Machu Picchu District, Urubamba Province, Cusco
State. It is located at kilometer 112.5 (70 miles), to the northwest
of Cusco City. Location :
It is located in the southwestern Andes, in the Valley of Huatanay
River. Machu Picchu is at Southern Latitude 13°09'23'' and at 72°32'34
'' West of Greenwich Meridian. Height:
is at 2,450 meters above sea level (8,038 feet)
If we take the
Citadel's Central Square as a reference point, Machu Picchu is at
2,490 meters above sea level.
Machu Picchu's urban and rural Archaeological
Park, that is to say, the citadel itself, has a surface of about
Machu Picchu's Historical Sanctuary has a surface of 32,592 hectares or 80,535 acres (325.92 sq km; 125.83 sq m); it is a vast region in Urubamba Province, in Cusco State.
Further to information provided by INEI (Institute
of Statistical Information) in the 1993 Census, Machu Picchu
District's population was of 2,298 inhabitants. Ten years later,
its population grew to more than 5,500 inhabitants due to the high
migration rate. Itinerant population is significant and it mainly
includes travelers from all over the world, tourist staff and traders.
The government created Machu Picchu's Historic
Sanctuary by passing the 001-81-AA decrete-law on January 8th, 1981,
in order to protect and preserve not only Machu Picchu's archeological
value but also its magnificent natural environment of unique flora
and fauna and its beautiful landscapes of surrounding woods.
Machu Picchu Historic Sanctuary (Cusco-Peru) is
strategically situated at the top of the Machu Picchu Mountain,
at 2,350 meters above sea level, in Vilcabamba Mountain Range's
western slope. The Vilcabamba Mountain Range is bordered by the
Apurimac and Urubamba Rivers. The Historic Sanctuary is specifically
located in the Valley of the Urubamba River (Also known as Vilcanota),
at the lower part of the Holy Valley of the Incas, where you can
access the high forest.
The Valley of the Urubamba River crosses the Sanctuary Region. This River descends from the snow-capped Andes at more than 6,000 meters above sea level. The river rushes with choppy waves on this lower part of the mountain range, showing its might. At the same time, it crosses the solid barrier of the Andes, creating an appealing landscape.
The imposing Salkantay (at 6271 meters above sea level), the largest snowcapped mountain in the Vilcanota Mountain Range, dominates the Sanctuary's landscape. The local town-dwellers worship this mountain as Apu (a protecting divinity). Machu Picchu combines the magnificence of natural, immensely beautiful surroundings with the beauty of the most famous pre-Hispanic ruins worldwide.
Within the Sanctuary, there are other ancient smaller towns as well as isolated buildings that used to provide lodging for travelers, control posts and, what are perhaps the most amazing production centers anywhere, with farming terraces (platforms) and complex irrigation systems. All these buildings are connected with each other through a sophisticated network of stony tracks, the Inca Trail.
Although Machu Picchu's purpose is not clearly known, it undoubtedly formed part of a complex of Inca fortresses at the time it was built. These Inca fortresses protected the Holy Valley's Inca territory from the "Indians of the Forests".
Cusco's Aguas Calientes railway has a station known as Puente Ruinas that is at 2,000 meters (6,560 feet) altitude. Buses leave this station for the most famous Archaeological Center of South America (the trip takes 3 hours and 30 minutes by train) up to the area of Aguas Calientes; and from there, they go another 8 kilometers uphill, along the mountain slope, up to Machu Picchu Citadel (25 minutes).
The National Historic Sanctuary of Machu Picchu is located on a large orogenic granite structure of about 400 km2 (154 m2) that Dr Isaiah Bowman called "Vilcapampa". Its formation belongs to the geologic era of Paleozoic or Inferior First and its age is of, more or less, 250 millions of years.
The white-gray granite of Vilcapampa is an igneous stone made of 60% of feldspar, 30% of quartz adn10% of mica, approximately. These components have given rise to granular structure of granite that has harshness of 6 to 7 according to the Mohs scale and strength of 1200 kg/cm2. There are some other stones in this region that belong to Inferior Paleozoic, such as schist, quartzite and metamorphic conglomerations that could even be 350 to 450 years old.
Machu Picchu is located between the western and central Andes mountain ranges what explains the large number of hydric sources such as surface and underground rivers and springs and thermal waters. The Vilcanota flows along the whole District of Machu Picchu and it is the main receiver of tributaries that are originated on the snowed Andes Mountain Range. The tributaries that are located at the capital of the district of Machu Picchu and that flow into Vilcanota River are called Aguas Calientes and Alphamayo.
Due to its geographical features determined by its location in the Andes cordillera, the District of Machu Picchu displays a diversity of important differences in relief, climate, soil, vegetation and so on. Such differences determine three different types of regions:
High Mountain Area
An area of high altitude or high mountain, with numerous and frequent surface plains with slopes steeper than 45°. Heights fluctuate between 4000 and 6000 meters above sea level in snowed Salkantay and Verónica Mounts. Temperatures are below 0°C, with perpetual snows and solid precipitations.
Low Mountain Area
This is an area of mountainous slopes with heights that vary between 2500 and 3800 meters above sea level. It is characterized by seasonal rainfalls, from November to March, Machu Picchu's winter. The annual average temperature oscillates between 11ºC and 15ºC. The towns of Miscabamba and Churubamba are located in this area
The high forest is located at a height of 2000 to 800 meters above sea level, with semi-tropical temperatures. In this area we find Ahobamba and Collpani Grande Towns.
ROAD NETWORK and MEANS OF ACCESS
The Town of Machu Picchu is connected to the city of Cusco ("the world's navel") by means of a railway system that joins both tourist resorts. The trip takes three hours approximately, through paradise-like landscapes, covering a distance of 110 kilometers, with daily frequencies and numerous options regarding timetables, categories and fares.
The only other means of access by land are any of the three "Caminos Inca", taking two, four or five days respectively.