Standing above Machu Picchu is a lonely thatched hut with only three walls. It is often called Guardhouse, House of Guardians or Watchman’s Hut, though some also called it Caretaker’s Hut or Casa del Vigilante in Spanish. This structure will be the first highlight on your circular tour through the Inca ruins and its pristine architecture.
Strictly speaking, it stands OUTSIDE of Machu Picchu, inside the so-called agricultural sector (you will see sweeping terraces below). Nevertheless, the Guardhouse is probably the most famous spot inside Machu Picchu, simply because virtually every picture floating around the web of the ruins has been taken here. It is the single best spot to take pictures of the Inca ruins. Its the place THE classical panorama of Machu Picchu has been shot a million times before.
It is around the Guardhouse people trying to see the sunrise above Machu Picchu will flock in the morning. Know then, that its elevation, and not its historic or ritual significance, makes it such a popular spot. This might be the reason, why it has been restored. Obviously, the roof is not dating back to the 16th century.
The Guardhouse should really be your first stop on your circuit. There really is no way to miss it. Just follow the path from the main entrance. There will be a little sign pointing to the left after roughly a hundred meters. The path upwards is a bit steep (and you will feel the high altitude), but the view is more than worth it.
If you are coming in from the Inca trail / Intipunku, there is no way to miss the Guardhouse either. Just follow the way downwards and it will be the first thing you see. Be aware that Machu Picchu is often hidden behind heavy mists in the morning. So make sure to come back to this point, later on, to take your classic panorama picture of Machu Picchu, once the sun is up. Best time to shot your perfect Machu Picchu picture is around 4pm when the sun starts to set behind the mountains.
Analyzing the facts surrounding the Guardhouse
Nobody really knows what its original purpose has been (much like the rest of Machu Picchu). Watchman’s Hut was just the name Hiram Bingham gave the structure. It is somewhat doubtful that this little hut really served any defensive purpose, because while it offers a wonderful view of Machu Picchu, it doesn’t really cover the whole approach to the citadel.
The hut has been built in the traditional wayrona style of the Inca, meaning three walls, and one open wall facing a courtyard or square (like in this case). Its masonry is not particularly impressive, making it very unlikely that it has been a temple or a royal abode.
Nevertheless, it features three beautiful trapezoid windows, so favored by the Inca. It is also a fact that a couple of ritual stones can be found within walking distance of the Guardhouse. Most prominent among them is the so-called funeral rock. Sacrifices are thought to have been made on it. The area is often also called cemetery. Since Machu Picchu never got finished, its true purpose remains equally undecided.
Still, there is no way to escape the beautiful vista below the Guardhouse. Besides, sometimes a little mystery enhances the experience and doesn’t diminishes it at all.