Machu Picchu [Suggest Edits]
Machu Picchu is picture-postcard beautiful and steeped in history. Nestled high on a hilltop in the Andes, the ruins are extensive and complete enough to tell an interesting story to those who are fortunate enough to get there. There is a lot to learn about this iconic site, so engage a local guide or take a good guidebook so you don't miss some of the things that are special about this site.
Machu Picchu was neither finished nor occupied. Perhaps because of its remote location, it was not found and destroyed during the Spanish conquest of the region, as was the case with other sites. As a result, it is fairly intact. Previous attempts at preservation were have been attempted with mixed results, notably by Hiram Bingham in the early 1900's.
The first 100 years of construction of Machu Picchu were spent on the drainage system alone before any buildings were constructed. The drainage system sill works, and if you have the mixed fortune to be there when it is raining, look for the water running through various channels away from the dwellings, and notice that it's hard to find any water pooling anywhere in the ruins. Look also at the terracing present in many spots near the ruins. There was no topsoil on this mountain, it was brought up a bag at a time by the about 10,000 workers as they built the city.
Look also at the quality of the stonework. In most places the stones still fit very closely together and you really can't put the proverbial knife blade between them. Some of these stones have complex shapes, and this was achieved by making small clay models of the stone needed, which were taken to the rock quarry. A rough-cut stone of the appropriate shape was made and returned to the site, where it was finish-shaped as needed.
There is really a lot to see and learn about at Machu Picchu. To get the most out of your visit, take the time to learn the history of the site and the Quechuan people who built it.
On the Road: There are a couple of ways to get to Machu Picchu. You can walk, you can take a train, or you can do a combination of the two. Assuming you are starting from the city of Cusco, you can take a train from Cusco to Aguas Calientes and then take a bus up to the ruins. If you are a trekker, you can trek the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu or you can trek the Salkantay Route to Machu Picchu, or to the train station at Hidroelectrica (from which you take the train to Aguas Calientes and then the bus to the ruins).
Permits are required to get into Machu Picchu and you need to make these arrangements in advance. If you wish to climb up Wayna Picchu (which is adjacent to the ruins) you need an additional permit that must be arranged in advance. You need your passport to get into Machu Picchu, but you do get a chance to put a lovely Machu Picchu stamp in your passport upon your departure.
At this time it is still possible to get down in the ruins and explore. Most areas are accessibleâ€¦ but some are not. There is a sort of one-way system in place to keep moving in the same direction, and this inhibits free access a bit â€“ but I didnâ€™t find it to be too much of a problem.
There are rumors that Machu Picchu might close at some point for renovations. A lot of people visit the ruins, and all that traffic is impacting the site. There is some talk that after a closure access might be further restricted, more like Stonehenge is now.
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