For those looking to visit the imposing Machu Picchu citadel, here we offer a glimpse to its main attractions and the things to see during your visit. However, we can just assume a few things about the citadel thanks to the investigations carried out in the place. Luckily, the Spaniards never stood upon this now wonder of the world and its structure remains nearly intact years after its desertion.
As we mentioned in our Machu Picchu travel guide, the famous Inca Sanctuary is divided into agricultural, administrative, residential, and religious sectors, each one with particular distribution and architectural style.
The Inca engineers manage to build the entire citadel on top of a system of terraces intended for structural and agricultural purposes, which helped the entire construction withstand centuries of earthquakes and time erosion. Experts are still impressed by the techniques used in Machu Picchu since they managed to assemble it without using any type of mortar.
And though the Inca citadel may give us a glance at what life could have been during the Tahuantinsuyo Empire, it also buried many secrets with its disappearing. Keep reading and uncover the mysteries of the so-called “Lost City of the Incas” and prepare yourself for a back-in-time journey.
1. The Royal Palace and Acllahuasi
Situated in a privileged location within the residential sector of Machu Picchu lies the largest structure of the site, composed of fine masonry and different rooms. Due to its architectural style and the techniques used in its construction, it is believed to be a royal precinct, presumably the one that housed the Inca monarch Pachacutec.
Right in this same area is located the Acllahuasi, a structure that could have housed the virgins of the citadel that were dedicated to the religion. Archeologists managed to deduct the theory thanks to the way it was assembled.
2. Sacred Plaza
It is the large esplanade that separates the residential area from the functional sector. The Sacred Plaza is believed to have been a cult center, and it is surrounded by the main structures of the site, such as the House of the High Priest, the Acllahuasi, and the Three-Window Temple.
3. The Temple of Three Windows
As aforementioned it is located in the surroundings of the Sacred Plaza. Archeologists theorize that the temple shared a great importance during the Inca era since it represented the Hanan Pacha, Kay Pacha, and Ukju Pacha worlds, and were also linked to the myth of the Ayar brothers.
Excavations on the site made it possible to understand even more of the structure since regular and religious artifacts were found buried in its interior. Also, the Temple of Three Windows is recognized for showing evidence of outsiders 9 years before Hiram Bingham unveiled Machu Picchu to the world since 4 names were carved in one of the stones but was later erased by the North-American explorer.
4. Temple of the Sun
This impressive structure is recognized for its carved stone walls due to this authentic curvature and architectural style, resembling the ones found in the Qoricancha temple, which is why Hiram Bigham deduced that it could be a Sun cult temple.
The Temple of the Sun comprehends three rear windows, where two of them allow the sunlight entrance during the winter and summer solstices, and the third has several perforations around its frame that probably held precious stones, this last window is called the ’Snake’s Window.’
The structure was built on top of a natural rock cave that was probably used as a tomb or mausoleum. Some historians theorize that it could have been the Inca Emperor Pachacutec’s burial place.
This mysterious carved rock is located in the highest point of Machu Picchu. It is believed that during the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year, the Incas reunited here to implore not to be abandoned by the Sun God Inti, as well as performing sacrifices and offerings to this deity.
The Incas had a great astronomical and geographic knowledge, which is represented in this sacred monument since the protruding part is intended to match the sunlight in every season of the year. It is also considered as some kind of solar watch.
6. Temple of the Condor
It is located in the urban sector of the Historic Sanctuary of Machu Picchu. Its name was given due to the similarities of the constructions with the imposing bird of the Andes. The structure seems to be used as a punishment cell since a dungeon was found in its interior.
The Andean Condor was a sacred bird to the Incas, for that reason, it is believed that sacrifices were made in this location to honor it by maybe offering the corpses of their enemies after being tortured.
7. Royal Tomb
It is located underneath the Temple of the Sun, Hiram Bingham described it as the finest building of the Americas because of the perfectly carved stones used in the structure. The main characteristic of the tomb is a large altar with two levels and a symbolic staircase carved in the natural rock.
The Royal Tomb is believed to have served as the resting place for hierarchical mummies that belonged to Machu Picchu though no bodies have ever been found in its interior. Archeologists have theorized that the site could have been a place of worship due to its distribution and architectural style.
8. The Sacred Rock
As history points out, the Incas used to worship the imposing mountains of the area since they used to believe that these mountains were spirits called Apus that protected the entire region. The Sacred Rock is a giant and intriguing stone shaped like the Putucusi mountain that sits directly behind it.
However, experts couldn’t decipher which was its purpose though they deduced that it was used for ceremonial purposes due to its strategic location and the customs of the Incas.
9. Watchman’s Hut
The Watchman’s Hut is a small construction strategically situated next to the cemetery that overlooks the entire citadel. It is believed that it served as an administrative center to control the access to the famous Inca Sanctuary.
10. The Inca Bridge
It is a simple wooden platform supported at each end by two high stone walls. Apparently, it allowed access to the citadel from the incoming Inca Trail, more or less like a protective entrance to Machu Picchu.
The famous Inca drawbridge is situated in a sheer drop of 300 meters to the bottom of the valley. Therefore, for safety reasons, it is not possible to cross the bridge, but you can admire it from a nearby viewpoint.
These are a few of the many attractions to visit in Machu Picchu, please note that the entire site has over 200 structures that have impressively remained nearly intact despite being abandoned for several years.
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