Table of Contents
- What Should I do Inside Machu Picchu?
- Central Plaza
- Funerary Stone
- House of the High Priest
- House of Ornaments (Sacristy)
- Inca Bridge
- Intihautana Stone
- Mortar/Industrial Section
- Principal Temple
- Prison Group
- Royal Tomb (Palace of the Princess)
- Sacred Rock
- Sun Gate
- Temple of the Condor
- Temple of the Sun
- Temple of the Three Windows
- Watchman’s Hut
What Should I do Inside Machu Picchu?
There are some things you should know before going to Machu Picchu. There are many highlights that you want to check out. If you’re not prepared ahead of time, you aren’t going to be looking for these scenes when you are there. Below are every sight and monument you need to be on the watch for as you explore the ruins all sorted in alphabetical order. For a detailed map of each location check out our Machu Picchu Map.
There are two major centers in Machu Picchu, the residential section and the industrial section. The Central Plaza separates the two major sectors in Machu Picchu. Typically this is where you will see the llamas or alpacas grazing. Visitors are not allowed on the Central Plaza, but you are allowed to snap a great picture.
As previously stated, there is an extensive network of channels and conduits running through the Machu Picchu grounds. As a result, there are fountains all over the grounds which drain out into various baths. Be sure to be on the lookout for the order to the path they take.
Still unknown why the stone was used, there are many theories out there. One of them is that it was a sacrificial altar. Another is that the stone was where the Inca nobility was mummified. There have been many human remains found on the site. This stone sits right next to the Watchman’s Hut in the agricultural district. So if you are trekking either Machu Picchu Mountain or Huayna Picchu be sure to be on the lookout for this stone. This is also a high vantage point to view the rest of the Machu Picchu complex.
House of the High Priest
The House of High Priest is the only building still standing in Machu Picchu the has four walls still. It is often called Nusta’s Bedroom and is attached to the Temple of the Sun. It’s located within the Sacred Plaza which is formed by the Temple of the Three Windows, Principal Temple and the House of the High Priest. Each of these buildings is considered some of the best in the citadel.
House of Ornaments (Sacristy)
The House of the Ornaments is a building that was used to store ornaments. It is considered the most beautiful building in all of the Machu Picchu complex. It’s flanked by two huge rocks carefully carved in 30-degree angles.
The Inca Drawbridge used to be a tourist entrance into Machu Picchu; however, it was closed due to safety reasons after a tourist fell to his death. It is nothing more than a couple of wooden planks with a 500-foot dropoff to the side. It was initially a secret entrance for the Inca army. They would cross logs, but if invaders attempted to gain entry, the Inca would remove the logs making the entrance to Machu Picchu impossible.
The Intihuatana Stone is likely the most critical location within the ruins of Machu Picchu. The name Intihuatana is translated to “hitching post of the sun” as it was believed to hold the sun in place as it travels across the sky. It was used as a sundial to predict the solstice. The stone shows absolutely no shadow during the solstice. During the winter solstice, at sunrise, the sun shines directly through the rock creating a triangle of light illuminating two circles on the ground. Additionally, each of the four corners of the stone point to each of the cardinal directions. Furthermore, it’s shaped to mimic Huayna Picchu.
The Industrial section is the location where most of the inhabitants of Machu Picchu would have lived. It is the most extensive section of Machu Picchu.
The Principal Temple, also known as the Main Temple, is a large building located within the Sacred Plaza across from the Temple of the Three Windows. It has three sides to it, and the base is comprised of huge stones. It’s thought that grand ceremonies took place here due to the central nature of its position.
The Prison Group is a series of houses located next to the Temple of the Condor. Prisoners were above and below ground in the prison complex. If you need more information on prisoners, go to your local county jail. LOL
Royal Tomb (Palace of the Princess)
The Royal Tomb is at the center of Machu Picchu. It was likely the location where they mummified the highest in nobility. The walls are made up of finely carved stone. The main feature of the tomb is a large altar that has two levels and a stone staircase carved into the rock. When Hiram Bingham discovered the Machu Picchu Incan ruins in 1911, he stated that the Royal Tomb was the best wall in the entirety of all of America.
The Sacred Rock in the lower portion of the urban sector of Machu Picchu. It’s thought that the rock was a location of meditation, poetry, or music recitals. Most say that the Sacred Rock is in the shape of Putucusi which is the mountain behind it. If you are hiking up Huayna Picchu, this will be close to the starting point for your hike.
If you are arriving at Machu Picchu via the Inca Trail, the Sun Gate is where people are entering get their first view of Machu Picchu in the morning. It is one of the most beautiful views of Machu Picchu in the entire historical site. It’s thought that the Sun Gate via the Inca Trail was the main entrance into and out of Machu Picchu for the Incas. Additionally, it was a highly guarded entrance to Machu Picchu, and only select visitors would be allowed past the gate.
Temple of the Condor
The Temple of the Condor gets its name due to the carving on the front of the building, which is in the shape of a large bird. The cave inside the temple was used for rituals, and the head of the condor served as an altar.
Temple of the Sun
The Temple of the Sun is located next to the Royal Palace and the main fountain at the center of the Urban Center. The Temple of the Sun is thought to have been an essential astronomical site for the Inca people. The only high priest was allowed inside the Temple of the Sun. The semi-circular is called the Torreón which means tower. A circular wall is extremely rare for the Inca culture. Each of the small windows on the eastern side of the temple is coordinated with the summer solstice (June 21) and winter solstice (December 22). Unfortunately, no one is allowed inside the Temple of the Sun as it is not stable.
Temple of the Three Windows
Part of the Sacred Plaza the Temple of the Three Windows and located in the royal sector. Interestingly enough, the temple has inscriptions carved into its wall by Agustín Lizárraga dating to 1902. As you recall, we discussed that many had been to Machu Picchu before Hiram Bingham in 1911. The main wall has three windows carved out that overlook the Machu Picchu complex and are aligned east for the sunrise. There are many theories as to the meaning of the three windows. These include representing the underworld, heaven, and Earth. The next includes serving the place where the Incas originated. Finally, another theory is that the first Inca ruler Manco Capac ordered the temple’s creation and the windows represented the three windows inside his parent’s house.
Be sure to be on the lookout throughout the complex for all the terracing. The Inca people used terracing all over their empire for farming purposes.
If you are doing either the Machu Picchu Mountain hike or hiking up Huayna Picchu’s Stairs of Death, then you will be making your way past the Watchman’s Hut. Additionally, this is an excellent place to get a great view of Machu Picchu. This is near the location where most tourists snap the classic Machu Picchu picture. The Watchman’s Hut or The Guardhouse was the site where the army would watch over Machu Picchu.
There you have it, a complete list of things to see in Machu Picchu. Everything that you need to be looking for when you are visiting Machu Picchu complete with all the pictures.
If you’re heading to Machu Picchu, let us know what you are most looking forward to in the comments.