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Train to Machu PicchuAfter our morning visit to the Ollantaytambo Ruins, we boarded the train for Machu Picchu. From Ollantaytambo, it is a 1-1/2 hour ride to the town of Aguas Calientes which is the nearest town to the ruins. The train has a vista dome and the views along the way are quite interesting. We could see hikers along the Inca Trail - a one to four day trek over the mountain depending on where you start. Road up to Machu PicchuOnce in Aguas Calientes, it is a 30 minute bus ride up a steep, 13 hairpin mountain road to the actual ruins. We were fortunate to have reservations at the only hotel at the ruins, the Sanctuary Lodge. This meant we would be the first visitors to the ruins in the morning and could watch (and photograph) the sunrise over Machu Picchu.

View from patioWhen we opened the sliding doors of our room out to the patio, we were surprised to see the imposing site of Huayna Picchu rising out of the clouds. The lodge also has lovely pathway that winds thru a beautiful garden with several water falls.Garden at Sanctuary Lodge

After a buffet lunch at the hotel, we had our first visit to the "Lost City". Machu Picchu was discovered almost by accident by an American explorer and professor of History, Hiram Bingham, in 1911. The impressive stone ruins of the sun-worshiping Inca, the last of Peru's great pre-Columbian civilizations, were hidden for more than 300 years beneath semi-tropical vegetation. Many of the tombs found during this and successive expeditions showed traces of earlier looting by treasure hunters. No golden objects were found but many made of copper and diverse ceramic objects were uncovered. 173 humans were found - 150 female and 23 male. The Inca had no written language and there are no historical sources that mention the existence of this place so the names and functions assigned its buildings are Binghams's interpretation. Many theories have been put foward as to its possible role as a strategic fortress, as a refuge of the last Incas fleeing Spanish conquest, or a place of worship linked to the observations of the stars.

Besides the high quality of its architectural development and Inca masonry art, Machu Picchu owes a great part of its beauty to the surrounding landscape and majestic location of the city. It is surrounded by the glacier covered Andes Mountains, between the mountain summits of Huayna Picchu and Machu Picchu. The Inca city of Machu Picchu is comprised of temples, palaces, shrines, plazas, streets, baths and some 200 dwellings which must have housed an exclusive cast of noblemen and the privileged. It also contains a wide zone of terraces with irrigation channels that were used for planting potatoes and maise to feed an estimated 1,000 residents. Construction was an engineering feat, with work done by people who had no steel tools, no wheeled carts and no beasts of burden besides the llama. The major structures are finely crafted of large stone blocks fitted at perfectly chiseled angles. The following are some of the most famous sites in Machu Picchu. To view additional pictures of the ruins, go to Machu Picchu Photo Gallery.

Sunrise over Machu Picchu Looking up at Caretakers Hut Guardhouse
Sunrise over Machu Picchu
Looking up at Caretakers Hut
Path along wall Climbing to top Llamas
Path along Terrace
Hiking to the top of the Ruins
Llamas Grazing on Terraces
Entrance Gate Temple of the Sun Northern District Ruins
City Entrance Gate - Note 2 holes on side and stone ring on top used to hold bars locking the gate.
Temple of the Sun - On the winter solstice (6/21) the sun shines directly through the eastern window; on the summer solstice (12/21) the sun shines through the southeast window.
Northern District Ruins
Royal Palace Royal Tomb Stone Construction
Royal Palace
Royal Tomb
Example of Stone Construction
Hitching Post of the Sun Condor Temple Sacred Rock
Intihuatana - Hitching Post of the Sun. This carved stone altar whose shadows marked the changing seasons, enabled Inca priests to predict such events as the winter solstice which marked the beginning of harvest and sowing.
Condor Temple - Building is shaped like body of condor. Large boulder is wings. Fenced stone is head.
Sacred Rock - Note similarity in form of the rock and the mountain behind. Stretching arms out on rock is said to concentrate great energetic power.
Doorways Echo Chamber Rabbit-like animal
Echo Chamber - Sound made inside is easily heard by those in room
Rabbit-like animal (forgot it's name!)
Overview of Ruins Northern District  Ruins Carsons on Machu Picchu
Overview of Machu Picchu - Huayna Picchu is mountain rising in background and was used by the Inca as a lookout.
Northern District Ruins
Carsons on Machu Picchu


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