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Machu Picchu

World Heritage Site Pictures: Machu Picchu

Temple of the Sun

Photograph by Erika Skogg, National Geographic Creative

The semicircular Temple of the Sun, constructed around a large boulder, offers commanding views of the Sacred Valley below. During the summer solstice, the sun shines through a temple window and aligns with both the boulder within and the tip of a nearby mountain peak.

Time Travel

Photograph by Danita Delimont, Getty Images

A 15th-century stone city tucked into a mountain-ringed valley high in the Andes, Machu Picchu is about 50 miles from Cusco, the Inca capital. It’s reached today by a four-hour train ride, then a few miles of winding mountain road, or by a three- to six-day hike along the famed Inca Trail.


Photograph by traveler1116, Getty Images

The 700-plus ancient terraces at Machu Picchu preserved soil, promoted agriculture, and served as part of an extensive water-distribution system that conserved water and limited erosion on the steep slopes.

Inca Infrastructure

Photograph by Michael Hanson, Aurora Photos

A path leads along the outside of Machu Picchu, which is formed of buildings, plazas, and platforms connected by narrow lanes. One sector is cordoned off to itself by walls, ditches, and, perhaps, a moat.

Ancient Architects

Photograph by Diane Cook Len Jenshel, National Geographic Creative

Landscape engineering skills are in strong evidence at Machu Picchu. The site’s buildings, walls, terraces, and ramps reclaim the steep mountainous terrain and make the city blend naturally into the rock escarpments on which it is situated.


Photograph by Ethan Welty, Aurora Photos

Archaeologists believe that these shallow stone dishes were filled with water and served an astronomical observatory function.

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