Ancient Engineering at Machu Picchu, Peru
Study Engineering in Peru
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After you arrive at the Lima airport, your guide will meet you and get you transferred to your hotel. Once you get settled, you’ll meet up to explore the historic streets of The City of Kings. Starting in Miraflores at Love Park, inspired by Spanish architect Gaudí, you’ll enjoy magnificent views from the towering cliffs overlooking the Pacific. Then it’s off to the city center to take in the colonial architecture of the Plaza de Armas, Lima Cathedral and the Presidential Palace. You’ll stop off for dinner nearby where you’ll have a chance to go over the plans for your upcoming Inca adventure!
Just time for an early breakfast then it’s a quick turnaround day, as you’re off to Cusco! Once you arrive in the town you’ll be transferred to your hotel, then meet up to check out the old part of Cusco. You’ll start with the Plaza de Armas, admiring the colonial architecture of the surrounding buildings. But as you explore, note also the remnants of old Incan stonework left over from the palaces and temples of the ancient civilization’s capital. As you explore, remember that Cusco and Machu Picchu are high elevation and it takes time to acclimate. Cusco is situated at 11,300 feet and you’re going to be climbing a lot of steps in the coming days, so take it easy!
Next, head over to the Pre-Columbian Art Museum, featuring objects dating from 1250 BC through 1532 AD. Keep in mind as you admire the work of these ancient artisans from the Inca and other peoples of the region that modern scholars think that Machu Picchu was abandoned due to population decline stemming from smallpox brought over by the Spanish. After the museum, there are plenty of restaurants to choose from for dinner and discussing the accomplishments and mysteries of the ancient Andean cultures.
Today you’ll spend the day in the Sacred Valley, starting with the village of Pisac and the Incan ruins atop a hillside overlooking the valley. Your expert guide will talk you through the engineering wonders the ancient Incas created, and point out the various baths, altars, water fountains, and temples they left behind here. You’ll also see the volcanic outcrop carved into the inti watana, or “hitching post for the sun,” which modern scholars think was engineered to define the changes in seasons.
Then take some time to visit to the town’s famous market before heading off down the valley to the town of Urubamba for lunch, where you can find numerous restaurants offering traditional Peruvian dishes. Next, you’ll visit the spectacular fortress of Ollantaytambo, which was part of the royal estate of the Inca emperor Pachacuti. At the base of the fortress, the town of the same name has Inca-built houses that are still inhabited to this day. After you’re taken to your hotel in the Sacred Valley, you can gather for dinner to discuss what you’ve seen and prepare for Machu Picchu tomorrow!
After breakfast, you’ll be transferred to the train station for the 2.5-hour ride to Aguas Calientes at the base of Machu Picchu. This train ride in and of itself is epic, snaking along the Vilcanota River and knifing up and down gorges to afford riders spectacular views as the train descends from high altitude plains to the cloud forest and the edge of the Upper Amazon rainforest.
You’ll be met at the train station where your guide will accompany you on the bus ride up to the citadel of Machu Picchu. Your guide will explain wonders like the intihuatana (Sun Stone), the Temple of the Sun, which may have been used as a ritual altar, and the Room of 3 Windows. They will also explain that while we know that the Inca used a “dry stone” technique to carve the massive granite blocks that make up the site, there is still much that modern engineers just don’t know about the Inca’s techniques to this day. For instance, blocks like these are difficult to cut even using modern technology, and they are fitted together so tightly that not even a knife blade can slip between them. After the tour you’ll return to Aguas Calientes to your hotel and then dinner.
Today it’s early to rise in order to be atop the citadel again in order to catch the first rays of morning light. While there are no unobstructed views of the actual sun rising from the citadel, the slowly rising light and sun slanting in among the peaks and valleys of the surrounding countryside is breathtaking in its own right. There is plenty more to explore among the ruins, so you could easily spend the rest of the day here. But another option is the 3-hour hike up to Huayna Picchu, the peak that looms above Machu Picchu. The views are worth the effort to get there, and your guide will point out numerous cavities along the route where Inca burials have been uncovered. That evening you’ll take the train back to Cusco and a well-deserved good night’s sleep!
Next up you’ll take a day trip to the town of Andahuaylaillas where your guide will show you the colonial architecture of the town’s Plaza de Armas, as well as the Inca temple to the god Wiracocha. The views along the way there are spectacular as well, offering stunning vistas of various Andes peaks. After lunch, it’s off to Rainbow Mountain, or Montaña de 7 Colores. This incredible attraction offers amazing views of the layered minerals that give the mountain its distinct rainbow look. The hike is considered moderate, and is around 6 km, but be aware that you’ll still be at altitude, so take care!
That evening it’s back to Cusco for a final dinner to discuss the wonders you’ve seen and what you’ve learned about the ancient Inca engineers!
This morning there’s just time for breakfast and time to say goodbye to Peru and its incredible Inca architecture. Even if you haven’t uncovered all the ancients’ secrets, at least you have a little better understanding of the peoples who settled this wild land long before Columbus came east. Then it’s off to the airport and home, with tremendous tales of the Incas for all your friends and relatives!
It’s difficult to overstate the sense of wonder and magic that washes over visitors to Machu Picchu once they scale its 3,000 steps. Witnessing the sunrise from atop the breathtaking stone citadel nestled in the Peruvian Andes inspires an unbeatable sense of spiritual wonder. The stepped pyramid draws upwards of a million pilgrims every year to explore its steep terraces, prompting visitors to marvel at the engineering skills of the ancient Inca people who built it over 500 years ago. Why was it built? And why did they abandon it less than 100 years later? More importantly, how did they do it? While we may not answer all of these questions on this trip, you’ll get to know the facts about Machu Picchu and other pre-Columbian ruins in the northern Andes while seeing with your own eyes this once-in-a-lifetime site that truly deserves the name, Wonder of the World!
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