If visiting Machu Picchu, the 15th century Inca site, is on your Bucket List, now is the time to take it. Guess what? You won’t even have to undertake the strenuous 90-minute trek from Cusco. So off I went to Peru with my feet up on the table and a mug of black extra roasted coffee to get into the mood.As you approach the UNESCO World Heritage Site, nothing prepares you for the stunning view of the Andes, complemented by the even terraces the Incas farmed on.
Most of these 700-plus terraces are still well maintained. Zooming in up close on the buildings of the erstwhile royal estate shows a marvel of mortar-free engineering: the stones are cut so precisely that each one wedges into its neighbours. Not even an ultra slim smartphone can find a foothold between the stones. This style has protected the buildings for centuries, since the area is earthquake-prone.
Machu Picchu’s complex of palaces, temples, homes and plazas doze in the embrace of the gushing Urubamba River. Since the Inca site had no written language, there is no real evidence for why it was built and more importantly why it was suddenly abandoned in the early 16th century. However, it’s extraordinary that Machu Picchu was built almost 500 years ago, when the Incas had no iron, steel and even wheels to cart the stones for construction.
Scholars think that the architecture style suggests it is a palace complex of Pachacuti Inca Yupanqui. Some studies suggest that lack of water may be the reason it was abandoned to the elements. Of all the buildings, the Temple of the Sun is the most famous. Scholars believe that the unique semi-circular structure may have served as a royal tomb, as well as the site for regular sacrificial ceremonies. According to legend, the town of El Dorado was in Machu Picchu—which is a source of unimaginable gold.
While visitors have to queue up long before dawn to start their trek—only 400 people are allowed to climb the famed Huayna Picchu peak daily to preserve the integrity of the heritage site— all it took for me was a drag of my index finger and voila! I was already up there. Most trekkers generally ignore the Machu Picchu mountain, which is twice as tall at 1,640 ft. But my cursor and I made it in a click. Virtual tours do have a lot of advantages. Google Maps never looked so good.