and are much wider.
The lower terraces, meanwhile, have different
shapes because they were built as foundations.
There are no canals
as they were not necessary, as the constant rains
and ever-present humidity allowed the plants to
grow without irrigation. The only water channel
that flows through the urban sector crosses through
the central terrace.
In the agricultural
sector there are five rooms that look like Chincheros
and Ollantaytambo storerooms.
This is made
up of a three-walled room with a view with
several windows, which can be found in front
of the main gateway. There is a go panorama
from here of the agricultural and urban
sectors and the surrounding landscape. It
is a good idea to take photos from this
angle as it gives the visitor a good view
of the complex.
In every Inca city,
the dead were buried on the outskirts of the town,
which is where in this case Cusco archaeologists
found human remains. In the upper part, they also
found sculpted stones that belong to the area,
which indicated the Incas used the stones to make
offerings to their gods. On this same piece of
ground lies a granite boulder sculpted with steps.
But the most striking feature is that it is pierced
with a ring, the purpose of which is unknown.
This ritual boulder is very similar to that of
the ñusta-hispana in the Vilcabamba I ruins. In
the upper part one can see a body-shaped spot
as if people had been placed on their backs.
While the agricultural
sector is cut short by a dry ditch, one can see
a long stairway that leads to the front gate.
This sector houses the most important constructions
of any Inca city, where one can appreciate the
talent, effort and quality of the pre-Hispanic
builders, as the constructions are entirely made
of granite, a very hard rock that is different
from that used in Cusco.
The city is U-shaped.
In the northern section there is the great religious
sector containing the temples, to the South there
are the houses and workshops on platform terraces
that Bingham called the Military Group. The main
buildings in the Urban Sector are the following:
TEMPLE OF THE SUN
is shaped like a semi-circle and built on solid
rock, an existing granite block shaped to blend
with the natural curves, with a diameter of 10.50
meters. It is composed of highly polished polyhedrons.
There are two trapezoidal windows in this building
with protruding knobs at every comer, and on the
north side there is a carefully-sculpted door
with bored holes in the doorjamb, very similar
to the Qoricancha temple in Cusco. The Spanish
historians relate there were once gold and precious
jewels encrusted in the door. To the West of the
temple there is a rectangular patio with nine
ceremonial doorways alternating with prism-shaped
studs. THE INTIWATANA
stone is located on a hill made up of several
terraces. The visitor can gain access to the
stone via 78 well-crafted steps. At the end
of the staircase one enters an open patio
with walls equally well-sculpted, and where
one can see an upper platform where there
is a granite rock sculpted into three steps.
In the central part one can see a rectangular
prism that is 36cm high and which is pointing
from North-West to South-East.
four corners are directed to the four cardinal
points. The Intiwatana had specific functions:
it measured time (the solstice and the equinox)
by using sunlight and shadow, and also served
as an altar. In Quechua, "Inti"
means "sun" and "Wata"
means "year", thereby giving us
the meaning of a solar year observatory.
GROUP OF THE SACRED ROCK
The sacred rock,
located in a four-sided spot flanked by two three-sided
rooms, features a monolithic rock sculpture which
is 3cm high and 7m wide at its base. The pedestal,
which is approximately 30cm high, resembles a
feline. From another angle, It looks like the
profile of a mountain near Machupicchu. It is
possible that this cluster of constructions, together
with two "Wayranas", or three-sided
rooms, were used for rituals.
TEMPLE OF THREE WINDOWS
It is located West
of the main square, has a large rectangular floor.
Its name comes from the fact its main face has
three windows and two blind bays. Together with
the main temple, this is the most impressive architecture
in all of Machupicchu. The enormous polyhedrons
have been carved and joined with millimetric precision.
In front of the Wayrana-style
construction, on the large doorjamb next to the
central column that holds up the roof, there is
a sculpted lithograph with carefully polished
molds and flat parts.
The temple is located
North of the Sacred Square, very near the Temple
of Three Windows. It is built of three walls and
is 11m long and 8m wide.
Doors are a common
sight in Machupicchu and especially in this sector.
They vary in texture, size and architectural style
that set them apart from each other, although
all have the same trapezoid shape. Some only have
one doorjamb and lintel, and some have two. Some
doors are simple and others have different security
mechanisms such as stone rings, central trunks
and other mechanisms which served to tie together
beams to make the doors more secure.
To the South of the
complex, between the Temple of the Sun and the
Royal Palace, the area houses a series of water
fountains, the only sources of the vital element
for the residents of Machupicchu. The first three
water fountains or "PaqchaS7 in Quechua,
have been extremely well sculpted. The architectural
structures in this area are basically sculpted
rock to which are added other decorations such
as the spillway and the side walls. This beautiful
finish is due to the harmony existing between
the Temple of the Sun and the Royal Palace. These
fountains were fed by underground water and carried
via a canal to be used for irrigation of crops.
leaning block of stone that holds up the Temple
of the Sun has a large crack in its bottom part,
which has been exceptionally skillfully decorated
and furnished to be later used as a tomb.
It was also a site
of worship and offerings to the mummified bodies
of the main authorities. In the doorway it shows
a carving portraying the symbol of the goddess
Mother Earth. In its interior there are niches,
monolithic pillars and other accessories used
for religious means and to attend the mummies.
There are four main
squares at different levels, but share the characteristic
of being rectangular in the classic Inca
style, interconnected by sunken stairways in the
parameters of the terraces. The main square is
the largest, which just like the main squares
in all Inca cities, had religious and social functions.
The fourth open area
is a square flanked by terraces with their respective
access ways, similar to the 1,000 B.C. Chavin
On July 14, 1911,
Hiram Bingham arrived together with a team of
Yale University specialists in topography, biographies,
geology, engineering and osteology, led by local
inhabitant Melchor Arteaga. They asked him about
the city, and he told them it was located on top
of an old peak ("Machupicchu" in Quechua).
Later, in 1914 Hiram
Bingham returned to Machupicchu with economic
and logistic backing from Yale University
and the U.S. Geographic Society with the specialists
mentioned above, whose report was published and
made available around the world with the title
"The Lost City of the Incas".
In the original map,
Bingham carved Machupicchu into sectors according
to the four cardinal points. Some names have remained
the same, but 76 years after the discovery of
Machupicchu, scientific studies carried out by
archaeologists from the archaeological foundation
of the National Cultural Institute as well as
delegations of foreign scientists, have provided
valuable conclusions about the use and functions
of the buildings. These were based on archaeological
excavations and the architectonic relations between
the buildings with similar construction across
the vast Inca empire.
The periods of occupation
have been broken down into the following, based
on historical accounts, construction style and
1. Initial (up to
(up to 1,400 A.D.)
(up to 1533 A.D.)
or Transition (1533 to 1572)
OF THE ROUTE TO MACHUPICCHU
There are 112krn
of railway line between the city of Cusco and
the station of Puente Ruinas or Machupicchu. The
trip starts in the station of San Pedro in Cusco,
zig-zagging up the Picchu mountain until it reaches
the highest point, a spot called "El Arco"
(the arch), in the northwest part of the city.
- The route then
descends to the villages of Poroy, Cachimayo and
lzcuchaca until it reaches the Anta plains, an
extensive cattle area. It climbs down the gully
of Pomatales before descending to the Sacred Valley
of the Incas, arriving at the station of Pachar.
The route then crosses the Urubamba River to the
right bank and arrives at the station of Ollantaytambo.
For those who arrived here by the asphalt road
of the Sacred Valley, one can board the train
to continue to Machupicchu.
At a distance of
800m East of the town of Aguas Calientes, there
are underground hot sulfur springs which bubble
up from the rocky ground at varying temperatures.
pools at this resort are the basis of its use
as hot mineral baths. The average temperature
of the water runs from 38ºc to 46ºc. There are
also changing rooms, bathrooms and a small snack
It only operates in the high season, leaving
Cusco in the morning, stopping at the most important
stations (Ollantaytambo, Km.88 or Ooriwayrachina)
until it arrives at the station of Puente Ruinas.
The trip takes four hours and returns in the evening.
This tourist service leaves Cusco in the morning
and takes three hours. The trip from The Sacred
Valley of the Incas (Urubamba to Ollantaytambo)
takes 1,1/2 hours. It returns in the evening.
It is recommended
to check all timetables in train stations and
travel agencies, as they are modified according
to the season.