Machu Picchu was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983 and voted one of the New Seven Wonders of the World in 2007. Often referred to as the “Lost City of the Incas”, it is perhaps the most familiar icon of Inca civilization. The city that was built around the 1450’s is thought to have been abandoned over 100 years following an outbreak of deadly smallpox, a disease introduced in the 1500’s by invading Spanish forces. Apart from a few indigenous people from Peru, nobody knew of its existence until American historian Hiram Bingham stumbled upon it in 1911.
Scholars are still unsure of the function of the ancient Inca ruins since a lot of their history is based on assumptions as they did not record any written evidence themselves of their lives. Archaeologists have been left to piece together bits of evidence as to why Machu Picchu was built and what purpose it served. Some historians believe it was a sacred religious site. Others suggest that the city was built for the coronation of Inca kings,while modern theories say it was a vacation place built by and for the Inca ruler Pachacuti.
Enough of the history :P. I had always wanted to see Machu Picchu since I first saw a photo of it and at last I finally got to see it not just once but twice. I think my first glimpse of Machu Picchu from the Sun Gate was perhaps the most memorable one since it took me a lot of patience and hard work just to get there. To reach the ruins, you have 3 options all of which use the train from Cusco:
1. Ride the train to kilometer 88 and do the three or four day hike up the Inca Trail
2. Ride train to kilometer 104 and do the 6- 8 hour hike up the Inca trail (which we did)
3. Skip the Inca Trail and ride the train directly to Aguas Calientes, the town in the valley below Machu Picchu. From there, take the bus ride up for 30 minutes to the ruins (which we did too!)
After that tiring hike, we stayed in Aguas Calientes for the night. The next day we came back early in the morning around 5:30 am and rode the bus to the ruins. The line was long already considering it was still early but I was impressed at the speed in which the park rangers granted entrance even with presenting passports.
When we got there we had free time to wander around. Unfortunately I got separated from the group but glad to find Erika to whom I’m forever thankful since she took most of my photos. The next few hours, we explored the temples and terraces around the ruins. We walked up stairs and down stairs. We peered down the mountain at the rushing rivers below. The most adorable surprise in Machu Picchu were the freely moving tame llamas. We petted and took photos with them and it seemed that it didn’t bother them at all. I have to admit that it was surreal to be walking around an ancient city so high up in these spectacular mountains.
We met Roland for the start of our guided tour. What puzzled me the most was the excellent craftsmanship and stone masonry of the Incas. Big stone blocks are polished smooth and joined perfectly. They never used mortar to hold the walls in place but relied on geometry and precisely cut stones. How they carried the huge stone blocks up the mountains is still a mystery. After walking us through most of the site, our guide left us to wander on our own. I used this time to just sit and relax while enjoying the magnificent view of Machu Picchu.
We returned to Aguas Calientes in time for lunch.The location of the town is perfect- that’s the good news.The bad news is that all travelers to and from Machu Picchu must pass through here, so Aguas Calientes is about as touristy a town as you’ll ever come across. So come prepared for expensive shops and restaurants. Having said that, I still enjoyed walking around and it was nice to see some parts of the Urubamba River than runs through the town because it’s filled with giant boulders.
For so long Machu Picchu had been on my bucket list and finally I was able to put a line through it. I’m not a writer by any means and I don’t expect the details of my experience to give the place justice, but I hope that anyone who reads my blog (if there’s any 🙂 ) will have the chance to visit Machu Picchu someday. Let’s just say Machu Picchu is one of the seven wonders of the world for a reason, a truly a magical place that needs to be experienced.