The Inca Ruins of Wiñay Wayna
The Inca ruins of Wiñay Wayna lie about five-minute walk off the trail around the hillside to the right (south) from the visitor center. The site is named after an orchid genus (here, Epidendrum crassilabium and E. secundum) with red, violet or yellow flowers that was once abundant in this area, and is still to be seen. The plant blooms year- round, hence the Quechua name, which means “Forever Young.”
The ruins here were discovered in 1941 by Paul Fejos, during the last days of the Viking Fund expedition. He had time only for rudimentary survey and clearing work. The Peruvian archaeologist Julio C. Tello conducted further investigations in 1942. The ruins are built on the steepest of mountain slopes, flanked by ancient farming terraces. Due east from here, the land plunges into the Urubamba gorge and then soars upward to the shining glaciers of Wakay Willka (La Verónica 5,750masl); you pass from the ridiculous to the sublime, encountering one of those sudden, sensational first views that the Incas seemed to delight in creating. A magnificent sweep of curved terracing leads the eye down to a cluster of steep-roofed buildings perched at the end of a steep spur, while in the background a high waterfall sprays down the mountainside through dense cloud forest vegetation.
The trail leads into the complex along a broad terrace with a long, curved wall to one’s right, which ends at a huge doorway. This leads in to a large rounded structure that commands the site in much the same way as the similar structure at “Sayacmarca” does, and the unfinished enclosure at “Phuyupatamarca” would have. Below the building a straight flight of stairs takes you down past a unique set of ten ritual baths. Historical data confirm that ritual bathing or cleansing was an important feature of Inca religious observance. The element of water itself was also worshipped. Ritual baths are a feature of every major Inca site, but they are particularly numerous on the Inca Trail sites. This is another factor among many which support the view that the Machu Picchu/ Inca Trail network held a special spiritual significance for the Incas.
Another factor affecting the choice of location for this site, is that it looks directly across the Urubamba towards the glaciers of Wakay Willka (la Verónica), thus linking Wiñay Wayna to that mountain as a place of worship.
If you follow the steps downhill past these waterworks you reach the dwelling area. Here there is a small square overlooked by two open-fronted buildings, which might have been a communal area where the social and economic transactions of the community took place.
At the lower extreme of the dwelling area you emerge onto a tiny, startling platform (carefully) poised over two hundred meters of nothing – a vertical farewell to earth. To your right a small waterfall sprays down the cliff face.
The short Inca Trail from Chachabamba at Km. 104 crosses the opposite side of this ravine, passes the waterfall, then enters the terraces of Wiñay Wayna.
Location of Wiñay Wayna