Historic Sanctuary of Machu Picchu

S13 7 0 W72 34 60
Date of Inscription: 1983
Criteria: (i)(iii)(vii)(ix)
Property : 38,160.87 ha
Ref: 274

Embedded within a dramatic landscape at the meeting point between the Peruvian Andes and the Amazon Basin, the Historic Sanctuary of Machu Picchu is among the greatest artistic, architectural and land use achievements anywhere and the most significant tangible legacy of the Inca civilization. Recognized for outstanding cultural and natural values, the mixed World Heritage property covers 32,592 hectares of mountain slopes, peaks and valleys surrounding its heart, the spectacular archaeological monument of “La Ciudadela” (the Citadel) at more than 2,400 meters above sea level. Built in the fifteenth century Machu Picchu was abandoned when the Inca Empire was conquered by the Spaniards in the sixteenth century. It was not until 1911 that the archaeological complex was made known to the outside world.

The approximately 200 structures making up this outstanding religious, ceremonial, astronomical and agricultural centre are set on a steep ridge, crisscrossed by stone terraces. Following a rigorous plan the city is divided into a lower and upper part, separating the farming from residential areas, with a large square between the two. To this day, many of Machu Picchu’s mysteries remain unresolved, including the exact role it may have played in the Incas’ sophisticated understanding of astronomy and domestication of wild plant species.

The massive yet refined architecture of Machu Picchu blends exceptionally well with the stunning natural environment, with which it is intricately linked. Numerous subsidiary centres, an extensive road and trail system, irrigation canals and agricultural terraces bear witness to longstanding, often on-going human use. The rugged topography making some areas difficult to access has resulted in a mosaic of used areas and diverse natural habitats. The Eastern slopes of the tropical Andes with its enormous gradient from high altitude “Puna” grasslands and Polylepis thickets to montane cloud forests all the way down towards the tropical lowland forests are known to harbour a rich biodiversity and high endemism of global significance. Despite its small size the property contributes to conserving a very rich habitat and species diversity with remarkable endemic and relict flora and fauna.

Criterion (i): The Inca City of the Historic Sanctuary of Machu Picchu is the articulating centre of its surroundings, a masterpiece of art, urbanism, architecture and engineering of the Inca Civilization. The working of the mountain, at the foot of the Huaya Picchu, is the exceptional result of integration with its environment, the result from a gigantic effort as if it were an extension of nature.

Criterion (iii):The Historic Sanctuary of Machu Picchu is a unique testimony of the Inca Civilization and shows a well-planned distribution of functions within space, territory control, and social, productive, religious and administrative organization.

Criterion (vii): The historic monuments and features in the Historic Sanctuary of Machu Picchu are embedded within a dramatic mountain landscape of exceptional scenic and geomorphological beauty thereby providing an outstanding example of a longstanding harmonious and aesthetically stunning relationship between human culture and nature.

Criterion (ix): Covering part of the transition between the High Andes and the Amazon Basin the Historic Sanctuary of Machu Picchu shelters a remarkably diverse array of microclimates, habitats and species of flora and fauna with a high degree of endemism. The property is part of a larger area unanimously considered of global significance for biodiversity conservation.

Suggested Base:

Aguas Calientes (now officially Machu Picchu Pueblo) is a small town at the bottom of the valley next to Machu Picchu, and the principal access point to the site. Unless you’re on a daytrip from Cusco or plan to spend a fortune and stay at the sole lodge in Macchu Picchu itself, you will need to spend at least one night here. The town is perched on the bank of the Urubamba river. Across the river are sheer cliffs, and a creek flows down from the jungle into the river, bisecting the town. Several small bridges cross the creek. Virtually all of the streets are pedestrian-only walking streets, making it very easy to get around. Aguas Calientes is located in the cloud forest, and there are a several hikes in the jungle and along the river. The town also offers the usual activities for a tourist location. [read more]

Cuzco or Cusco (Qosqo in Quechua, Cuzco in Spanish), located in the Southern Sierras, is a fascinating city that was the capital of the Inca Empire. Cuzco is a Unesco World Heritage Site and is one of Peru’s most visited cities as it is the largest and most comfortable city from which tourists can begin visits to Machu Picchu, the Sacred Valley of the Incas, and other Inca sites in the region. Cuzco is a beautiful city with well-preserved colonial architecture, evidence of a rich and complex history. The city itself represents the center of indigenous Quechua culture in the Andes, and by merely walking the streets one sees the layers of history. Spanish colonial buildings erected directly atop Inca walls line the square, while the modern tourist nightlife flourishes in their midst. The city is surrounded by a number of ruins, the most impressive being Sacsayhuaman. [read more]

Ayacucho is in the Southern Sierra region of Peru. The population is about 100,000, altitude 2,700 m. Ayacucho is embedded in a broad sunny valley with mild climate. It is home of the Morocucho people, a group of the Quechua. During the 1980s and early 1990s, Ayacucho was mostly under control of the Sendero Luminoso, an extreme leftist terrorist group. After the successful anti-terror fights under president Fujimori, the influence of the Sendero Luminoso decreased almost completely. In the recent years, some singular activities have come up again. The area of Ayacucho is declared as zona de emergencia (emergency zone), but the only practical restriction for normal tourists seems to be the recommendation not to travel in the area during night time. The Tourist Office is found in the Plaza de Armas. The airport has flights from Lima. Small airlines in Peru are a bit sketchy. [read more]

15 replies »

  1. I’ve visited MP twice with family. 1970 and 1978 when we spent the night at the “little” Tourist Hotel.. We woke up and we had the whole place to our selves. I cherish the photos with no tourist in the back ground. We look forward to visiting next year with grandchildren. We loved living in Peru.


  2. There were tough times along the way but it was amazing reaching Machu Picchu.

    I have to admit I was quite emotional. The Inca capital was even more spectacular than the photographs I had seen.


  3. The official list of Machu Picchu do’s and don’ts:
    Visitors to Machu Picchu are not allowed to:

    Carry backpacks, bags or handbags larger than 16 x 14 x 8 inches (40 x 35 x 20 cm). Items that exceed these dimensions must be deposited in the cloakroom storage outside the entrance.
    Enter with food and/or utensils.
    Enter with any illegal substances or under the influence of any illegal drugs.
    Enter with any type of alcoholic beverage or in a state of inebriation.
    Carry umbrellas or parasols. (Caps, hats and raincoats are allowed.)
    Carry tripods, monopods or extensions for cameras, cell phones or any other stabilizing equipment or extension for filming and/or photography, unless authorized by the Department of Culture of Cusco (DDC Cusco).
    Enter with animals, except for guide dogs when strictly necessary.
    Enter with any type of aerosols.
    Enter with any type of musical instrument, megaphone or speakers.
    Use virtual applications with cell phones or mobile devices along any narrow arteries, trails and points of congestion (the use of such technology is allowed only in large open spaces and designated explanation areas).
    Enter with heels or hard-sole shoes (entrance is allowed only with shoes or sneakers that have soft or rubber sole).
    Enter with baby carriages or strollers (only baby backpack carriers with non-metal frames are allowed).
    Enter with sharp instruments and/or weapons of any kind.
    Enter with banners, posters and/or placards, among other objects of this type. (The use of pennant are allowed exclusively for tour guides leading groups of at least 5 visitors and are limited to the model and dimensions determined by competent authorities in coordination with the respective guides).
    Cause disturbances, hop, jump or generate disorder along the entry path to the Machu Picchu Sanctuary and/or at any point within the complex.
    Enter with clothing intended for advertising purposes.
    Climbing or leaning on walls and/or structures.
    Touch, move or extract lithic elements.
    Perform any type of graffiti.
    Disturb, collect or extract native flora or fauna and/or cultural elements.
    Carry out activities that distort the sacred character of the Machu Picchu Sanctuary, such as fashion shows, dances and social engagements, ceremonies of any kind.
    Enter with portable stools or seats, among others.
    Enter with trekking poles with metallic or hard tips (Canes and poles are allowed for use by elderly people or people with obvious physical handicaps, and in general as long as they have rubber tips).
    Carry out any type of activity that implies the impairment or deterioration of the Machu Picchu Sanctuary, its natural environment and/or facilities.
    Obscene acts contrary to morality and good manners.
    Undress, wear costumes, lie down, run and/or jump.
    Smoking or vaping.
    Make loud or annoying noises such as clapping, screaming, whistling, singing, among other actions, because it disturbs the tranquility and the sacred character of the Machu Picchu Sanctuary.
    Make any kind of fire.
    Dispose of waste of any kind.
    Disrespect the established circuits and routes.
    The commercial sales in the interior of the Sanctuary of Machu Picchu and spaces the Puente Ruinas bridge.
    Feed the domestic and wild animals of Machu Picchu Sanctuary.


  4. It was such an amazing trip. It was a wonderful experience. I was just thinking and trying to understand how they created this amazing space without the technology we have today. They were able to build this amazing, beautiful little sanctuary on a mountaintop. It’s at about 8,000 feet of elevation, and the river is about 4,000 feet below that, so it’s gorgeous and terrifying at the same time.


  5. 10 things I wish I knew before visiting Machu Picchu:
    1. There are three ways to get to Machu Picchu, but a car isn’t one of them.
    2. It’s worth getting there early — just be prepared to wait.
    3. There are no bathrooms once you get past the gates.
    4. And there are no places to purchase food or water either.
    5. Thinking of hiking Huayna Picchu or Mount Machu Picchu? You’ll need a separate ticket.
    6. You’re photographing it right? Just DON’T bring a tripod.
    7. But DO bring bug spray.
    8. History buff or not, you must enter with a guide.
    9. Once you’re inside the park, you can only exit twice.
    10. But before you leave, make sure to stamp your passport.


  6. Rise by 4 a.m. to get in line for the first buses up the mountain. That got us there in time for the citadel’s 6 a.m. opening. More important, it gave us a couple of quieter hours on site before the bigger crowds started arriving by train.

    You’d have to be staunchly agnostic to not feel something a little spiritual or cosmic walking around the Machu Picchu grounds, especially in the morning as the mist surrounding it continually, gracefully moves like a slide show revealing new scenery every 20 seconds or so.

    For a whole other reason, we said a few Hail Marys as we took an extra 90-minute (and $85) hike up to Huayna Picchu, the ultra-steep peak seen behind the ruins in most photographs. Those photos don’t show you the ropes and dropoff-lined steps to get up there.


  7. Machu Picchu really is surreal. But don’t stop there. The whole sacred valley in Peru is filled with these amazing ruins, Machu Picchu is just the most complete and relatively easy to access. I’ll also add that it’s worth getting a tour guide when you get up there. Knowing how the city functions is what makes it so fascinating.


  8. During two amazing days here, highlights were viewing the Temple of the Condor and climbing to the Guardhouse for a majestic view of Machu Picchu and the surrounding mountains.


  9. This place is one of the ultimate examples of the journey being more important than the destination. Maybe that journey will be on the “Inca Trail”, or maybe one of the numerous alternative hikes that are now being opened up. The important thing here is to take your time.

    Walking to Machu Picchu makes you properly appreciate it. It makes you consider where you’re going, and the historic importance of the way you’re getting there. It makes you ponder the feat of the Incans in creating this place. It makes you gape in wonder at the rugged beauty of the area in which they chose to build their citadel.

    This is something of a pilgrims’ trail. Just being there at the finish line doesn’t capture the experience. Getting there does.


  10. Here are a few things I wish I’d known before booking the trip and travelling to Peru:
    – You can’t buy a ticket to visit Machu Picchu without being in Peru. The way the system works is you book a reservation online through the Peruvian government, and then you must visit a local bank (in Peru) to purchase the ticket within a short window of time (3 days). It’s an expensive ticket, but you can pay with a credit card at the local bank.
    – There are several ways to walk to Machu Picchu along The Inca Trail. Unless you are pretty serious about hiking, you should not do this. There are options for public transport all the way up to the entrance of Machu Picchu itself. Again, I’m in reasonably good shape, and was in no way prepared for this hike. Thankfully I was able to buy bus tickets on site.
    – You should spend at least two days in Cusco before visiting Machu Picchu. Even if you plan to stay in Aguas Calientes before the hike, you’re going to need time to physically acclimatise to the altitude. Since Cusco is at about 11,000 feet above sea level, you’ll likely feel the affects of altitude sickness – I certainly did. That means shortness of breath, headaches, and an overall sense of exhaustion. The locals are used to it, and you’ll get passed – quickly – by elderly folk while you’re huffing and puffing. You’ll want to drop any sense of ego; these are folk who not only live in the clouds, but they come from generations of people who’ve lived there.
    – Do not eat a heavy meal or drink a lot when you first arrive in Cusco. It will compound the effect of altitude sickness, and may cause anything from an upset stomach to vomiting. In other words, chill out! Be sure to give yourself ample time to chill out. It’ll make your time at Machu Picchu all the more memorable.


  11. Machu Picchu was beyond impressive. It was easy to see why this magnificent Incan complex has become such a popular tourist attraction. Its history and architecture was very interesting and made us appreciate the Incas’ skill levels even more. This was one of the best trips we’ve ever taken and definitely one of the most memorable. Make that trip to Machu Picchu happen soon.


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