Any adventurer or student of human endeavor hopes to visit Machu Picchu someday. This citadel was built by Peru’s Inca natives back in the 15th century and has stood proudly ever since. As one of the new seven wonders of the world, it’s sure to take your breath away, assuming you have any left after accessing the citadel.
Machu Picchu is famously hard to get to. Located almost 8,000-feet high in the Andes mountain range, it takes a stout body and confident tour guide to reach the destination.
This begs the question as to why it was built in such an inhospitable location. Obviously, providing easy access to visiting tourists was not taken into account when the citadel was built in 1450, as Machu Picchu was designed to be a royal residence, unsullied by outsiders. However, geologists now believe there is more to the citadel’s location than simple privacy.
Why was Machu Picchu built in this area?
Building a citadel in the mountains is a risky business. In fact, it would be impossible, but for one thing. Below the city, there are lengthy faults where the tectonic plates meet, some as wide as 109 miles.
These faults produce a huge amount of stone that the Inca people could use to safely assemble the citadel. The production of so much building material, and the quality of it, meant that the construction of Machu Picchu stands apart as a masterpiece.
Despite this, the citadel was comparatively simple to assemble. There are no gaps or holes in the joins of the stone, and there was no need to mix mortar. The Incas understood that a glorious opportunity presented itself to create something special in this location, and they grasped it with both hands.
It wasn’t just a happy accident or coincidence that this picturesque spot provided such good building materials, though. An X-shape is formed where the underground fractures meet. Building homes here meant the Incas did not have to fear flooding or other natural hazards. The Incas seem to have been aware of this, as other major cities were built in the same area.
Like the Ancient Egyptians, the Incas appear to be role models for contemporary builders and engineers.
Why was Machu Picchu built?
There is a wide range of theories about the purpose of Machu Picchu. The most popular is that it was built for Emperor Pachacuti. It is believed that the Emperor would entertain guests at the citadel or treat it as a private retreat. Other theories posit a more spiritual origin.
One suggestion is that the citadel was designed to mirror the image of a landscape described in a holy text. It is claimed that people would make pilgrimages to and from Machu Picchu, paying tribute to ancestors who had undertaken similarly challenging journeys. A final belief is that Machu Picchu was built to reflect the Incan ideal of the sacred landscape.
The citadel is surrounded by the Urubamba River, which was deemed to be sacred by the ancient Incas, and the location provides a particular alignment with the sun. The Incas considered themselves to be descendants of the sun, and placed a great deal of emphasis upon it as a result. Equinoxes and solstices held a tremendous amount of significance for the Inca people.
How do I get to Machu Picchu?
If you feel that you’re hardy enough to make it to Machu Picchu, you could join the millions of tourists that visit each year. Make sure you plan ahead, though, as concerns over damage to this pivotal site means there is restricted access.
The best way to experience Machu Picchu is to take the Inca Trail. This is a four-day walking route that offers pre-approved rest points along the way and leads you into the citadel. It’s not for the faint-hearted, but you will have the assurance that your visit is above board and has been approved by the Peruvian authorities.
If walking isn’t your thing, then take a train. You could hop on a train at Cusco and alight at Urubamba Valley, where a bus will drop you at the entrance of the citadel. Alternatively, get off the train at Aguas Calientes and take a two-hour hike.
Remember, you’ll need to seek permission to enter the site in advance. Only 2,500 visitors are permitted to enter Machu Picchu each day, and will be turned away if you arrive after that number is reached.
The closest airport is Alejandro Velasco Astete International, but it is likely you’ll need to change at least once. This is an international airport, but it offers no direct flights to the United States.
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