One of Machu Picchu’s foremost uses was definitely astronomical observation. This is indicated by the Intihuatana stone (also known as the Saywa or Sukhanka stone), which means ‘Hitching Post of the Sun’ and has proved itself to be a precise indicator of the date of the two equinoxes and other prominent celestial periods. At midday on March 21st and September 21st, the sun, being almost directly above the pillar creates no shadow whatsoever. This is when the sun is momentarily ‘tied’ to the rock and is also a time when the Inca held sacred ceremonies.
Shamanic legends claims when a sensitive persons touches his or her forehead to the Intihuatana stone, it opens one’s vision to the spirit world.
The Inca believed that when the Intihuatana stone was broken at an Inca shrine the deities of the place departed or died.
Fortunately, the Spaniards who searched out the Incas sacred Intihuatana stones and destroyed them never discovered Machu Picchu and therefore the site was left intact, and so the Intihuatana stone and its resident spirits remain in their original position. The mountain top sanctuary was inhabited until the Spanish conquered Cusco in 1532. Supply lines that linked the Inca social centres were disrupted bringing the great empire to an end.
All visits at some point originate in Cusco. Cusco can be reached by a domestic flight from Lima, or international flight from La Paz, in Bolivia. The tourist train from Cusco, takes 3 and a half hours to get to Machu Picchu. Thence follow several options.
on the train to Aguas Calientes y machu PicchuTrain to Machu Picchu
The most common option is – take the train to Machu Picchu in the morning, explore the ruins for a few hours returning to Cusco in the afternoon. The train stops at Puente Ruinas station, where buses take tourists up the mountain to Machu Picchu.
Today, annually thousands of tourists walk the Inca roads – in particular The Inca Trail getting used to the environment in Cusco before embarking on a two or four day journey, both of which are controlled by the government. This requires travellers to be reasonably fit. The trip involves sleeping in tents.
Another option is – stay overnight near the ruins of Machu Picchu, rather than returning on the same day. Many hotels are located at nearby Aguas Calientes. There is just one hotel at Machu Picchu itself. From Aguas Calientes buses commute to the ruins regularly during the day, an 8km ride up the mountain (roughly one and a half hours if walking).
There is also a helicopter service available that runs from Cusco to Aguas Calientes, although in the 1970’s helicopter flights directly into Machu Picchu stopped in due to concern about their damage to the ruins.