High in the Andes Mountains, nestled on steep slopes, exposed
to the erosional forces of torrential rain and earthquakes,
a venerable architectural marvel, Machu Picchu demonstrates
that builders from ancient cultures understood sound engineering
and construction in ways we marvel at today. The Incas also
built with an indelible sense of respect toward nature which
was considered a living being, Pachamama, without whom we could
The history of Machu Picchu and its architects is elusive. Even
if we accept the most commonly held theory about the builders
of this white granite monument; constructed in the early 15th
century by the Inca Pachacutec, the fact that this breathtaking
city has endured centuries of exposure to harsh elements is
indeed a testament to the knowledge these builders had. Over
the given five centuries or more,
Machu Picchu has withstood severe environmental conditions,
and yet still stands solidly in its secretive
Inca architects and engineers understood prevention of land
erosion and constructed a well held sustainable city. Terraces
were built with very strong retaining walls that would endure
heavy rainfall and prevent valuable top soil from washing away.
This was achieved by proper land sloping to manage the water
flow without causing problems with mud. The Incas used larger
stones for foundations, gradually decreasing their size which
worked well for drainage. They used different types of soil
collected from various locations in the surrounding Sacred Valley
to ensure proper acid/alkaline balance to achieve the best crop
yield possible, as well as arranging the terraces to receive
maximum sunlight. Underground aqua systems, traveling through
difficult terrain and long distances from the higher neighboring
snow packed mountains, ensured a year round fresh water supply.
The expert artistry of the Inca masonry is quite extraordinary.
There are smoothly formed convex and concave surfaces and the
careful fitting of stones, often of a cyclopean size, without
mortar. Different finishes were applied to different kinds of
buildings. Temples were given the most attention, with larger
stones and smoother finishes, whilst the construction of homes
used smaller stones, left with a rougher hue, but still built
with the same durable result.
Machu Picchu should be considered a destination, not a two hour
stop over on a day trip from Cusco. The Sanctuary of Machu Picchu
is breathtaking! There is a palpable uplifting energy in this
area which should be soaked up and savored. You will not want
to leave quickly.
Jose and Denise Koechlin are responsible for building a beautiful
travelers retreat close by, The Machu
Picchu Pueblo Hotel, set in 15 acres of lush Andean forest,
interspersed with gentle streams and waterfalls, which hosts
372 species of orchids, 16 different species of hummingbirds,
162 bird species and 108 species of butterflies. This peaceful
place is excellent to absorb the Spirit of the Andes Mountains,
and to perhaps garner an understanding of the Inca’s regard
for the power of the spirit of Mother-Nature.
Text and Photographs Caroline Davies © 2006
Editor, Lifestyle and Culture
Machu Picchu Sanctuary.
2,400m (almost 8,000 ft) above sea level.
Terraces, Machu Picchu Sanctuary
Machu Picchu Sanctuary photographed from Waynu Picchu.