The Temple of the Sun is one of the most enigmatic and important constructions of Machu Picchu. Its function, as its name says, was as a place of worship to the sun, the highest deity of the Incas. It is located in the religious sector of the citadel. Currently, to preserve this construction, the entry of tourists is not allowed. What is allowed is to observe it from a viewpoint.
The Temple of Sun Worship
In the religious sector there is a different construction from the rest of the buildings of Machu Picchu. It is a circular structure made of stone blocks carved and assembled to perfection on a mysterious cavern. It is the only construction of Machu Picchu with a circular shape. It also has windows and niches (spaces where the Incas placed offerings of gold and silver). For all these characteristics, the researchers named this site as the Temple of the Sun, the highest deity of the Incas.
The windows of the temple are positioned in such a way that it receives the rays of the sun during the summer solstices. In the center of the temple there is a kind of altar carved on the same rock where the shadow of the sun reaches at that time of year. In addition to being a religious temple, it is presumed that it also served as an astronomical observatory. The truth is that due to the quality of its walls, it must have been an important religious site. This hypothesis is more powerful if it is taken into account that the site was directly connected to the ‘Royal Tomb’.
The enigma of the Temple of the Sun
There are several enigmas related to the Temple of the Sun. In the first place, there is a debate about the type of religious ceremonies that were carried out there. It is presumed that animal sacrifices were carried out, such as llamas.
Likewise, the relationship it had with the royal tomb, located under the Temple of the Sun, is a mystery. Some research suggests that gold and silver objects that were offered during religious ceremonies in the temple were kept in this cavern.
Finally, it is still not entirely clear how the fire in the Temple of the Sun happened as there are traces of a strong fire in this place. Research in this regard suggests that it was caused by the Spanish arriving at Machu Picchu in the 16th century. Others that it was caused by the Incas themselves who left the citadel at the same time.
How to get there?
The Temple of the Sun is located in the religious sector of Machu Picchu. To get there you have to walk approximately 500 meters (you get there after 30 minutes of circuit on average). There there is a viewpoint from where you can see this construction from the top. It is the best view of the temple since it can be seen from a less panoramic angle from the bottom (the Royal Tomb sector).
The royal tomb under the Temple of the Sun
Beneath the Temple of the Sun there is a mysterious cavern carved inside it in such a way that it served as a mausoleum. Due to its proximity to the temple, it is believed that gold and silver offerings were kept there during religious ceremonies. Other investigations suggest that there was the mummified body of Emperor Pachacutec who ordered the construction of Machu Picchu in approximately 1450. The truth is that the place was looted at some point in history. Today access to the interior of this cave is prohibited to visitors.
More information about the Temple of the Sun
The Temple of the Sun can be visited by all tourists during the tour of the archaeological site of Machu Picchu at any time. To fully understand its importance, it is advisable to hire the services of a tour guide.
In addition to the Temple of the Sun, in the religious sector of Machu Picchu there are other temples of great importance and mystery such as the Main Temple, the Temple of the 3 Windows and the Intihuatana.