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13 Things to See at Machu Picchu

Top Sights at Machu Picchu

  1. The famous picture spot.

If you visit Machu Picchu, especially if you are doing the trail, you will want this picture. It is easy to find this spot because there will be mobs of tourists. Machu Picchu is covered in stairways so you’ll have to climb a bit to get here, but it is so worth it. Be warned that you won’t get too long in this spot because visitors all want this photo so everyone takes their turn.

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A bucket list item being crossed off

2. The other side of the ruins that is not normally featured.

The spot mentioned above is great, but Machu Picchu is a lot bigger than that picture lets on! I would guess 40% of the excavated ruin is still behind you. Make sure you get photographs of all angles to appreciate the magnitude of this civilization. This photograph is of the other side of Machu Picchu!

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The lesser known side of Machu Picchu

3. The Sacred Plaza and Sun Dial

Though located at the furthest and highest point of Machu Picchu, it is worth the trek! Something about the name Sacred Plaza that holds the Sun Dial is exciting. As mentioned in previous posts, the Incas were serious about the sun and following its paths and basing life of its cycles. So knowing that, the Sun Dial is the most important part of the ruins.

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The climax of Machu Picchu leads to this sun dial

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Signage along the way to reach the sun dial

4. The Temple of the Three Windows

They are located in the Sacred Plaza, which is high up on Machu Picchu. The sun rises directly through the middle window. The three windows represent the 3 main parts of Inca culture; the sky spirituality, the Earth’s surface or the mundane, and subsoil or inner life.

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The three windows, tres ventanas

5. The Architecture

The architecture is amazing solely based on the fact it is still standing after hundreds of years. The area is known for terrible weather along with earthquakes. These structures were built to last. Take time to look at the details and remember that this was all created without modern tools. We learned that in order to shape the stones they would chip away at them with harder stones. I can’t begin to imagine the man hours necessary to do that. The second picture is where the wall does begin to separate and the government stepped in to do some repairs to maintain the integrity.

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Andes Mountains peeking through a window

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These rocks were chiseled with harder rocks to fit them together

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Some repairs have had to been made to keep the integrity of the structure

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Beautiful symmetry

6. The Temple of the Sun

The Temple of the Sun is the only curved structure at Machu Picchu. On the Summer and Winter Solstices, the sun shines through the Sun Gate and through this singular window. This was one of the most important and valued landmarks in the Inca culture.

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Temple of the Sun was essential to the Inca Culture

7. The Royal Tomb

Although known as a tomb, no mummies have ever actually been found here. What is amazing is the way the Incas embraced the natural geography and incorporated a massive rock outcropping into their own constructions to make the royal tomb of Machu Picchu.The stairway styled structure in the bottom carved out of a single piece of rock. It is no surprise that the Royal Tomb is located directly below the Temple of the Sun. Regardless of whether this is actually a tomb or not, at least every Summer and Winter Solstice the sun shined on this undeniably special place.

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The Royal Tomb

8. Temple of Water

The Incas irrigation system in all of their ruins are still running today. Snow that has melted from the mountain tops trickle down through all of the sites. At Machu Picchu, this specific fountain was important. I was able to get some fresh water in the palms of my hands and splash my face. It was a spiritual experience. These irrigation systems are also essential to proper drainage. Without them, Machu Picchu would have eroded away and crumbled long ago.

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Cold water from the mountains made the Temple of Water

9. Llamas

There are about 30 llamas that roam free on Machu Picchu. They are government owned and are used as the landscapers. They are habituated to people and many will push you out of the way on the paths to get by. There are often babies and they are just plain cute!

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Llamas were everywhere!

10. Natural Stones

Though the Incas did carve out most of the stones they used for the Inca Trail and settlements, at Machu Picchu there were giant boulders everywhere. Pictured below are a few, which gives great perspective to the intricacy of their planning. Similar to how they worked with the curvature of the mountains rather than leveling them, they worked with the natural stone and made it a part of their plan.

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Natural Stones were incorporated into the design

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Natural stones were incorporated into the design

11. Inside Rooms

Though there are the main paths that the government has outlined, it is important to head inside- off the beaten path. This showed how detailed and well thought out the design was. Their design of the settlement as a whole would rival any urban planner around today.

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Inside rooms were an intricate design all connected with these alleys

12. Example homes

To get an idea of what Machu Picchu looked like in its prime, they have some display homes with a thatch roof. Machu Picchu is a huge settlement, but would look much bigger and more intimidating.

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Example homes include the roofs

13. The Sacred rock

This rock is along the Inca Trail between the Sun Gate and Machu Picchu. It was obviously not put in its place by the Incas, but rather it was a natural stone they worked around. Many historians believe that this one a place ceremonies were held and a reason for Machu Picchu’s location.

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The sacred rock along the path from the Sun Gate to Machu Picchu

14. BONUS: Walk one end to the other- you will gain respect for the size.

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