8 km away from "Aguas Calientes."
Altitude: 2,450 meters above sea level
Machu Picchu's location, at the heart of the Urubamba Canyon, was ideally chosen. Its construction was obviously well planned and carefully designed to be part of the environment. It is the result of different unique experiences, where nature and human work meet and successfully merge. Its uneven topography was transformed into terraces with agricultural and urban aims in mind, blending with their surroundings. However, some two dozen rocks were placed to represent the surrounding topography.
For its urban development, Machu Picchu was divided
into two sectors: the agricultural sector, with security posts,
the upper cemetery and a ritual rock, and the urban sector, including
the Intiwatana and the Sacred Monolith group, the Three-Windowed
Temple, the access gates, liturgical pools, the Royal Mausoleum
and plazas. Due to its impressive buildings and gorgeous natural
surroundings, Machu Picchu is among the seven "wonders of the world".
RECOMMENDED SITES TO VISIT IN MACHU PICCHU
One usually gains access to the citadel through the southern area, a few meters from the bus platform. After showing your tourist ticket, or buying one at the checkpoint, you will go through the western agricultural area, more specifically through the houses formerly occupied by the caretakers of this area. Generally speaking, the urban zone is split into two major areas divided by a group of squares. The sacred and more interesting places are on the left.
The impressive Huayna Picchu, facing you on the right, is exactly to the north.
The Solar Observatory
After going through the caretakers' houses, for a distance of some 100 m. you will be faced with a kind of maze, with the ruins right in front of you. The solar observatory area is here; the "Torreón" (Tower) is on your left. It used to be a large, round, ornately carved stone building. The tower's widest window leads onto the best preserved fountain in this place, with trapezoidal niches and an altar. Go up the stairway on your left. After going through the "quarry" (on the right of the stairs) you will find a group of windowless rooms accessible through one door only, the original entrance door. It is a huge trapezoidal one. The lintel is a single piece weighing several tons.
The Caretaker's House
Alter going along some pathways and climbing a stairway on your right, you will find the well-known Caretaker's House. This spot affords you an incredible view. Visitors coming along the Inca Trail enter just from below this point. Also known as "Lookout Post", this building is one of the few which have been restored by copying the original thatched roof, so it is a good place to shelter in case of rain.
The Caretaker's House, identified thus by Bingham, is located facing a cemetery. It is believed that a caretaker, who lived in this house, looked after the cemetery, and the corpses of the dead were placed there to be sun-dried. For those who will be in Machu Picchu for more than one day, this must definitely be their starting point to visit the Inca Trail. Behind this house there is a funerary rock, with a flat surface and narrow access stairwell which indicate it might have been used as a funerary altar; this was a place where important people's bodies were mummified or animals were sacrificed.
If you go back down to the main stairs, you will find the Inca's House on your left. You enter through a door placed north of the stairs. Bingham claims this place was the residence of Machu Picchu's political head. You can see the main bedroom and the servants' bedroom. Had Pachacutec been Machu Picchu's builder, this would surely have been his house.
Crossing the street, in front of the Sun Temple there is a classic kancha (apartment for a big family). It is the only one in the area. It was a solid construction with carved stones. No doubt this was the Inca's house.
The group has two big bedrooms and two little wayranas (sites) around the main patio. The eastern bedroom is known as the Inca's Bedchamber. In the inner space that faces the south, divided off from the rest with carved stones, you can see the "bed". It is believed that the Inca may have slept in that selfsame corner, under vicuna wool blankets.
At the north end of the room there is a small place that has been named "restroom". This is an oddity, since restrooms were not normally located within the houses. The room in front of this is known as the Studio of the ruler and the two little wayranas may have been a kitchen and a workshop respectively. There is a carved stone that was used as a pestle for grinding corn.
Leave the Inca's House behind you, and walk westwards (to the left if you look toward Huayna Picchu). To reach the Main Temple, you have to look for the stairs that will take you to the Sacred Plaza. Enter on the eastern side. This square is flanked by three buildings. The building placed at the square's southern end belonged to the head priest.
This building consists of four rustic walls; their stones were cemented with a mud mortar.
At the square's eastern end you will find the Three-Windowed Temple. Its three walls show signs of having once been roofed. From the huge trapezoidal windows, you will have an impressive view of the main square.
At the square's northern end, you will find the Main Temple. Since the upper parts of the walls are not worn down, Bingham concluded it was never roofed. However, it shows holes in the walls used to support a piece of timber from which fine tapestries may have hung. This place owes its name to its walls' perfection and solidity. The damage noticeable in the temple square was caused by a ground subsidence and not by faulty construction. Behind the temple and joined to it, there is a little building known as The Sacristy. It has several nicely carved niches. The Sacristy is famous for the two stones that flank its entrance, displaying more than thirty angles.