Images of Machu Picchu

In my post “Machu Picchu–A Practical View” I explained the logistics of our visit. In this post I’ll share some of the photos of this incredible engineering marvel, hidden for centuries (thank goodness!) from the world’s view. A North American archeologist and explorer, Hiram Bingham, “discovered” Machu Picchu on July 24, 1911 (locals of course knew of its existence).

A view of the urban area of Machu Picchu – the ceremonial area is on the left and the residential area is on the right.


I was surprised by the varied construction techniques. In some places, each stone is fit perfectly with those next to it. In other cases, the construction is more rough, not unlike what one sees in medieval castles in Europe. The Inca understood that trapezoidal shapes are stronger than square shapes, and doorways, windows and carved niches are almost all trapezoidal in shape.

The main entrance to the city of Machu Picchu

Trapezoidal entryways and doors are found throughout Machu Picchu, which were much stronger and more resistant to earthquake damage.

Examples of varied construction techniques in the walls.

An interesting wall–the lower part is constructed of carefully cut and fitted stones and the upper part is much more hastily built.

Another example of the varied building techniques–note the trapezoidal niches and post extensions in the background.

Water System

There is a spring on the hill of Machu Picchu and the Incas utilized it to the fullest extent to provide water to the crops and the inhabitants.  They used the law of gravity to provide a running water supply.

Carved channels for water flow–another engineering masterpiece.

Temple of the Sun

One of the most important buildings in Machu Picchu is the Temple of the Sun. It is quite unique in its construction due to the rounded walls, in addition to the windows that align with the summer and winter solstices.

The Temple of the Sun in the foreground–the windows are aligned perfectly with the summer and winter solstices. This building was Hiram Bingham’s first discovery at Machu Picchu. In the distance are the terraced agricultural fields.

Stairway and chambers directly below the Temple of the Sun. Named the “Royal Tomb” by Hiram Bingham, although the function is unknown.

The Agricultural Area

Machu Picchu is divided into two main zones, the urban zone and the agricultural zone, which is the purpose of the extensive terraces.  A birds-eye view would show that the majority of land area of Machu Picchu was terraced (I didn’t have an airplane!).

Looking up at some of the many terraces.

The Urban Zone

The urban zone is really two main areas:  The Sacred Plaza with temples and ceremonial places, and the residential area, which has 109 stairways containing about 3,000 steps, and a sophisticated canal system.  This city clearly had great urban planners!

The Sacred Plaza

Temple of the Three Windows, in the ceremonial part of the city, called the Sacred Plaza. Note that these windows are carved from huge stones.

The near-perfect stone work on the outside of the “Main Temple” – thought to be a temple due to the extremely careful construction

Residential Area

We found the residential side of the city quieter (fewer tourists) than the ceremonial/Sacred Plaza side, probably partly due to the vast size of the residential area.

A view of the residential area, agricultural terraces, and the winding dirt road leading up to Machu Picchu from Aguas Calientes.

A view (in the opposite direction from the picture above) of the residential area, additional terraces, and Waynapicchu (in the background).

One of my favorite images of Machu Picchu, looking toward the residential area.

If you have the opportunity to visit this world wonder, do it!

Information Source: Machu Picchu, Sacred City of the Incas, by Mayer Joel Abanto, 2009.