Machu Picchu – The Lost City of the Incas

Machu Picchu is a magical destination. Very few places in the world combine so superbly the work of man and the dramatic beauty of nature. Those sites which have achieved this synthesis are acknowledged as places of global pilgrimage. Every year people from all parts of the modern world flock to such heritage sites. They are all drawn to travel vast distances by the air of scenic grandeur and cultural wealth that surrounds these locations. 

Machu Picchu Peru Sunrise
A magnificent view as the sun rises on Huayna Picchu

Machu Picchu on a sunny day

Machu Picchu on a cloudy and rainy day

Machu Picchu Peru on Cloudy and Rainy Day

Machu Picchu certainly lives up to its other name as Cloud Forest!

Nestled on the eastern slopes of the Andes, the startling originality of the magnificent architecture of Machu Picchu is framed by the rugged and densely-forested mountains that surround its location. Above the ruins, clouds form which on occasion can shroud the buildings, and the Urubamba River meanders past some 500 meters below. And as if all that were not enough, the enigmatic history of the ruins adds to their air of mystery.

The mountain known as Huayna Picchu provides the backdrop to this most famous legacy of Inca rule. In spite of its relatively recent construction – just over five centuries ago – this monumental site stands as an archetype of Andean civilisation. The skill with which stone has been used in the construction, its simplicity of form and the tendency to build in harmony with the landscape, grant Inca architecture the uniqueness that has given it universal fame. Machu Picchu is the greatest expression of those values, a complex that stands as testimony to the religiosity and world view of the Inca people.

Machu Picchu was discovered by the American explorer Hiram Bingham on July 24th 1911, after he followed a trail parallel to the Urubamba River which had been opened in preparation for the construction of the Cusco to Quillabamba railroad. The first references in the modern era to Machu Picchu came from the French traveler Charles Wiener; who in the 1870s recorded the name and existence of the site among the place he listed beyond Ollantaytambo.

Recent research has confirmed that Machu Picchu had already been visited and mapped by entrepreneurial adventurers and engineers in the service of the state. In 1867, the German August Berns surveyed the area and installed a lumber mill at Aguas Calientes (referred also as Machu Picchu Pueblo). A few years later in 1874 the first printed map appeared – produced by Hermann Goering, a German engineer working for the Peruvian government – marking the location of Machu Picchu. Later, the Italian naturalist and government official Antonio Raimondi recorded the name and location of the site on his national map of Peru, published in installments between 1887 and 1897.

When Hiram Bingham arrived at Machu Picchu, the families of his indigenous guides, Toribio Recharte and Anacleto Álvarez, were living among the ruins and were even farming some of the Inca terraces. Also, Cusco-born Agustín Lizárraga had reached the site and left graffiti on one of the rocks to record his visit, on July 14th 1902. Bingham, however, should still be seen as the man who discovered Machu Picchu for science and the world at large.

This Inca citadel is located on a crest where the surface area narrows slightly. The two ends of the resulting saddle are formed by the mountains known as Huayna Picchu (“young hill”) to the north and Machu Picchu (“old hill”) to the south. The ruins lie at 2435 meters above sea level in the Vilcabamba range, on the eastern slopes of the Andes. This is a tropical zone, covered in dense vegetation, with a rugged topography through which the Urubamba River flows, skirting the northern and eastern flanks of Machu Picchu’s mountain.

Machu Picchu Peru

Machu Picchu Pueblo or Aguas Calientes

The trains from other cities like Cusco, Ollantaytambo and etc. will stop at Machu Picchu Pueblo (Aguas Calientes) Town Centre. From here, there will be buses that go to Machu Picchu, which take another 30 minutes or so. Visitors like myself would tend to visit Ollantaytambo, stayed overnight and then take the ~ 1.5 hours train to Machu Picchu Pueblo. The views throughout the train ride were jaw-dropping! So try to book for a window seat, sit back, relax and enjoy the incredible journey to this magical site 😊

Have you been to Peru? I’d love to hear your experiences! Leave your comments below. If you haven’t, I hope this post would encourage you to explore this beautiful country.

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Photography Information:
Camera: Nikon D800 with Tamron 24-70mm F/2.8 (photos) and iPhone X (photos & videos).
Post-processing: Adobe Lightroom Classic CC (photos) and Final Cut Pro (videos).
Music for the videos were licensed from Soundstripe.

All videos above were taken using iPhone X. I used DJI Osmo Mobile 2 to stabilize the iPhone especially for long hours of shooting. DJI Osmo Mobile 2 definitely helps to reduce the shakiness of my hands, if I were to do it hand-held. This produces better video quality. I love using it! You should get one too if you like taking videos using your smart phone. Click on the image below to find out more about DJI Osmo Mobile 2.

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