Machu Picchu the ancient city of the Incas, the whole truth

Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu in Peru is an ancient Inca city and world heritage site on top of a mountain range 2,450m above sea level.

The name “Machu Picchu” comes from the Quechua language and means “old mountain.” The settlement is also often called “the city among the clouds” or “the city in the sky.” Not far from the city is the cliff of Huayna Picchu, which means “young mountain. According to legend, this cliff is a guardian frozen in stone. Indeed, from a certain angle, the outline of Huayna Picchu resembles the profile of an Indian looking up into the sky.

The city consists of several hundred structures and has a clear structure. On the southeast side are palaces, noblemen’s houses, and temples. One of the most unusual buildings is the Temple of the Condor, which got its name because of the stone, the outline of which resembles a bird’s head with a beak. The stone probably served as a sacrificial altar, as the “beak” is bordered with a trough. There is a hypothesis that the condor was an Incan sacred bird, personifying the element of air and freedom. Two small rocks behind the sacrificial stone symbolize the wings.

Where is Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu is a world famous Inca city lost in Peru. To get there you must first take a flight to Peru to the capital Lima. Then you will need to make a short hop on a plane to Cuzco. Tourists can then take the train to the settlement of Aguas Calientes from a train station called “Poroy” or another station in the Sacred Valley. This is the settlement closest to the cherished destination. The next step is to buy a bus ticket to Machu Picchu. In terms of cost, this route is the most expensive.

If tourists want to save money, they need to take a bus from Cusco to Urubamba. There you can take another bus to Oyantaytambo. In the evening, the train to Aguas Calientes leaves from this location. The total travel time exceeds 6 hours.

As a result, the trip will be quite tedious. Moreover, from Aguas Calientes, you should take a bus up into the mountains. But it doesn’t take you more than a quarter of an hour to get to the wonderful and mysterious Inca city.

If you’re not used to getting anywhere by train, you can take a direct train to Aguas-Calientes. However, the cost of the ticket may be too high for some.

Inca City

The sacred city of the Inca Empire, Machu Picchu, is the pride of modern Peru and one of the main attractions of Peru and Latin America. It is also known as the “lost city of the Incas”, because the modern world learned about it only in 1911, thanks to the expedition of the American professor Hiram Bingham.

The ancient architectural complex occupies the territory of more than 30 thousand hectares and is rightfully considered a masterpiece of Indian architecture.

The city is located in a surprisingly picturesque place – among unapproachable cliffs, at an altitude of more than 2000 meters above the Urubamba River valley.

It is still unclear why the Incas created the city in such a remote place. Perhaps the reason is that these lands are not only famous for their natural beauty, but they are also considered a mystical place with a powerful positive energy. Perhaps the cliff tops were the best way to make astronomical observations and brought the Indians closer to the Sun, which they worshipped as the supreme deity.

The Great Sacred Square separated the nobility’s area from the commoners’ houses, shops, workshops, and the cemetery, which was in the Burial Rock. In the southern sector of the city were the houses of the peasants with outbuildings and pens for livestock. The Incas built the roofs of their houses with wooden beams connected by vines and covered them with thatch on top.

The Acropolis of Athens in Greece, photo and description

The main temple of Machu Picchu is located on the west side of the city. Behind it is a hill with artificial terraces and a long staircase that leads to one of the most enigmatic sights in the architectural complex, the Intiwatana Stone, also known as the “stone of the sun.” It is a huge polygonal stone carved from a granite monolith on top of a cliff. The stone is believed to have been used by the priests in the “binding of the sun” ritual, a symbolic act performed annually on the winter solstice.

Purpose of the city

Numerous researches by scientists-historians never brought them to a consensus regarding the purpose of the city of Machu Picchu. And now there are several hypotheses which never became an axiom.

According to the first theory, the city was the homeland and the last Inca stronghold during their fight against the conquistadors. But only later it became known that the final resting place of the mysterious ancient people was the city of Espiritu Pampa.

The temple built for the Solar Maidens was the name of Machu Picchu for a long time. Scientists have suggested that it was founded for the women’s religious order, worshipping them. Many years ago, the American George Eaton discovered a huge number of female skeletal remains at the excavations of the city. But the assumption made turned out to be false, and it turned out only in 2000. Then were carried out more detailed study of the bones. It turned out that the female population did not prevail in the city.

Some scientists consider this mysterious city to be the residence of the ruler of the Incas of the 15th century. We are talking about the emperor Pachacuti. The hypothesis arose at the end of the twentieth century because of a Spanish document, but no one has been able to confirm it exactly.

In 1991, the American Reinhard (a famous archaeologist) drew attention to the fact that the city was built on top of a mountain, at the foot of which flows the turbulent Urubamba River. As a result, he concluded that the city in question was of sacred importance to the Incas. Reinhardt suggested that Machu Picchu united Heaven and Earth, was a kind of “sacred beginning” for the ancient people, symbolized eternity, a detail of the mythological landscape. But such thoughts are very long and, according to other anthropologists and archaeologists, have nothing to do with the real purpose of Machu Picchu.

And one more theory from 2009. An Italian astrophysicist expressed his opinion that the city was a common pilgrimage site, and that was its main purpose.

To date, none of the above hypotheses has no real background and no confirmation of the data. Therefore the purpose of the mysterious city of the ancient Incas remains unclear.

Where did the inhabitants go?

It is also not possible to answer this question unequivocally. For too long people have tried to unravel the mysteries of the beautiful “heavenly” city. It now seems that some thread of reality has been lost forever to numerous researchers and scientists.

Some believe that the inhabitants died of a smallpox epidemic. Others tell of an attack by savage tribes. But this seems improbable, because no traces of their presence have been found. There is also no destruction on the territory of the city.

Another hypothesis is the desecration of the city, after which the inhabitants hastily left it. It is believed that violence was committed against the priestess of the Sun. The Incas believed that they were not allowed to be in the desecrated territory and left in an unknown direction.

Ostia Antica, city sights

Perhaps the onslaught of ruthless Spanish conquerors forced the natives to leave the sacred lands, forever losing their high status. But again we do not know in what direction the Incas went and what became of them after they left Machu Picchu.

Perhaps another mystery, of the mysterious city of the disappeared inhabitants, will remain forever unsolved. But scientists never stop looking for answers.

The disappearance of the Inca gold.

Thousands of expeditions from around the world have been unsuccessfully trying to find the famous Inca gold. It is believed that the conquistadors-conquerors of the ancient people took for the gods and lavished their unearthly treasures. When the last Inca ruler was executed, the Spaniards hid the gold and took some of it out of the city. But the search continues, and the treasure remains undiscovered.

There are several interesting versions, each of which has not been confirmed. Some believe that the bullion was found in Germany by the Nazis in the thirties. Others point to the Vatican, claiming that it was the Catholic Church that seized the treasure.

Others suggest that the gold was somehow inconceivably taken to Poland by the last of the Incas. But all these versions are unreliable, because no one has ever found the amazing treasure. Gold hunters continue to visit the abandoned city of Machu Picchu. Some believe that the bulk of the gold and rests in its lands – and there can be no other. Some scholars even cite historical evidence that the Spaniards took only a small part of the amazing treasures from the Inca territory.

It is only worth noting that the ancient Inca city has not been fully explored. It is possible that it still harbors unprecedented riddles that you want to unravel. Thousands of brave souls come here to find answers to the most tricky historical questions, closely intertwined with the present.


The heyday of the Inca Empire was the second half of the 15th century. In the 15th century AD 30 the city was suddenly deserted. It is known for certain that the city was not among the settlements destroyed during the invasion of the Spanish conquistadors, so it remains a mystery why the holy city deserted.

There are many different hypotheses. Among the possible causes are a smallpox epidemic or the desecration of sacred sites. Most likely, the “city in the sky” lost its significance after the fall of the empire and therefore was abandoned by the inhabitants. Be that as it may, the hope remains with the researchers that one day this mystery will be solved.

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Panorama of the city

In 1532, all of its inhabitants mysteriously disappeared. Machu Picchu is a small town – there are no more than 200 structures.

Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu is a legendary city tucked away in the heart of the Andes at an altitude of 2,400 meters. This ancient Inca settlement between two mountain peaks still keeps its secrets to this day. It takes one’s breath away to see the ruins of Machu Picchu, dramatically rising up through the jungle-covered peaks and steep slopes and terracing down into the valley.

Those who want to see the monumental ruins and immerse themselves in the atmosphere of an ancient civilization can take the Inca Trail, a route used by pilgrims for centuries. It runs from the Sacred Valley near Ollantaytambo through an exotic forest and majestic mountains. The hike along the Inca Trail lasts several days. The view from the top of Funeral Rock is spectacular-it’s the perfect place to greet the sunrise, unless you don’t mind the abundance of people and llamas grazing nearby. The location of the ancient city, with agricultural and urban areas separated by a long dry moat, is perfectly visible from here.

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Video: Machu Picchu


Some archaeologists believe that Machu Picchu was established as a sacred mountain refuge by the great Inca ruler Pachacutec a century before the conquest of his empire, that is, around 1440, and functioned until 1532.

Machu Picchu is the most famous and most mysterious Inca cultural monument in the world View of the city of Machu Picchu in 1912. Photo of the original ruin before the beginning of the reconstruction work

The hordes of Spanish conquistadors reached the highlands of Peru, easily breaking the resistance attempts of the indigenous tribes. However, Manco Capac II (1516-1544), also known as Manco Inca Yupanqui, an ambitious Indian chief, was not reconciled to his role as a courtier in the service of the Spanish crown. He assembled a band of loyal warriors and launched an armed rebellion against the Spanish occupiers. However, the forces were too unequal, and after several years of bloody battles Manco Capac II and the remnants of his army was forced to hide in the impregnable highlands of the Andes.

The Incas were on their way to Machu Picchu (Drawing).

High up in the mountains they were trying to find a place to lay a new Inca city until they stumbled upon a plateau between two mountain peaks, the “Young Peak” (Huayna Picchu) and the “Old Peak” (Machu Picchu), high above the wild jungle of the Urubamba Valley. Manco Capac II named his new city in the cloudy skies Wilka Bamba, and here the Inca empire under his rule lasted another 30 years, and the location of Machu Picau was forgotten. When Hiram Bingham rediscovered Machu Picchu in 1911, he announced that he had discovered Wilcabamba. The results of recent archaeological excavations cast doubt on his conclusions, but an ancient settlement, identified as a possible Vilcabamba, was found 100 km west of the site.

The complete oblivion of Machu Picchu is also shrouded in mystery. Apparently the Incas abandoned it once and for all in 1532 when the city was conquered by the Spanish conquistadors. The jungle quickly covered the desolate ruins. It took almost 400 years before it was rediscovered.


Machu Picchu is often called “the city in the sky” or “the city among the clouds,” sometimes referred to as “the lost city of the Incas.

Whoever built the city of Machu Picchu took care to plan it from the beginning down to the smallest detail. On one side are the palaces of the nobility and the temples. The houses of the priests, scholars and artists surround the main town square. The peasants were on the far side of the mountain where they lived next to the animal stables and barns. All the buildings in the city were built of wild stone, quarried here in the mountain quarry. No stonemason in the world had ever managed to surpass the Inca masters, who managed to adjust each stone with amazing accuracy.

The lamas of Machu Picchu love to be photographed!

The Incas planned Machu Picchu so that the city could exist independently of the rest of the world; a person could spend his entire life here without leaving his hometown. The southern slope was devoted to farmland. Here terraces were cut and filled with fertile soil brought from the Urubamba Valley. These terraces (or “andenas” in Indian, which gave the mountains their name, “Andes”) were fortified with low stone fences. Thus, peasants could build an irrigation system without fear that water would wash away the fertile layer.

The fields were irrigated through an elaborate system of canals that brought water from springs high in the mountains. Five hundred years later water still flows safely into the fields through this system.

Valley of the Temples in Sicily, photo and description

Temple of the Sun at Machu Picchu Under the Temple of the Sun

The grandiose Temple of the Sun at Machu Picchu is an outstanding example of ancient Inca architecture, with its extraordinary stonework and round towers with windows perfectly placed for the sun to penetrate the central temple on the June winter solstice.

Below the temple is the Royal Tomb, carved into the rocks, and the Royal Quarter with dwellings clustered around a still-functioning water channel and interconnected fountains.

Nearby is the Temple of the Three Windows with the Sacred Square, the Main Temple, the Sacristy and the Priest’s House.

At the top of the stairs you can see the famous ancient calendar, the Intihuatana, which in Inca language means “the place to which the sun is attached,” by which astronomical phenomena and agricultural operations were calculated. At the top of the mountain lies a sacred stone resembling a sundial. It is believed that the sundial was used to determine the year, month, day and hour.

The main temple of Machu Picchu The priest’s house The ancient Intihuatana calendar

The Temple of the Moon is another sanctuary not often visited, with many mystical recesses, niches and portals, there are also carved thrones and an altar – its purpose is not yet completely clear. The temple of the Condor away from the central square is notable for the dark rock symbolizing the wings of the huge bird and the pale colored rock below, representing its head.

Temple of the Moon at Machu Picchu

The skill of the ancient architects, who were able to create the original trapezoidal door and window openings characteristic of ancient Inca structures, glorifies the sun, their most important deity, the basis of the entire system of religious views. The word “Inca” itself means “one” and “son of the sun.

The present state of

Machu Picchu, especially after obtaining UNESCO World Heritage status, has become a center of mass tourism. In 2011, it was decided to limit the number of visitors, Under the new rules only 2,500 tourists a day can visit Machu Picchu, of which no more than 400 people can climb the mountain of Vaina Picchu, which is part of the archaeological complex. In order to preserve the monument, UNESCO requires to reduce the number of tourists per day to 800. Machu Picchu is located in an inaccessible region. To support tourism, a railroad was built to the neighboring city of Aguas Calientes from Cuzco via Ollantaytambo, with more than ten trains a day from Ollantaytambo. From the train station of Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu there is a bus that travels eight kilometers up a steep serpentine ascent. UNESCO opposed the construction of the cable car to limit the flow of tourists. In the 2004 earthquake, a section of the railroad was badly damaged, but was rebuilt.

View of Machu Picchu

In January 2010, due to heavy rains that eroded the roads, more than 2,000 locals and more than 2,000 tourists were unable to leave Aguas Calientes. People managed to get out with the help of helicopters, and Machu Picchu was temporarily closed until April 1, 2010.

At the 35th session of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee, it was decided that the ancient city will be removed from the list of World Heritage Sites in Danger as of February 1, 2012. However, the committee has not abandoned further action to improve the condition of the city, and considers it necessary to continue to monitor the “evolution of the enclave.

View of the Urubamba Valley


  • 15th century: Archaeological evidence indicates that Machu Picchu was founded at this time.
  • 1776 and 1782: Decrees related to the acquisition of agricultural terraces around Machu Picchu.
  • 1895: The road to Cusco, the “Sacred Valley of the Incas,” was paved, revitalizing the area as a whole.
  • 1911: A Yale University expedition led by Hiram Bingham rediscovers the ancient city. Bingham had visited Machu Picchu as early as 1912 and 1 91 5.
  • 1934: Archaeological research is begun under the direction of the Peruvian scholar Luis E. Valcarcel. In 1940-1941, Paul Fejos was involved in the excavations. Excavations were resumed in 1960.
  • 1983: Machu Picchu is included in the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Lycian Tombs in Dalyan, Turkey

Tours to Machu Picchu

Cusco travel agencies and guides offer a huge selection of itineraries to Machu Picchu, but they are mainly divided into:

  • One-day tours, which are the most in demand;
  • Two-day tours with an overnight stay in the village of Aguas Calientes;
  • A four-day hike to Machu Picchu along the Inca Trail.

The most common one-day tour is as follows: at 6 am, tourists are picked up from their hotels and taken to the bus station. It is very important not to forget your passport when you go to Machu Picchu – it is checked on a mandatory basis. The trip takes two hours by bus to the station Ollantaytambo, 78 kilometers from Cuzco, change to the train, and another hour and a half to Aguas Calientes. From there another half hour by bus. Total, five and a half hours from the hotel door to the entrance to Machu Picchu.

The Expedition Backpacker Tourist Train is quite a comfortable vehicle with comfortable padded seats, roof windows, a toilet, and a light snack offered to passengers. The organization is extremely precise and well-coordinated, this top line of Peruvians has been running like an assembly line for a long time.

The approximate cost of a one-day tour to Machu Picchu from Cusco is 250 USD per person. This includes bus and train tickets, entrance to the fortress, guide services, lunch, and transfer to the hotel. If you are limited on time, this may be the best option for you. The only disadvantage of a day trip is that most of the time is spent driving, which is also very tiring, rather than seeing Machu Picchu. The difference in cost between a one-day and a two-day tour is negligible.

Aguas Calientes is the closest settlement to Machu Picchu

Advantages of the two-day tour: staying overnight in Aguas Calientes allows tourists to visit Machu Picchu at an early hour before the main tourist influx, and to climb to the very top of Mount Vaina Picchu. Keep in mind that this mountain is only accessible to a limited number of tourists and only twice a day – at 7 a.m. and 10 a.m.

The most economical option is to buy a combined three-day tour Cusco Machu Picchu, which includes accommodation in hotels, transportation and sightseeing program. The cost of such a tour is about 370 USD per person for double occupancy.

Machu Picchu in the morning haze

How to get there by yourself

The cheapest way to get to Machu Picchu is by public transportation from Cusco. The bus goes to Urubamba, where you change to a bus to Oyantaytambo. At 19:45 local time, the nearest town is Aguas Calientes, the nearest train to Machu Picchu. The whole trip takes 5-7 hours.

The buses on the Aguas Calientes – Machu Picchu route run every 15 minutes and take 10-20 minutes.

A more expensive option, but without transfers: the train Cuzco – Aguas Calientes. The ticket costs about 240 PEN (about 75 USD).

The most interesting way is to walk to Machu Picchu along the Inca Trail. The classic trekking is designed for 4 days and average physical fitness.

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