The engineering genius and precision of the Incas is simply stunning, especially on this little bit of land in the clouds. The Incas mastered the technique called ashlar where blocks of stone are cut to fit together tightly without mortar. The stones are so tightly fit you can’t even fit a blade between them. It is also a testament to the structural integrity of the site that it still stands, through earthquakes, constant torrential rain and, now, heavy tourism.
At a dizzying 2,430 meters above sea-level, the view form Machu Picchu on a clear day is breath taking. The famous ruins are surrounded by towering peaks (apus, which means “sacred peaks” in Quechua) and have views of the surrounding valley.
The function of these ruins is still a debate amongst archaeologist. The consensus opinion is that Machu Picchu was built as an estate for the great Inca Pachacuti. It is also considered a pilgrimage site that Incas would take to pay respects to the great Inca leader. The pilgrimage taken to the site is the route now called the Inca Trail.
While admiring the site, you’re also marveling at the brilliance of the Incas and their culture. At its height, the remarkable empire extended from Peru to Ecuador, Bolivia, Chile, Argentina and parts of Colombia. Their profound impact is found all over Peru and other parts of South America.
May not be around much longer
Huge flocks of tourists descend upon the ruins each winter and this popularity now threatens its very existence. UNESCO is considering putting Machu Picchu on its List of World Heritage in Danger and Peru is now limiting the number of visitors to the site each day, in an attempt to preserve it.
From the Incas to Hiram Bingham’s “discovery” and all the controversy that it brought, Machu Picchu’s history is long and layered. You’ll spend days – really you should spend longer – learning about the long history of the Incas and Machu Picchu.
The Inca Trail
The Inca Trail is just as well known as Machu Picchu and the trail each year fills up quickly. The trek takes you through ruins and beautiful landscapes and leads to the ultimate destination, Machu Picchu.
Cusco and the areas that surround Machu Picchu are rich in culture interest. It is a combination of Andean traditions and Peruvian culture, with people speaking both Quechua and Spanish in the area. Everything from the cloths to the language is unlike anything else in the world.
You’ll feel like you’re discovering something for the first time when you step onto the sacred grounds, especially if you just finished the 4-day Inca Trail.
Machu Picchu is the holy grail of all backpacker destinations and is certainly deserving of bragging rights. You’ll never stop telling people that you visited this incredible place.
When it’s all said and done, you’ll never forget your trip to Machu Picchu and the Sacred Valley. Make sure to take plenty of pictures because you’ll want to relive these memories for the rest of your life.