Temple of the Sun Machu Picchu

As you enter the site of the Machu Picchu ruins, you might choose to take the path to the left that heads uphill. Here, the Caretaker's Hut and the Funerary Rock vie for competition with the amazing overhead view of the complex. The surrounding area was dedicated to agriculture, and as such, is aptly named the Agricultural Center. If you are armed with a map of Machu Picchu, you will notice that not far along this route lies the Temple of the Sun. Surely you will find it easy to pick out among the ruins, as its rounded walls make it a very distinctive landmark. Coincidently, these rounded walls best exhibit the masonry skills that the Inca developed. Large granite blocks polished and rounded to fit perfectly with the rocks around them. It truly is something to see up close, and when you consider that the Inca employed no cement or mortar to bind their structures, it's easy to imagine how painstaking the process must have been. Due to the fact that Machu Picchu was never found by the Spanish, it appears much today like it did when it was in use.

The exact purpose that ancient Machu Picchu served is an issue of debate, with a few main theories that seem to be among the most plausible. Some scholars believe that Machu Picchu was a center of administration and a sort of look out post along a major Inca road. Others think that perhaps Machu Picchu was a retreat of sorts for the Inca Pachacutec, who lived in the city with his family clan. When we examine the presence of the Temple of the Sun at Machu Picchu, it appears that Machu Picchu may have been first and foremost a sacred center, where the natural land was highly revered and worshiped. The sun was of prime importance to the Inca, especially when it comes to a myth as to the origin of the Inca themselves.

According to Inca mythology, Manco Capac was the first king of the original Kingdom of Cusco , and myth has it that he was born from the sun god Inti. Rising from Lake Titicaca , Manco Capac would establish the Inca civilization in Cusco. Inti was worshiped with fervor, as the Inca placed prime importance in the sun's life giving powers. As any great civilization has and does, the Inca depended highly on agriculture, and this was one reason for which to worship the sun. Given the sun's light and warmth, it figured prominently within the Inca religion, which found its basis in nature. The Temple of the Sun at Machu Picchu was dedicated to Inti, whom they wished to keep content.

Depending on whether you took the ascending path upon entry to Machu Picchu, or the descending path to the right, you will either have to climb or go down a series of stairs to get to the Temple of the Sun. Also known as the "Torreón", the Temple of the Sun at Machu Picchu is the site's finest example of Inca stonework. Try as you might, you couldn't fit a knife or even a piece of paper between the stones, as they are so seemlessly fitted. The Temple of the Sun served as a solar observatory, and its windows are placed at key points for observing the solstices. If you are standing on the ledge that sits above the temple, you can observe the aligned window that was meant to signal the June winter solstice. There is a stone at the center of the Temple of the Sun, which signaled the solstices according to how it caught the sun's rays. It is believed that the Inca also observed the constellation of Pleiades from this window. This constellation supposedly helped the Inca calculate when the rains would come, helping them pick the right time to plant their crops. Also in the center of the structure is an altar, which was carved from a large boulder. The reigning belief is that this altar was used for animal sacrifices. Priests would use the organs of the animals to aid in their religious predictions.

You can visit the Temple of the Sun by yourself or with a tour. Machu Picchu tours are plentiful, with the high season coming between the months of June and August. If you want the chance to get to the ruins early in the morning before other tourists arrive, you might consider shelling out the big money to stay at the Machu Picchu Sanctuary Lodge. Otherwise, you can catch a bus up to the ruins from the base town of Aguas Calientes, where you will find an ample selection of hotels and hostels. Hiking up to the ruins from Aguas Calientes is also a possible means of arrival, but you might save your energy for exploring the ruins and for the climb up Huayna Picchu. Guided tours of Machu Picchu are among the top Peru tours , and a guide can help you better understand the ruins as you wander around them. Unfortunately, the Temple of the Sun Peru is cordoned off, meaning you can not enter it. Of interest near the Temple of the Sun Peru are the Royal Tomb and the Royal Sector. The former sits just below the temple, and it is believed that perhaps elite citizens were mummified there. The latter is found by going down a few more steps. Here, you will see dwellings and a water canal that fed a network of fountains.

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