extension and population
| Brief historic
Routes to Machu Picchu |
Highlights of the Machu Picchu citadel |
Visitor warnings |
EXTENSION AND POPULATION
The Machu Picchu archeological site is located in the department
of Cusco, the province of Urubamba, and the district of Machu
Picchu. It stands at 2,350 m.a.s.l. (7,710 ft) in the Eastern
slope of the Cordillera del Vilcanota, which is limited by
the Apurímac and Urubamba rivers.
Machu Picchu is located in the
Ceja de Selva (High Jungle or mountain rim) or subtropical
zone. Consequently, the weather is mild, warm and humid, with
an annual temperature of 13ºC (55º F) during the
day. There are two seasons, clearly defined during the year,
the rainy season (from November through March) and the hot
season (from April through October), when the temperature
Before the American anthropologist
Hiram Bingham, many explorers, such as Antonio Raimondi, the
Count of Sartiges or Charles Wiener, had tried to discover
this historic sanctuary, but their efforts were fruitless.
An inscription in the Temple of the Sun proves that only the
Santander brothers were able to get to its base on July of
On July 14, 1911, Hiram Bingham
and a group of topographers, biographers, engineers and osteologists
from Yale University arrived to the site. Melchor Arteaga,
a local, guided them through the region and gave them directions
on how to get to what today is considered as the Eighth
Wonder of the World.
In 1914, Bingham returned to
Machu Picchu. With the economic and logistic support of Yale
University and the American Geographical Society, he brought
a team of specialists with him, along with his book, The
Lost City of the Incas, that was already circulating around
Bingham divided the Machu Picchu
buildings in sectors, naming them according to the cardinal
points. Even if some names have been kept, after several decades
of scientific studies and findings sponsored by the Instituto
Nacional de Cultura (INC) archeology patronage, experts
have changed the Bingham division almost completely. They
have divided the sanctuary according to the use and functions
of its buildings. This new division was based upon excavation
findings and comparative studies of these buildings with similar
ones from other regions of the Inca empire.
In early times, these territories
were not founded but rather occupied. The following classification
of the periods of occupation has been designed according
to the chronicles, the architectural features and the pottery:
1. Initial (circa 1300)
2. Classical (circa 1400)
3. Imperial (circa 1553)
4. Transitional (between 1533 and 1572)
TO MACHU PICCHU
There are three known ways to
get to Machu Picchu. First, the traditional three-hour ride
by train. Second, the very demanding four-day walk through
Caminos del Inca or Inca Trail for adventure tourists.
Third and latest, by getting to the town of Aguas Calientes
There are 112 km (70 ml) by train
from the city of Cusco to Puente Ruinas or Machu Picchu. The
trip starts in San Pedro Station in Cusco. The train passes
over the Picchu mountain through the zigzagging trail, until
crowning the highest point called El Arco, in the north
eastern part of the city.
It then descends and crosses
the towns of Pory, Cachimatyo and Izuchaca to the Anta Pampa,
a huge livestock breeding region. Roaming through the narrow
gorge in Pomatales, the train then slides towards the Sacred
Valley of The Incas by Pachar Station. It crosses the Urubamba
river through the right margin to get to the Ollantaytambo
Station and arrives at Puente Ruinas, the final destiny.
Those who have traveled the Sacred
Valley by road and do not want to waste time going back to
Cusco, can also take the train to Machu Picchu at the Ollantaytambo
There are two train services
available. The tourist train and the auto wagons, which leave
early in the morning and return to the city of Cusco in the
del Inca Trail
Caminos del Inca or the
Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is known as the most famous trekking
route in South America, because it offers a combination of
different factors. The route starts at Km 88 of the railway
towards the valley of Convención, in a place called
Q'oriwayrachina. There are 39.6 km (25 ml) between this town
and Machu Picchu.
The hike starts by crossing over
to the Urubamba river through the Kusichaca bridge that, as
in the Inca period, has been built with iron cables as a hanging
bridge. Almost immediately after crossing a eucalyptus forest,
travelers get to the archeological ruins of Q'ente, Pulpituyoc,
Kusichaca and Patallaca. Later, also after walking for several
hours, they arrive to Wayllabamba, a perfect place to camp.
The second day is the hardest
because it is a 4,200 m.a.s.l. (13,778 ft) climb and then
a descent to the Río Pacamayo valley, a place to spend
During the third day, travelers
can get to see splendid archeological ruins, such as, Runkuraqay.
Also, the beautiful Yanacocha and Phuyupatamarca lakes, which
are very close to the Wiñayhuayna Visitors Center,
where they can camp.
On the fourth and final day of
the adventure, it is best to start walking at eight in the
morning to get to Machu Picchu after a three-hour hike by
crossing the mountain rim and skirting cliffs.
During the whole trekking tour
travelers are spectators of an impressive fauna and flora,
that include endangered species, such as, the eyeglass bear,
the American panther, the Andes fox; river otters; wildcats,
Travelers should take sleeping
bags, backpacks, multiple use knives, soroche (dizziness)
pills and antiophidic serum.
There is only one company that
offers a daily trip at 8:45 in the morning from the Velasco
Astete airport in Cusco. After a 25 minute trip, the helicopter
arrives to Aguas Calientes. From there, the ride to the citadel
by bus takes 30 minutes. In all, it is a 55 minute drive from
Cusco to Machu Picchu. The view by air of the city of Cusco
and the Sacred Valley is wonderful. However, helicopters are
forbidden to get near to the archeological sites.
OF THE MACHU PICCHU CITADEL
The Farming Sector includes
a sequence of terraces of different types and dimensions,
which had a double function: they were used for farming and
as containing walls against the erosion produced by the rains.
The Urban Sector houses
the main architectural elements of the city as such. This
sector reveals the talent, dedication and quality of the pre-Hispanic
constructors. They built on granite, a very strong rock, different
from the one used in the city of Cusco.
Cementerio Superior. This
burial ground was assigned only for noblemen and priests.
Sacred niches were located near the tombs to pay tribute to
Temple of The Sun. It is a semicircular construction of
solid rock. This building holds two trapezoidal windows which,
according to the chroniclers, in the past had inlays of gold
and precious stones.
The Intiwatana is located
on a hill with platforms and terraces. To get there, visitors
must climb a flight of 78 steps of finely carved rock. The
Intiwatana served to measure time (solstice and equinox) given
the light and shadow effects of the place. It was also used
as a stone altar.
Central Temple. It
is located to the north of the Sacred Plaza and very close
to the Temple of the Three Windows.
Las Plazas. These are
four squares located on different levels, but they all have
the stamp of the rectangular forms used in the Inca Classic
style. All four plazas communicate through stairways built
at the border of the terraces.
Huayna Picchu is the name
given to the peak of the mountain across the valley. The road
is very strenuous, crossed by terraces and small temples.
From this mountain, the panoramic view of Machu Picchu is
Other interesting sites include,
the group of the Sacred Rock, the Windows, the Doors, the
Fountains, the Mausoleum.
At 800 meters east from the town
of Aguas Calientes, there are sulfurous thermal waters
that emerge from the rocky subsoil at different degrees of
The puddles and pools arranged
in this place have the basic infrastructure for their use
as thermal baths. The average temperature of these waters
runs between 38°C (104 ° F) and 46°C (115 °F).
The place has dressing rooms,
restrooms, and a small snack bar.
Any person that goes into the
historic sanctuary of Machu Picchu and makes use of the authorized
trekking routes has to respect and observe the following rules
given by government authorities:
1. Hand all
documents and information requested by the authorities.
2. Pay the fee
for the right to use the Camino del Inca circuit or any other.
3. Avoid littering
and polluting the sanctuary.
4. Make good
use of public areas, facilities and equipment. Avoid their
deterioration or destruction.
are not permitted.
6. It is strictly
forbidden to extract, depredate or acquire any species of
the existing flora in the historic sanctuary.
7. It is strictly
forbidden to capture, hunt, depredate or acquire any species
of the wild fauna.
must mount their camping in the assigned areas. It is strictly
forbidden to camp in the interior of the archeological site
or in the restricted areas.
9. Well behavior
and respect for the other users is expected from all visitors.
Infractions against any of
the regulations mentioned above, will force the intervention
of the local police or control personnel to apply the adequate