Finding the Lost City of Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu was shrouded by fog for hundreds of years.

Once a thriving Incan city, it was abandoned in 1572 to avoid capture by the invading Spanish conquistadors.

Today, it is one of the most sacred historical sites in the world.

 

Machu Picchu is a magical place at sunrise
Machu Picchu is a magical place at sunrise.

 

Ancient stones in the Temple Zone.
Be ready to see a lot of stones; like these in the Temple Zone.

 

What a way to start your day!
What a way to start your day!

What Was Machu Picchu?

Although it has been extensively excavated and reconstructed, Machu Picchu’s true purpose remains a mystery.

Archaeologists and historians have four main theories:

  • Machu Picchu was the last Incan city.
  • Machu Picchu was a temple for the Virgins of the Sun.
  • Machu Picchu was a royal retreat.
  • Machu Picchu was an homage to a sacred landscape.

 

Machu Picchu featured an astronomical observatory, known as the Intiwatana
Machu Picchu featured an astronomical observatory: known as the Intiwatana

 

Expect to see a lot of stone at Machu Picchu.
Once upon a time, these were roofs.

 

Some of the biggest crowds at the ruins are surrounding the llamas; which are there to mow the lawn.
Huge crowds form around Machu Picchu’s resident lawn mowing llamas.

 

I'm pretty sure there used to be a roof here.
Blue skies are rare in the early morning.

 

I love all the intersecting lines in Machu Picchu
I love all the intersecting lines in Machu Picchu.

Sunrise at Machu Picchu

As sunrise casts away night’s shadow, golden rays of light illuminate the ancient citadel.

Buildings and stones are covered by a gentle yellow hue; while a florescent green aura envelopes the surrounding mountains.

Meanwhile, fog and clouds swirl throughout; demonstrating how the ruins remained undiscovered for centuries.

 

It’s like Machu Picchu was designed for sunrise.

In fact, it kinda was.

The citadel’s holiest building – El Templo del Sol (the Sun Temple; or Torreón) – has windows that are perfectly aligned with the sun’s position on the summer and winter solstices.

 

Entering through the terraces just after sunrise offers a unique and spectacular view.
Entering through the terraces just after sunrise offers a unique and spectacular view.

 

The Sun Temple
The Sun Temple.

 

Take a peek inside the Sun Temple
Imagine being sacrificed inside those walls.

 

Now, imagine the solstice sunrise peeking over those mountains and into the temple.
Now, picture the solstice sunrise peeking over those mountains and into the temple.

Sunrise at the Sun Gate

For those arriving via the Inca Trail, the Sun Gate offers that first magical first glimpse of Machu Picchu.

As I wrote in my journal,

“After a rapid pre-dawn hike, we arrived at the Sun Gate to find a wall of clouds blocking our view.

However, as if waved away by the hand of Pachamama, the ocean of white gave way to the majestic sight before us.

First, the peak of Hyana Picchu became visible.

Then, there it was: Machu Picchu.

I spent the next few minutes alternating between making photographs and jumping around like a kid on Christmas morning.

Before I knew it, it was time to finish the hike and enter these sacred ruins.”

 

This was my first view of Machu Picchu from the Sun Gate.
This was my first view of Machu Picchu from the Sun Gate.

 

With my darling wife at the Sun Gate.
With my darling wife, Carrie, at the Sun Gate.

 

A view of Machu Picchu mountain from the Inca Trail.
A view of Machu Picchu mountain from the Inca Trail.

Conserving Machu Picchu

As the most important and popular tourist destination in South America, Machu Picchu’s popularity has grown faster than its conservation efforts.

This has caused a boom in nearby tourism-related construction; often, with no regard for its impact on the environment.

Additionally, according to our guide, the citadel is slowly sinking.

 

All these factors led the Peruvian government to limit entry to 2,500 people per day.

However, as per my recent experience, if a particular day is sold out, the office just prints a ticket for the following day and changes the date with a pen.

 

To help protect Machu Picchu, dozens of guards with binoculars are situated around the site.
To help protect Machu Picchu, dozens of guards watch the site with binoculars .

 

The citadel is constantly in a state of repair and reconstruction.
The citadel is in a constant state of repair and reconstruction.

Stones, Stones, Stones!

Incredibly, Machu Picchu was constructed without a single drop of mortar.

Using the ancient Incan technique known as ashlar, stone blocks were precisely cut and positioned in an interlocking formation.

The technique was so masterful that – even today – it’s impossible to squeeze a knife between many stones.

 

Rolling Stones

Archaeologists believe that no wheels or iron tools were used during construction.

Instead, hundreds of men pushed the site’s heavy stones up the mountainside.

Imagine what that must have been like!

 

Some even say that a blade of grass won't fit between these stones.
It’s said that a blade of grass won’t fit between these stones.

 

Giant stones, which once were used for construction, can still be found in the nearby quarry.
Giant stones, which once were used for construction, can still be found in the nearby quarry.

 

Be sure to explore the Groupo de las Tres Portadas.
Be sure to explore the Groupo de las Tres Portadas.

Tips for Visiting Machu Picchu

Perhaps my #1 tip is to get there as early as possible!

If you’re coming from Aguas Calliente, buy your bus ticket the night before.

The first departure is at 5am; and, by then, the ticket line often is longer than the line to board.

 

Machu_Picchu-Fountain-Peru-Greg_Goodman-AdventuresofaGoodManAs the sun rises, climb up to the lookout point by the guardhouse and snap your postcard shot.

Then, keep going up towards the Inca Bridge and settle in on one of the retaining walls.

At this time of day, they offer an amazing view of the clouds passing over the citadel: without the crowds.

Finally, make your way down into the main site and take advantage of that beautiful early morning sunlight on the ruins.

 

But act fast… Machu Picchu is already crowded by 8am.

By 10am, big tour buses have arrived from all around Peru.

From above, the tourists look like ants flocking to a picnic.

By noon, the sun is beating down and you’ll probably want to be on a bus heading back to Aguas Calliente to enjoy the hot springs.

 

See all those tourists? They're there because it's the best place to get your "postcard photograph."
The guardhouse is the best place to get a “postcard photograph.” Hence, all the tourists.

 

In reality, no matter when you visit Machu Picchy, it will be full of tourists snapping photos and getting in your way.
No matter when you visit, Machu Picchu will be full of tourists snapping photos and getting in your way.

Silly Rules and Yoga in Machu Picchu

Recently, Machu Picchu had a problem with tourists streaking and snapping nude photos.

As a result, strict new rules have been implemented to protect the site’s integrity.

 

One rule is that acrobatics are not allowed Machu Picchu.

Neither are yoga mats.

However, my wife and I didn’t know this until she began to do Acro Yoga in the citadel.

A guard quickly came over to scold us; but, we got the photo anyway.

 

Carrie lifts Jessica up into the acro yoga pose known as "Bird."
Carrie lifts Jessica up into the Acro Yoga pose known as “Bird.”

 

Now tell me... what's so wrong about doing a little yoga at Machu Picchu?
Now tell me… what’s so wrong about doing a little yoga at Machu Picchu?

Fun Facts About Machu Picchu

Countless sacrifices were made on this alter in the Templo del Condor.
Countless sacrifices were made on this alter in the Templo del Condor.

Approximately 30% of the site has been reconstructed.

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Machu Picchu was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983.

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In 2007, it was voted one of the New Seven Wonders of the World in a worldwide Internet poll.

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In 2008, Machu Picchu was placed on the Watch List of the 100 Most Endangered Sites in the World by the World Monuments Fund.

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There is a second city buried underneath the ruins of present-day Machu Picchu.

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The Incan empire only reigned for around 100 years.

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Machu Picchu was never finished.

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There is also an ongoing battle between Yale and the government of Peru. Due to Hiram Bingham’s discovery of the site and removal of artifacts, the government and Yale are in a dispute over the artifacts themselves.

 

(sources: Science Kids | MachuPicchu.org | SoftSchools)

 

Much of Machu Picchu is situated on the side of a cliff.
Much of Machu Picchu is situated on the side of a cliff.

Parting Photos

No more stories; just a few more of my favorite photographs from Machu Picchu.

 

The Western Agricultural Sector is full of retaining terraces.
The Western Agricultural Sector is full of retaining terraces.

 

Templo del Condor is one of the most important ruins in the ancient city.
Templo del Condor is one of the most important ruins in the ancient city.

 

The center of the citadel is a giant grass lawn.
The center of the citadel is a giant grass lawn.

 

Keep your eyes open on the path and you might find a heart-shaped rock.
Keep your eyes open on the path and you might find a heart-shaped rock.

 

The Eastern wall of Machu Picchu
The Eastern wall of Machu Picchu drops off pretty quickly.

 

You will mostly find windows in multiples of five.
Windows were usually built in multiples of five.

 

Despite being surrounded by nature, there are very few trees in the citadel.
Despite being surrounded by nature, there are very few trees in the citadel.

 

This is the main door to Machu Picchu.
This is the main door to Machu Picchu.

 

The Groupo de las Tres Portadas is located on the eastern side of Machu Picchu.
The Groupo de las Tres Portadas is located on the eastern side of Machu Picchu.

 

Fog really adds to the mystique.
If you’re lucky, you will get both fog and sunshine during your visit.

Click here to take a virtual journey
along the Inca Trail

or, for the comments section…

Have you visited Machu Picchu?
Where is your favorite ruin in the world?

 

  • Muffy

    Thanks for sharing all of these marvelous photos. They make me want to go back!

  • Armel Madsen

    wow! i wonder i could ever get to visit machu pichu.
    great photographs, man!

    halfwhiteboy

    • Armel Madsen

      and i must add that i appreciate how you took really detailed shots of the walls and all.

    • You can, and you will! :)

  • Guest

    Its really nice .. :)

  • Guest

    Hi Hello

  • Guest

    hfgh