The Temple of the Moon is one of the most mysterious constructions in Machu Picchu. It is located in a hidden corner of the Huayna Picchu mountain. You get there after about 3 hours of walking. As few tourists arrive, one will be almost alone with this mysterious temple with thin walls and windows inside a cavern. It should be noted that the Incas worshiped caves because they thought they communicated them with the world of the dead.
The Great Cave
The Temple of the Moon is also called The Great Cavern as it was built inside a cave. It is on the opposite side of the Huayna Picchu mountain, the famous summit that stands out in the classic photo of Machu Picchu. To get there you must take a walk of approximately 3 hours.
The Great Cavern is made up of thin walls with trapezoidal niches where gold and silver objects were placed in religious ceremonies. The stone used is granite from the same place. The rock formation on the roof comes from the cavern itself.
In the center of the building is a ceremonial table where animal sacrifices were probably performed. In the place there are other caves where the Incas built similar temples. However, these were left unfinished, probably because the people of Machu Picchu abandoned the place.
Today the Great Cavern is one of the most famous constructions of the Huayna Picchu mountain. To get there you must do an intense hiking route. For this reason, not many visitors get to know this construction. Tourists who manage to get there will be almost alone with the Temple of the Moon.
The cult of caves
The Incas believed that caves were sacred places that communicated the earthly world (Kay pacha) with the world of the dead (Uku pacha). That is why in the caves they used to perform religious rituals. This is demonstrated by the finely carved constructions with niches and ceremonial tables.
The Great Cavern is not the only cave where the Incas built buildings dedicated to religious worship. Just 3 kilometers from the center of Cusco there is a building inside a cavern called ‘Temple of Fertility’.
The route through Huayna Picchu
To visit the Temple of the Moon, tourists must take a walk of almost 3 hours along ascending and descending paths of great intensity. The walk begins at the ‘Huayna Picchu’ control booth, located within the archaeological site of Machu Picchu.
In the first kilometers you ascend a set of stone stairs until you reach the top of Huayna Picchu after approximately 2 kilometers. This route is the one followed by all tourists who enter the mountain. It takes almost 2 hours and offers incredible landscapes and a lot of adventure.
From the top of Huayna Picchu, the vast majority of tourists decide to return to Machu Picchu by the same way up. Before descending there is a detour that leads to the ‘Temple of the Moon’. This path is downhill sections, sometimes difficult, other times easy. After almost 1 hour of driving, you will arrive at the Great Cavern. Not many tourists get there because of the physical effort involved.
In the Temple of the Moon there is a park ranger who watches over the site. Many tourists like to perform religious ceremonies there. After the visit, you must return by a different path that takes 1 hour and leads to the final part of the section back to Machu Picchu. In total, the route to the Great Cavern can take between 3 to 4 hours.
More information about the Temple of the Moon
During the walk to the Temple of the Moon it is possible to appreciate different species of birds and wild animals such as: the orchid (Machu Picchu flower with more than 400 registered species), the hummingbird, the vizcacha and even the spectacled bear.
To visit the Temple of the Moon it is necessary to acquire the ticket ‘Machu Picchu + Huayna Picchu’. This ticket allows you to visit both the Inca archaeological site and the famous mountain. The purchase must be made through the internet 3 or 4 months in advance. Otherwise you will not find availability.