The continent’s best known and most beautiful archaeological park, Machu Picchu was designated as an UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Machu Picchu was discovered in 1911 by Hiram Bingham and it is widely believed that such amazing discovery was made by chance, since it was Vilcabamba city, the last Inca refugee, what this man was really looking for.
Formerly known as Picchu o Piccho, since colonial times this legendary place has been divided into two main parts: the old part, “Machu” and the young part, “Wayna”. Picchu means “hill” and form the combination of the two terms results the name “old hill”.
Only a few people lived in the citadel of Machu Picchu, probably no more than 200 or 300, and, if what we suspect is true, all of them were of high rank and were linked to the lineage of the Inca.
It is a well known fact that all this construction consisted of a kind of sanctuary where a vast number of riches were kept and, therefore, this place, erected in the surroundings of Cusco was of the utmost importance at the time.
Machu Picchu’s Historic Sanctuary covers an area of 32,592 hectares and is located at a height of 2490 meters above sea level, taking the Main Square of the archaeological site as a reference. Temperature ranges from 8ºC to 22ºC and from December to April is the time when it rains most.
The way to access Machu Picchu is taking the tourist train which takes 4 hours to travel 112.5 kilometers from the San Pedro station in Cusco to the Aguas Calientes Station. Once there, buses will take tourists up to Machu Picchu’s Historic Sanctuary.
Adventure lovers who enjoy long walks may hike the Inca Trail in order to access Machu Picchu.
The three sectors
This amazing sanctuary located about 1000 meters below Cusco and 2360 meters above sea level consists of two main sectors, the Agricultural sector, and the Urban sector and there is a third sector known as Wayna Picchu.
The Agricultural is the largest sector, since it surrounds the whole Urban area.
The sanctuary properly speaking is a citadel made up of palaces and temples, dwellings and storehouses. The buildings as well as the plazas that constitute the sanctuary are connected among themselves by a system of narrow lanes or paths, mostly in the form of flights of steps.
The citadel is surrounded by a large wall and by a deep and wide ditch, or dry moat as a form of achieving restricted ceremonial isolation.
At a height of 2720 meters, this impressive, knife-shaped summit constitutes the third of the sectors in which the sanctuary is divided.
Once in the summit, in the middle of the rocks, a carved stone that has been popularly known as the “Inca’s chair” can be found. Such stone looks like an ancient rustic throne.
Not only will the carved stone impress the tourist but also, to conquer the summit is truly an unforgettable experience. From here, the whole area is seen as though it were a scale model, with its stunningly beautiful mountain peaks and ravines.
Life in Machu Picchu
Strangely enough the population that settled to live in the urban area of Machu Picchu was not precisely local inhabitants but mainly people from different areas and places.
According to the number of tombs found here, the population consisted mainly of women who worked the land and dedicated to manufacturing (textiles, ceramics or other handcrafts)
Furthermore, documents that date from the XVI century reveal that in lands such as Wayna Qhapaq which belonged to the Inca kings, thousands of mamacunas, which is to say women, were established
Everything indicates that the population of Machu Picchu did not include warriors. A notable aspect is that none of the skulls presented trepanation, a typical feature of men, presumably warriors, as it was found in excavations.