The mysterious faces and symbols found at the ancient Inca citadel of Machu Picchu in Peru are extremely intriguing. Not only do they shed a unique light on the Inca civilization and culture but they are also not very obvious if you do not know what you are looking for.
Every day thousands of travelers visit the world wonder of Machu Picchu and leave without even noticing these hidden faces and symbols.
Where is Machu Picchu?
Machu Picchu is an ancient Incan citadel in Peru. Visiting Machu Picchu is on every great traveler’s bucket list. It’s located high up in the Andes mountains just above the Urubamba River Valley. It’s 7972 feet above sea level, so you can expect quite a trek to get there.
If you decide to take the Inca Trail, expect a 26-mile hike along the trail before reaching Machu Picchu. This offers some of the best views in Peru, and your guide will teach you all about the Incas along the way. It definitely allows you to make the most of your trip. This usually takes around 4 days.
With such a long journey ahead of you, it’s important to pack correctly for Machu Picchu. Having the right equipment will make the trip that much more comfortable and enjoyable.
If you’re pressed for time however, there are other options. Taking a train to Machu Picchu is also a wonderful experience. You’ll get the chance to take in magical views without the exhaustion of having to hike the trail.
Hidden Gems of Machu Picchu, Peru
The Inca civilization placed a strong emphasis on the concept of dualities as these reflected the harmony of the universe. These can be seen below in the mysterious faces and symbols of Machu Picchu.
The Face of Machu Picchu & the Sleeping Woman
Unlike many of the Machu Picchu symbols, the resemblance of a male face can be seen in the mountains of Machu Picchu. The completely natural formation seems to show the nose, mouth, and forehead of a man looking to the skies. If the duality shown by the Inca is to be followed, you will not be surprised to hear that there is also a sleeping woman. A rock, roughly carved out to look like the side profile of a sleeping woman can be found at Machu Picchu too.
Samples taken from the surface of the rock have shown traces of gold etched on it with some archaeologists believing that this stone may have been completely covered in gold at one point.
If it was totally covered with gold, the sacred and precious metal of the Inca, it would glitter in the sunlight, perhaps providing an aerial signal to the deities above. These Machu Picchu faces are ones not to be missed during your trip to the ancient ruins.
Temple of the Condor
Andean condors are massive birds and their enormous 10-foot wingspan is one of their most discerning features. When you get to the Temple of the Condor at Machu Picchu, you may begin to wonder why the Andean Condor sculpted on the floor features just its head and body.
Take a few steps back and the whole picture is revealed with its gigantic wings represented by two giant rocks, carved into the shape of wings. The attention to detail is spectacular with the rock on the left not touching the ground, symbolizing the bird flying through the air.
The Llama in the Wall
In the ruins of Machu Picchu, you will be able to observe thousands of rocks of all various shapes and sizes. While it may seem that they have no meaning other than their use for construction, there is no coincidence at Machu Picchu, with each rock being carefully chosen and placed.
This can be seen on one of the walls of Machu Picchu, where upon closer inspection you can see the rocks arranged in the shape of a llama.
Featuring a head, neck, body, and tail, traces of colors were also found on the rock’s surface suggesting it might have been painted centuries ago. Many other small statues of llamas covered in animal fat have been unearthed by historians and archaeologists at Machu Picchu.
The Sacred Rock – Machu Picchu & Houses shaped like the Mountains
Machu Picchu and the orientation of its most important structures were strongly influenced by the location of nearby holy mountains, or Apus. Throughout the Inca ruins of Machu Picchu, there are a number of ‘echo stones’ which are aligned with the shape and formation of the Apus surrounding Machu Picchu.
The 25-foot long Sacred Rock of Machu Picchu is hard to miss and it even sits on a pedestal to ensure you notice it. Also known as the Altar of the Replica of the Apus, the Sacred Rock resembles the silhouette of a group of important mountain peaks, specifically Yanantin Mountain.
Similar to mountain-shaped rocks, the former-houses found in Machu Picchu have their tops shaped like the mountains behind them.
From the front of these buildings, you will also be able to see that the slopes of their sides perfectly coincide with the gradient of the outlined mountain. By using the shapes of the distant mountain peaks, the carved rocks and houses were believed to embody the same powerful beings, marrying Machu Picchu to the Apus.
If you’re wanting to take in some picture-perfect views of the ancient Incan ruins, then seeing them from a birds-eye view is a must during your visit. The best way to do this is to climb Huayna Picchu, the peak directly behind the Machu Picchu ruins.
The climb is steep but very straight forward and doesn’t require special climbing skills or equipment. You will, however, need a climbing permit which will cost a little extra. You’ll do this when you buy your entrance ticket to Machu Picchu. Together it will cost around 150 sole (USD $50).
The Inca Bridge
The Inca Bridge is located on the west route out of Machu Picchu. There is a gap in the stone pathway carved into the rock that is bridged by multiple tree trunks. It was created as an entrance for the Incan army that could be destroyed after crossing in case they were being followed.
Because of its incredible historical significance, it’s an important Machu Picchu site to visit, even although it’s not located inside the citadel itself.
The Watchman’s Hut
Used to safeguard the citadel, from intruders, the watchman’s hut provides wonderful views over the entire ancient ruins. It’s a great place to consider what the citadel must have once looked like when it was inhabited. It’s also a great vantage point to take photos from.
The Funerary Stone
The funerary stone is located next to the watchman’s hut in the agricultural sector of the city. It’s said to have been used for sacrificial purposes and it. When you see its shape, you won’t second guess this estimation. With steps carved into the stone and its flat top surface, it’s not hard to imagine sacrifices being made in this very location.
Another theory is that it was used for the embalming of bodies before they were buried. It also marks the entrance of the cemetery so this is a likely use of the stone.
You’ll find numerous fountains all over Machu Picchu that feed into 16 different baths. There are 750 meters of stone channels that run through Machu Picchu keeping the entire citadel adequately watered.
It almost makes the ruins feel like a semi-functional citadel. The water still flows from these fountains as the channels are all still active. In fact, much of Peru still makes use of waterways and pathways built by the Incas.
The Temple of Three Windows
The Temple of Three Windows is located in the Royal sector of the Incan ruins. It’s made of much heavier stones than many other parts of the citadel, many of them weighing up to 3 tons. As the name suggests, three windows have been left open in the wall, which perfectly frames the three peaks that face Machu Picchu.
It’s an epic viewing point and one that shouldn’t be missed during your time in Machu Picchu.
The House of the High Priest
Nobody will ever know whether the high priest actually lived in this structure or not, although it’s likely he didn’t. The structure got its name because it’s one of the only foundations in the ancient citadel with four walls. Which indicates it contained something a little more private than many of the other structures.
The House of Ornaments
The house of ornaments is still in fairly decent shape considering its age. It has been well preserved and has three walls containing alcoves clearly used to store sacred or precious objects.
The entrance is guarded by a huge stone with over 30 angles carved into it.
While this location is no secret, it’s definitely worth mentioning as it’s a must-visit during your Machu Picchu journey. The Intihuatana was used by the Incas as a sundial to predict the solstices.
Structures similar to this have been found at Incan ruins all over Peru, which means it’s a significant structure to the Incan people.
Machu Picchu Facts
Here are a few interesting facts about Machu Picchu that you should know before heading out to the incredible site.
- In the native Quechua language, Machu Picchu means “old peak”.
- The historical site is made up of over 150 different buildings that acted as baths, housing, temples, and other meeting areas.
- Explorer Hiram Bingham was the first American to discover Machu Picchu in 1911 (although the Peruvian locals had always known about it). He excavated the ruins and took artifacts back with him to Yale University. The Peruvian government filed a lawsuit during the presidency of Barack Obama to get possession of the stolen artifacts, which they later won.
- Archeologists have identified a few sectors that together make up the citadel. A farming zone, a residential zone, a sacred area, and a royal district.
- The ancient Incan ruins of Machu Picchu were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983, and later declared one of the new Seven Wonders of the World in 2007.
- Machu Picchu contains more than 100 flights of stairs. Most of these staircases were carved out of a single slab of stone.
- Most of the stones that were used to build Machu Picchu are over 50 pounds in weight. But no wheels were thought to have been used to transport these heavy stones. Instead, historians believe that hundreds of men pushed these heavy stones up the mountain.
- Most Incan cities were destroyed by the Spanish. But because Machu Picchu is so well hidden, not visible from below, and remained undiscovered, it’s one of the most well preserved Incan ruins in Peru.
Machu Picchu History
If you have questions that center around the history of Machu Picchu, Peru, then we’re here to answer you. It’s always a good idea to learn a little something about the history of a site before visiting. It putsIt’s puts everything you’re seeing into context a little better.
When Was Machu Picchu Built?
Although nobody knows for absolute certain when this Incan citadel was built, it’s believed to have been between 1450 and 1460. There were two great rulers that aided and instructed the building of Machu Picchu – Pachacutec Inca Yupanqui who ruled between 1438 and 1471, and Túpac Inca Yupanqui who ruled between 1472 and 1493.
Why Was Machu Picchu Built?
It’s said that the Incas built Machu Picchu to honor a sacred landscape. And we’re sure you’ll find this to be accurate on your visit. While nobody can possibly know for certain, there have been many theories over the years.
Hiram Bingham III, who was an explorer during the 19th and 20th centuries once speculated that the site was a holy nunnery, dedicated to the virgins of the sun. But this theory was later debunked by John Verano, anVerano an anthropologist.
When excavating the graves he found that there were almost equal numbers of men and women.
A more popular theory is that the Incan citadel was built as a retreat for the royals of the Inca kingdom. It was likely a getaway that they would retreat to for a few days, weeks or months during the year. The people buried on the site are thought to have been servants that worked there.
Why Was Machu Picchu Abandoned?
The Machu Picchu citadel was abandoned when the last Incan rebel was captured – Tupac Amaru. Ever since then the ruins have remained a great mystery.
Who Destroyed Machu Picchu?
Luckily for those of us who want to visit the ancient Incan ruins, Machu Picchu was never destroyed. The Spanish never actually found the Incan citadel. The residents of Machu PicchuPichu fled with most of their valuable belongings and destroyed all trails that led to Machu Picchu. For this reason, it remained undiscovered by outsiders for the better half of 5 centuries.
Final Thoughts on the Secrets of Machu Picchu
Knowing what to keep your eyes peeled for is so important when visiting a historical site. Many tourists miss the great symbolism hidden in many of the secrets of Machu Picchu.
Whether you’re visiting Machu Picchu to take in the great natural beauty that surrounds it, or the historical significance of these ancient ruins, you’ll be in awe by the time you leave.
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