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Lost City of the Incas: Machu Picchu in Photos

Machu Picchu

“In the variety of its charms and the power of its spell, I know of no other place in the world which can compare with it.”

-Hiram Bingham, ‘re-discoverer’ of Machu Picchu-

 

Four days of walking on the Salkantay Trek was the greatest build up for Machu Picchu. Visiting something so grand like Machu Picchu shouldn’t be simple and easy. You need some time to process, before and after. To extend the built up, we decided to walk up to Machu Picchu rather than take the bus, which is the most popular option. Again, visiting Machu Picchu isn’t the time to seek for convenience. On an early morning of our 5th day, four of us walked more than an hour uphill to get to the foot of the site. The so-called Inca steps were something not to be taken lightly. After much struggle, we finally reached the top of the stairs. I felt like I was on the top of the world. Rightfully so.

The great peaks of Machu Picchu were hidden under the thick morning fog. Our guide promised that the fog would lift soon enough. Finally, we entered the gate. Everything was still foggy and wet, but the greatness of the surrounding landscape was raising our expectation of what was to come. We settled near the guard’s house, where we had a bird’s eyes view of Machu Picchu. And then the fog lifted.

 

Machu Picchu, under the morning sun

Machu Picchu, under the morning sun

 

The American archaeologist Hiram Bingham came to Peru in the summer of 1911 to find the lost city of the Incas, known as Vilcabamba, the last Inca stronghold. When he reached the Urubamba Valley, a local farmer told him about some ruins on the top of an old peak, called ‘Machu Picchu’ in Quechua language. An 11-year-old boy led the team, and he reached the site now we call Machu Picchu. It’s also believed that an archaeologist from Cusco informed Hiram Bingham about the ruins. Even though it was one of the most important Inca excavations, Machu Picchu isn’t Vilcabamba. Archeologists believe that a much smaller site near the old peak was actually Vilcabamba.

 

Llama in Machu Picchu

There’s nothing better than llamas in Machu Picchu

While waiting for the sunrise...

While waiting for the sunrise…

 

We still don’t know much about Machu Picchu. Archeologists have excavated and studied it since the rediscovery by Hiram Bingham, but still, the best we can do is guess. Historians believe that Incas built Machu Picchu at the height of their Empire, which was in the 15th and 16th centuries. It was successfully abandoned about 100 years after its construction (it was never finished) around the Spanish conquest in the 1530s. It’s believed that Incas destroy the Inca Trail in all directions when they left Machu Picchu, so the Spanish could never find it.

 

My first visit to Machu Picchu

My first visit to Machu Picchu

My Salkantay Trek familia

My Salkantay Trek familia

 

History aside, Machu Picchu is simply incredible. I couldn’t help but think what the world would be like if the Inca civilization survived. Seems like Incas knew how to live in harmony with people, culture, and nature. Incas tried to avoid wars. They would have rather solved problems with harmony. During the beginning of their Empire, they observed and learned from the pre-existing cultures instead of destroying them. Incas also worshiped nature. Machu Picchu for example would look quite different if it was built in the modern world. Construction would destroy nearby peaks, smash all the big stones, bring new materials that might not belong in nature, and flora wouldn’t survive the harsh condition. But here, if you squint, you can almost see that Machu Picchu is a shape of the peak that was here. Instead of creating something new, Incas recreated the mountain using the material that was already there. They certainly know how to respect the great pachamama (Mother Earth).

I was lucky enough to visit this amazing place twice this summer. And each time, my heart was filled with cotton candy-like joy, and admiration to the Incas. It’s really a shame we don’t know more about this place.

 

When you go: savor the perfect outlook of Machu Picchu as much as you can. It is simply wonderful. But also don’t forget to spend enough time inside of the ruins. Each of the sectors were built with purposes and have stories, and there are important facts to be found. The Sun Gate is recommended for those of who are not hiking up to Wayna Picchu (Huayna Picchu) or Machu Picchu (Machu Picchu is the “old peak” next to the ruins). It’s about the same elevation as Wayna Picchu, which means you can see a bird’s-eye view of the site. The trail is also more gradual than Wayna Picchu, and takes about an hour to walk, one way.

 

One of the most important structures in Machu Picchu - The Temple of the Sun. It was a natural cave under the temple of the sun, and the recent studies said that this building was made to celebrate the ceremony of the Mother Earth (Pachamama).

One of the most important structures in Machu Picchu – The Temple of the Sun. It was a natural cave under the temple of the sun, and the recent studies said that this building was made to celebrate the ceremony of the Mother Earth (Pachamama).

Winter and Summer solstice, the first sun light comes (almost) directly to this window. Photo was taken by our guide Freddy.

Winter and Summer solstice, the first sun light comes (almost) directly to this window. Photo was taken by our guide Freddy.

The Temple of the Sun from above

The Temple of the Sun from above

It's amazing to see how Incas could make this precise bricks with this hard stones.

It’s amazing to see how Incas could make this precise bricks with this hard stones.

Machu Picchu is situated in between great mountains

Machu Picchu is situated in between great mountains

My second visit to Machu Picchu with Bohemian Wander Tour group

My second visit to Machu Picchu with Bohemian Wander Tour group

The Tree Doors

The Tree Doors

Inti Watana, the sundial is believed to have been designed as an astronomic clock or calendar by the Incas

Inti Watana, the sundial is believed to have been designed as an astronomic clock or calendar by the Incas

The Room of the Three Windows

The Room of the Three Windows

Walking on the Inca Steps

Walking on the Inca Steps

You can see the Inca style roofing structures in Machu Picchu

You can see the Inca style roofing structures in Machu Picchu

It's very green in Machu Picchu

It’s very green in Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu is in Peru's 10 Sole note. Rightfully so!

Machu Picchu is in Peru’s 10 Sole note. Rightfully so!

Don't forget to visit the Inca Bridge -- see the narrow structure behind me? That's the Inca Bridge!

Don’t forget to visit the Inca Bridge — see the narrow structure behind me? That’s the Inca Bridge!

Enjoying the view with my ladies

Enjoying the view with my ladies

If you look closely... the mountain backdrop is a shape of human face. Can you see?

If you look closely… the mountain backdrop is a shape of human face. Can you see?

View of Machu Picchu from the Sun Gate - it takes about 45minute from Machu Picchu site

View of Machu Picchu from the Sun Gate – it takes about 45minute from Machu Picchu site

Panoramic view of Machu Picchu

Panoramic view of Machu Picchu

 

Juno Kim
Juno Kim
Juno Kim, a happiness-seeking storyteller. Photographer, writer, and trained mechanical engineer. Life-long nerd. I left the cubic farm to follow my true love: the world. A firm believer of serendipity, astronomy enthusiaster, and living by passion and love in life. Currently, on a quest to discover stories and find the place where I can call 'home'. Follow my journey through @RunawayJuno and Google+ .

16 Comments

  1. Abi says:

    Ah, the home of my first big adventure all those years ago! Thanks for taking me back!

  2. These photos are absolutely magnificent!! I’ve seen SO many pics of this spot, and your images are breathtaking!

  3. Absolutely breathtaking! We also like to take “money shots” when a place is highlighted on the currency 🙂 Thanks for sharing.

  4. Leah says:

    Wow wow wow, Juno!! These photos are incredible. The first one “under the morning sun” really took my breath away. I’ve visited Machu Picchu twice, so these photos bring back so many amazing memories. You captured the magic beautifully.

  5. Amazing pictures! Machu Picchu is breathtaking and has an incredible history! It looks like you had a great time. Thanks for sharing!

  6. Andrew says:

    with some luck, 2016 october will see me here! Thanks for sharing your gorgeous photos Juno!

  7. These photos are stunning! Love how the blue sky just POPS.

  8. […] scenery and towering mountains. For great photos of Machu Picchu, head over to Juno’s post: Machu Picchu in Photos and if you still need inspiration to visit Peru, see my Peru via Instagram […]

  9. Stunning photos Jiyeon! Love how the clouds came out to play, breathtaking reflections.

  10. […] ruins are what make Peru special. Machu Picchu is the center of the archeological discovery in Peru, but there are numerous sites around the […]

  11. […] are not enough words to describe the feeling when I first saw Machu Picchu coming out of the morning fog. The expectation was even more grand after hiking up to the gate of […]

  12. […] reserves, and peculiar places. I explored one of the world’s most isolated islands, followed the footsteps of the Incas, drove through the lonely but lively Queensland’s Outback, hiked in the driest desert in the […]

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