Machu Picchu: the Cradle of Inca Civilization

Peru is a country located at the Western area on the continent of South America. It has a total land area of approximately 1,285,216 square kilometers. It is bounded to the north by Ecuador and Columbia, to its east is Brazil, to its southeast is Bolivia, to its south is Chile, and to its west is the Pacific Ocean. The country’s capital is located at Lima. It is divided into 25 different regions plus the province of Lima.

The country has different topographies and habitats. The west side are coastal regions and plains, on the east side is the high peaks of the Andes Mountains, on the southeast is the Amazon Basin tropical rainforest, and on the east is the Amazon River.

During the 16th century, Spanish conquistadors occupied the land. But because of this diverse topography there are certain areas they did not occupy. One particular area is Machu Picchu.

Machu Picchu

machu_picchu02 Machu Picchu or Machu Pikchu is an important historical site and the cradle of Inca Civilization.

During the 15th century, the Incas built the estate. Different theories exit on why the estate was built. Some historians believe that the estate is a sacred religious site. Others believed that it is the birthplace of the Incan or Virgins of the Suns, and the site was later converted to a temple. And some say it was a royal home to the Inca Emperor Pachicuti. The exact purpose of the estate still remains a mystery to historians. But nonetheless, tourists have continued to flock to the area.

Its unique beauty and importance had gained popularity, recognition and became worthy for preservation.

It was during 1911 when the world saw its unique beauty and grandeur. Since then buildings were reconstructed and preserved. Until present reconstruction and preservation of the site was done. In the year 1981, Machu Picchu was declared a Peruvian Historical Sanctuary. And in 1983, it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was described as “an absolute masterpiece of architecture and a unique testimony to the Inca civilization.” In 2007, it became part of the New Seven Wonders of the World.

At present Machu Picchu is one of the most visited tourist attractions in Latin America, and it is the most visited tourist attraction in Peru.

Machu Picchu covered with clouds



Machu Picchu could be found in Peru at approximately 80 kilometers northwest of Cusco Region. The Urumbamba River flows directly into Machu Picchu. It lies at the crest of the mountain ridge at about 2,430 meters above sea level. It lies in between two mountains: Machu Picchu and Huayna Picchu.

machu_picchu05Panoramic view of Machu Picchu looking towards Huayna Picchu

It is located on a high altitude providing a perfect view of the two valleys below. Situated behind it is a massive mountain that is nearly impassable. The river crossing Machu Picchu provides an excellent source of water. To further increase land for cultivation of crops, the hillsides have been terraced. The terraced hillside has helped steepen the slopes making the ascend harder.


To reach the historical Machu Picchu site, tourists gather in Cusco at Kilometer 82 or Kilometer 104 near the town of Ollantaytambo. The only mode of transportation is by foot. Tourist would have to walk through the magnificent Andes Mountains. The whole journey would last two to five days.

There are two bridges that serve as gateways to the estate. These two bridges were built by the Incas. One is the Inca Rope Bridge located at Pongo de Mainique that transverses the Urumbamba River. Another bridge is located to the west of Machu Picchu. This is a tree-trunk bridge measuring 6 meters long and it is approximately 570 meters high.

machu_picchu06Inca Rope Bridge

Inca trail

What to see at Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu is the perfect place to see Incan architecture.

Incans were famous for their technique called ashlar. Stones used for the construction of the buildings and houses were obtained from their natural quarry. These stones were polished dry and cut into regular shapes. These stones are then placed close to one another. This technique provided a sturdy material that could stand earthquakes. The chippings from cutting the stones were used in construction of the terraces. Each terrace is composed of top soil, followed by dirt, and the stone chips. This arrangement allowed water to be absorbed by the soil and into the mountain, thus, preventing floods, mud and landslides.

One should also take note of the walls which were designed to protect the people and architecture in case of an earthquake. The walls are tilted inwards. The doors and windows are trapezoidal and inclined inward. The corners are rounded.

machu_picchu08Trapezoidal doors and windows inclined inward

As mentioned, the slopes of the hillsides were converted into terraces. This provided additional agricultural land and irrigation. Furthermore, to maximize the land area, there are roughly 200 buildings that are built along the terraces. There are also long and narrow kanchas or compounds. To reach these different levels of terraces, stone stairways were built.


Terraces used for agriculture

The eastern section is also known as the Popular District or Residential District. Residential houses for the lower-class people were built here. Furthermore, storage buildings and warehouses are also constructed.

machu_picchu11Residential section

machu_picchu12Panoramic view of the residential section

There is also a section dedicated for nobility and royalty. Each house of royalty had a distinguishing feature. The amautas or wise persons had reddish walls. The ñustas or princesses had trapezoid-shaped rooms.
On the western section was an area devoted to religious and ceremonial activities.

As a sign of devotion to their sun god and greatest diety, Inti, three important structures were built: Inti Watana, the Temple of the Sun, and the Room of the Three Windows.

The name Inti Watana was derived from the Quechua language and literally means an instrument “to tie up the sun.” Tourists often call the place “The Hitching Post of the Sun.” It is a group of stones positioned to directly point to the sun during the winter solstice. The best time to visit the place is from November 11 to January 30 when the sun is located directly above the pillar. Some historians believed that this also served as a clock or calendar.



The Temple of the Sun or Torreon is one structure that could not be missed. This was an observational tower.

machu_picchu15Temple of the Sun or Torreon

machu_picchu16Sculptures seen at the bottom of the Temple of the Sun. It is interpreted as “Water mirrors for observing the Sky.”

machu_picchu17Room of the Three Windows

The Monumental Mausoleum is a place for religious rites and sacrifices. On the exterior, it is carved statue with a vaulted interior and carved drawings.

Another important artifact to visit is the Inti Mach’ay. It is located on the eastern side just north of the “Condor Stone.” It is surrounded by other caves that were used as tombs.

This place was the venue of the Royal Feast of the Sun during the Incan month of Qhapag Raymi. Only nobles and royalties could participate in this celebration. The celebration would begin during the start of the month and end on the solstice. One tradition observed was ear-piercing of male nobles to symbolize their manhood.

Aside from being a feast place, it is also a point of architectural interest and significance. It is built with the finest and best masonry of the Incan Empire. There is also a unique tunnel-like window that would only allow sunlight into the cave during a specific period, and that is during the feast.

Remnants of Inti Mach’ay

There is three-sided building called the Guardhouse. Inca architecture is very famous for its three-sided style. It is commonly called wayrona style. The longest side faces to the Terrace of the Ceremonial Rock.

machu_picchu20Terrace of the Ceremonial Rock

Kristine Capanzana

Backpacking at South Africa

For those seeking adventure and some adrenaline rush, then a backpack trip to South Africa is suited for you. It is would be a fantastic, exciting and thrilling escapade. So get your backpacks ready, and explore South Africa.

What You Need to Know About South Africa

The country on the southern tip of Africa is the Republic of South Africa also known as South Africa. Another name for this country is Mzansi which means “south.” There are three cities that hold power: Pretoria for the executive branch, Bloemfontein for the judicial, and Cape Town for the legislative. Johannesburg is the largest city.


South Africa is bounded on the north by the countries Namibia, Botswana, and Zimbabwe. To its east are the countries Mozambique and Swaziland. Located within South African territory is the nation Lesotho.  South Atlantic and Indian Oceans surround the west and southern borders. It ranks as the 25th largest country in the world.

It is also the 25th most populous country. 80 percent of the populations are descendants of black Africans which composes different ethnic communities. The remaining 20 percent is composed of Europeans and Asians. Because of the various ethnic communities living here, the country was dubbed as the “rainbow nation.”

The main mode of transportation to get to South Africa is by plane. There are international flights from the United Kingdom, Ireland, United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. The main airports are located at Johannesburg’s OR Tambo International or Cape Town.

Travelling within the country is easy because of the organized public transportation. Public transportation includes buses, minibus taxis, trains, and domestic flights. For those who could afford, there are also car and bike rentals.

What you need to know and bring in your travel

Make sure to have your return flight ticket, passport and temporary visitor’s permit ready when travelling to South Africa. The temporary visitor’s permit is valid for 90 days. If you wish to stay longer, you could apply a visa at the Department of Home Affairs.

Before travelling to South Africa, you should learn their language. There are a total of 11 official languages. English is the fourth most-spoken language and is used is public and commercial life. But if you want to converse with people in deeper parts of the country knowing another language would help.

The monetary unit is rand (R) which is also called “buck.” You can have your local currency changed at the airport upon arrival, banks, and hotels. Credit and debit cards are accepted at major cities and hotels. However, in remote areas, cash is needed.

You should also need to know that there are extreme weather conditions. The weather is mostly sunny. But during the months of June and July, temperature drops to zero. It is advised to do some research on the current weather conditions before travelling.

Electric supply here is 220/ 230V, 50Hz AC and the sockets are round-pinned plugs. Make sure to bring an adaptor to charge your gadgets.

Places of interest

There are a total of nine provinces in South Africa. Each of these provinces has its own uniqueness and beauty; something you must visit and see. It is a big country with a lot of fascinating places. The best way to explore everything is planning your visit. You could divide your itinerary between the different provinces.

Cape Town
Cape Town is the capital and largest city at Western Province. This town is a combination of stunning beaches and breathtaking views. Here are four attractions that you should not miss at Cape Town.

•    Robben Island

(Left) Aerial view of Robben Island. (Right) Prison cell at Robben Island

Robben Island is known to be a penal colony for 400 years. It is situated just off the coast of Cape Town and surrounded by sharks. It was also the prison cell of Nelson Mandela for 18 years. In 1997, it was declared as UNESCO World Heritage Site and museum. A tour to the island lasts 4 hours; this includes the ferry ride, a visit to the prison building, and a bus tour.

•    The Township


If you want to meet and share an experience with the community, then a trip to Township is recommended. It was built as settlement area for non-whites during the old political system. Currently it is home to majority of Cape Town’s citizen. When you visit this place do not miss the pub or shebeen, school, orphanage, community venter and the traditional healer. It would give you an insight to the life of a South African. Despite their status in life, the people perform the best music.

•    Cape Town’s beaches

The best time to see the beaches is during summer – that is from December to February. There are a lot of different beach to choose from. There are also different watersports like surfing, diving, sailing, kayaking, and kite-surfing. There are designated beaches for young people showing off their bodies, family beaches, and nude beach. There are also beaches wherein you could see penguins and whales.

•    Table Mountain

The famous table mountain a large slab of sandstone located at the heart of the town. It stands at 1086m and a length of 3km. It is covered with clouds that dubbed as the mountain’s “tablecloth.” It is admired not only because of its beauty but also because of its diversity. It is the habitat of at least 1400 different plants and animals. For those brave and adventurous enough to climb the mountain for 3 hours, a spectacular view awaits. Or you could try using the cable cars installed. From atop you could see the coastline, the beaches and Robben Island. One way to get down from the top is by paragliding.


Knysna was voted twice to be South Africa’s favorite town. There are a lot of reasons for this nomination. Because of its location, between Outeniqua Mountains and Indian Ocean, it has a spectacular view. There is also a lagoon which water sports are hosted. The luscious forest serves as a nice trail for walking. Here are a few things you could do here:

•    Have fun along the beach. Build sand castles, have a barbeque with family and friends, talk a walk, and go swimming in the beach.
•    Walk into the forest. There is a trail path for walking within the forest. If you are lucky, you could also see birds and some animals.
•    Do not forget the Township tours.
•    Take a dip into the lagoon.
•    Spare some time to enjoy the view from the Featherbed. This is a private nature reserve. The trip starts with a boat trip, followed by a drive up to the lookout point. There are two ways to get down, by driving down or hiking through the forest or alongside the lagoon.

Drakensburg Mountains

This mountain range is about 600 miles long forms the KwaZulu-Natal’s western border. There are a lot of different things you could do here: hiking, bird watching, guided tours, 4 x 4 trails, bikes, golfing, fishing, white water rafting, and a lot more. It is indeed a sight for those adventure lovers. If you plan to visit this area, make sure to do the following:

•    The Karkloof Canopy Tour

This tour is an eco-wilderness adventure. You would get to see the birds and plants from above. It is an exciting educational tour because there are professional tour guides to give fascinating facts. The whole tour would last around three hours.

•    Bushman Rock Art

The first settlers of the Drakensburg Mountains were San Bushmen. They narrated their day to day life through paintings found in caves. Those painting became popular because of its unique beauty. These works of art are showcased at Kamberg National Park.

•    Royal Natal National Park

Tugela Falls

Mont-aux-Sources is known to be one of the highest mountains; and it could be found within the park. This high mountain is the source of five rivers and the famous Tugela Falls. Tugela Falls is 3000ft tall and the water flows to five different tiers. This is also the perfect place to go rock climbing and horseback riding.

Kristine Capanzana