Machu Picchu is by far the best known Inca site of them all and once of the best known tourist destinations in the world. In 1983 Machu Picchu was declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and in 2007 it was voted to be one of the New Seven Wonders of the World.
Machu Picchu was constructed in the 15th century by Inca Pachacutec, the exact purpose of the site is unknown as the only records the Incas kept were in the form of Khipus (knotted strings) and the ability to read them died following the Spanish conquest. Machu Picchu was abandoned at some point following the conquest of the Inca empire and it remained lost for many centuries afterwards.
In 1911 an American Explorer by the name of Hiram Bingham visited Peru in search of the final city of the Incas, Vilcabamba. With the aid of the prefect of Cusco he spent many months exploring and catloguing Inca sites in the area until one day he was led to Machu Picchu by a local farmer who lived in the valley below and was using the terraces to grow his crops.
Hiram Bingham was certainly not the first person to visit Machu Picchu although this is the popular myth. The farmers who lived in the valley obviously knew of it's existence prior to his visit and it is likely that other western explorers had also visited the site during the 19th century. Hiram Bingham received his fame because he was the first person to realise the significance of the discovery and to make it known to the world.
The Intihuatana is a large, carved rock that was used by the Inca for ceremonial purposes. Perfectly aligned with the sun its shadow marks various points throughout the year with pin point accuracy. In 2000 the Intihuatana was damaged during the filming of a beer commercial when a crane fell and cracked off a small piece of the rock.
The Temple of the Three Windows
One of the most impressive buildings at Machu Picchu this temple is built to perfection. It's name comes from a confusion by Hiram Bingham when he discovered the site. Knowing the Inca creation myth where the Incas left from Pakaritampu (a cave with three windows) Hiram Bingham assumed that this temple is what the myth referred to. Since then the name has stuck.
The Temple of the Sun
The sun was the principle deity to the Incas and they believed that the Inca emperor was a direct descendent which is where he drew his authority from. During the Winter Solstice (Inti Raymi) the sun shines directly through the temple's window falling on a ceremonial stone in the center.
The Main Temple
The main temple is located close by to the Temple of the Sun. Covering an area of 11 meters in length and 8 meters wide the temple houses a ceremonial altar and 5 niches. Close by there is another room called the chamber of ornaments which is believed to have been linked to the temple. No one knows which god was worshipped here although many believe it to have been Wiracocha, the creator of the world.
Huayna Picchu Mountain
Huayna Picchu means young peak in Qhechua. This is a popular destination for tourists as you can get great views from the top. There is a limit of 400 people a day who can climb the mountain and permits need to be purchased in advance.
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