I had to restrain myself from subtitling this post “A Llama’s Eye View”! They are so engaging (from afar) and I couldn’t get enough of them. However, the real attraction at Machu Picchu is the amazing architecture. The citadel at Machu Picchu (which means Old Peak in Quechuan) dates to the mid-15th century when it was built under the aegis of Inca Sapa Pachacuti. (NB: The term Inca applies only to the rulers and the civilization; the indigenous people are Quechua.) More than 150 buildings cover the site which lies strategically between two mountains at an altitude of 2430 meters (almost 8000 feet) above sea level. So many photos are panoramic in format but the delight is also in the detail. Imagine doing a jigsaw puzzle – an enormous one constructed with heavy granite boulders precision-cut without the use of modern tools! To this day, no one can say how the Incas were able to build their stone walls without using any mortar and the majority have withstood the test of time. The dwelling above reminds me of a fairytale abode with its mushroom shaped roof. The stonemasons excelled at using rock formations already in place.
Perceiving the wings of a condor in the form of these giant outcroppings, the Inca added a head and neck feathers to solidify the allusion for the Temple of the Condor. Historians speculate that the head was used as a sacrificial altar.
The Torreon, also known as the Sun Temple, may have been used as an observatory. The windows on the upper level were positioned to track the stars and the June solstice.
Intihuatanas are ritual stones and astronomical clocks whose name derives from Quechuan Hitching Post of the Sun. On the solstices, the sun and the stone align perfectly.
Machu Picchu was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1983 and is one of the so-called New Seven Wonders of the World. There is much more to marvel at than I can cover here. For more information I recommend the Khan Academy article on Machu Picchu.