Touring Machu Picchu

by Dan Fey on July 11, 2012

This post is a continuation of The Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, click here to read the first post.

Machu Picchu Terrace

A view of Machu Picchu from a farming terrace

Just the same as the last three days, my parents, brother, Tsvetomira, and I were hiking on the Inca Trail in search of Machu Picchu.  Today was our last day, and we knew we were close because we had already passed the Sun Gate.  We walked up to our guides standing near a rock, and they told us we made it! Unfortunately, after four long days of hiking, we were met with nothing but thick clouds.

Carlos, our never serious, always half-joking guide told us not to worry because it would surely clear up.  Just as he had always told us while hiking, “two hours left” and then “two hours left” two hours later, we didn’t know whether to believe him or not.  Though it had been drizzling and cloudy all morning, we remained optimistic.

Machu Picchu group shot

A group shot just as we arrived at Machu Picchu. The clouds were so thick, we couldn't see anything.

We waited another half hour and the clouds were just starting to let up.  We took some group pictures just as we could start to see Machu Picchu through the clouds.  Seeing the shrouded ruins below gave us hope that the skies would clear.

We walked down and around on one of the terraces.  On either side of the terraces were stone houses with thatched roofs.  Carlos explained that, though the roofs were recreated, the stone was original.  These were typical Incan houses and its residents would farm the terraces next to the house.

Typical Incan House

A typical Incan house with thatched roofs next to farming terraces

The clouds continued clearing and we could start to see blue patches in the sky.  We knew it would soon be clear.  We proceeded past the terrace around to the Earth Temple with the Sun Temple above it.  The Earth Temple was built under an original rock.  At the entrance, you can see some steps that look like they lead into the Earth.  Back in the Incas times during the summer solstice, the sun would rise and show its first light right through the Sun Gate and into the Sun Temple.

Machu Picchu Earth Temple

Machu Picchu Earth Temple

While we were at the sun temple, almost like it was meant to be, we saw the first rays of sun shine through onto Machu Picchu.  Now, the clouds were visibly rolling up off of the surrounding mountains.  Picture yourself standing on Machu Picchu Mountain overlooking the ancient sacred ruins of the Incas.  Your feet and mountain you’re standing on are all stable, but there is movement upwards in all of the mountains around you as the clouds are burning off.  It was a surreal experience that was majestic.  It made me glad it was cloudy earlier in the day.

Machu Picchu Clouds Burning Off

Looking out from this temple, the clouds were majestically rolling upward off of the mountains

After, we walked up some stairs to a larger house.  This is where someone of importance who was passing through would stay.  The house originally had two levels, but in these ruins you could only see one level.

Carlos explained to us that he knew this house was for someone important because of stones used to construct it.  There were large smooth stones with somewhat smooth edges that fit together perfectly without any mud or mortar needed to keep it together.  Tongues and grooves along with weight held the stones together.  The construction was almost perfect.

Next we walked around to look at the stone construction reserved only for the most sacred buildings and temples.  Similarly, the stones fit together perfectly, except each stone was perfectly smooth and straight and lined up with exactly the same height with the one next to it.  See the difference below.

Machu Picchu Two Story House

Two story house where an important person would stay. The rocks are almost perfectly carved.

Machu Picchu Perfect Wall

This wall is constructed with rocks that line up perfectly. It was a wall for a sacred temple.

Next we walked down to the quarry where all the rock was harvested for the buildings and terraces.  Carlos explained that in order to split the stone, the Incas may have inserted wet wood into the cracks which would then expand to split the rocks.  After, they could be chiseled with other rocks.

Machu Picchu Quarry

The rocks used to build Machu Picchu were harvested from the large boulders in the photo

Our final stop was at the Intihuatana Stone, a very sacred and scientific stone for the Incas.  In Quechua, Intihuatana means “The Hitching Post of the Sun”.  The stone points directly at the sun during the winter solstice.  It is built to have no shadow at midday on November 11th and January 30th and have its longest shadow on June 21st (southern side) and December 21st (northern side).  It is believed to be an astronomic clock or calendar.

Intihuatana Stone Machu Picchu

The sacred and scientific Intihuatana Stone

After the tour, we had the rest of the day to explore the rest of Machu Picchu on our own.  My brother Alex, our new friend Tsvetomira, and I went straight up to the house at the top which had the famous picturesque view of Machu Picchu and Huayna Picchu Mountain.

Famous view of Machu Picchu

Famous view of Machu Picchu a house at the top

Hiking the Inca Trail and seeing Machu Picchu with my family blew me away.  It certainly was the highlight of my three month South America experience, and I hope someday I can return.

Keep checking back for updates on other adventures in South America.  After Machu Picchu, my brother, Tsvetomira, and I decided to travel together to Arequipa for some more hiking, including the second highest canyon in the world and a 19,000 foot volcano!

Are you inspired to hike the Inca Trial or visit Machu Picchu? Which part(s) would be most inspiring for you? Leave a comment here.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

peru Tour Packages September 11, 2013 at 9:32 am

Very descriptive blog, I enjoed that bit. Will there be a part 2?


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