Sunday, October 12, 2008

Exploring the Incan Wonderland - Part Two (Machu Picchu, Peru)

See Part One for an overall description of Machu Picchu (Inca Trail trek described here) and a guide to the some of its attractions. A quick-guide map is repeated below (taken from Huayna Picchu) to guide you around the site.The sacred district has the most significant and ma sites of the complex. Walking from the Temple of the Sun towards Huayna Picchu, you arrive at the Principal Temple (PT on the map). This three sided temple boasts some beautiful stonework (though some has subsided with earth movement) and an elegant stone altar. In this same area is the equally distinctive Three Windowed Temple (3W) with characteristic trapezoidal-shaped windows and superb stonework. Note the rock on the near side as part of the closest window has ten sides, yet fits neatly like the most perfectly formed jigsaw.

A little further uphill and up a regally carved stone staircase is the most remarkable element of Machu Picchu is Intihuatana (IN on the map). Nearly always surrounded by large groups, it is a style of ancient sundial. To show the Incan’s deep understanding of astronomy, calendars and agricultural cycles and their precision stonework, this diamond shaped rock casts no shadow only at two time points during the year - midday on the two equinoxes (March 21 and September 21) – the sun shining directly onto the rock. Even the guides who tell the same story every day seem to be moved in describing this stunning piece of middle age engineering. It is also claimed that the four points of the diamond lie to the four main compass points and are directly aligned with four of their most sacred mountains including Veronica to the east (photographed in an Inca Trail post) and Huayna Picchu to the north.

Walking to the end of the site is the entrance to the climb of Huayna Picchu (Young Mountain). It is a steep, vigorous climb up lots of rough Incan stairs and uneven dirt paths and takes between one and two hours (depending on your fitness). It is a well-worthwhile walk (after all, how often will you be in this majestic location). For the trekkers, encourage those tired legs to undergo one more climb. It must be undertaken in the morning (closes in the early afternoon and has daily limits on the number of trekkers) and is best recommended for the start of Day Two for those who are visiting for two days (strongly recommended approach). The view from the top gives a great understanding of the layout of Machu Picchu, offers an awe-inspiring overall panorama of the Andes and highlights the impressive terracing of the agricultural sector (see the lead photo of part one). Parts of this steep-sided mountain are terraced too.

If you aren’t yet tired of walking, a side path takes you to the impressive Temple of the Moon.

Finally, once you are down, I’d suggest you spend time wandering the general urban area (H on the map) where the standard population lived. Many of the houses are still in fine condition, though there are no roofs left as they were made of branches and grasses.

There are numerous other temples, rooms and areas to wander and get lost in this fantasy world of extraordinary stone buildings of the middle ages. Spend time relaxing in the main grassy plaza area and contemplate what a time it must have been, the hub-bub of activity in daily Incan life.

Whether you are mesmerised by the temples, the water-channelling system, the unusual stone sundials, the dry stonework of the walls, the large-scale agriculture or the phenomenal natural mountain setting, the Incan creators have left a remarkable legacy of an awe-inspiring, haunting, mysterious and magical travel wonder in this lost city.

Other Peru Posts
Trekking to the Lost City (Inca Trail)
Flight of the Condor (Colca Canyon)
Living in Reeds (Lake Titicaca)
Top Ten Travel Wonders of South America
Photo of the Week (Toucan)


radbadnomad said...

Just found your site. Very informative on Machu Piccu. Cant wait to visit there next year. Thank and will look forward to reading some past entries.

Jenny said...

Good insight on Machu Picchu. Keep it up

Mark H said...

@radbadnomad: Great place to visit. Hope you are walking the Trail as well - I'd strongly encourage the extra days to walk it if you can.

Ivana said...

what a great info...

Mark H said...

@ivana: Thank you - I hope you get to use it by walking the trail and seeing this magic place one day.

Lifecruiser said...

Such a great post. Thanks to you I get to experience a bit of it too.

Somehow, It has never been on my top list to go list. It's so strange, I don't even know exactly why! YEP. I'm WEIRD. *giggles*

Final_Transit said...

Super! I like your blog Mark, and this post brought back nice memories. I didn't do the inca trail and its interesting!

Mark H said...

@priyank: Thank you. One of the greatest places I've ever visited.

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