Read more about Machu Picchu – The Lost City of the Incas – located 50 miles northwest of Cusco (Cuzco) above the Urabamba Valley in Peru.
Nestled in the mountain ridge above the Urabamba Valley in Peru lies one of the Wonders of the World, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and a Peruvian Historical Sanctuary. The Lost City of the Incas, known as Machu Picchu in Quechua, is a historical jewel visited by hundreds of thousands of people each year.
Located only 50 mi (80 km) northwest of Cuzco and 7,970 ft (2,430 m) above sea level, Machu Picchu is one of the most important icons of the Inca world. The Incas built Machu Picchu around 1450 but abandoned it only a century later, in 1572, during the Spanish conquest. The site is particularly important because it one of the few Inca remnants that was not found and plundered by the Spanish. Machu Picchu is one of the most important archeological sites in South America and one of the most visited tourist sites in Latin America.
The Machu Picchu ruins feature 140 structures including temples, sanctuaries, parks and residences with thatched roofs. The unlevel land also required more than one hundred sets of stone steps that were often carved from a single block of granite rock. Water fountains and interconnected channels with water drains were used to irrigate and some evidence shows that holy water was carried via the irrigation system to the houses. The ruins of Machu Picchu are divided into to main sections: the city, or urban section, and the agricultural sector. The city is then subdivided into three districts: the Sacred District, the Popular District, and the Priests and Nobility District.
The Incas were master stone masons and implemented a technique, called ashlar, in which stones were perfectly cut to fit together so tightly that no mortar was needed. This classical Inca architectural style is present in the central buildings of Machu Picchu and also protected the buildings against damage from earthquakes.
It is commonly believed that Machu Picchu was the estate of Pachacuti, an Inca Emperor, and that the location was selected due to its position and alignment with important astronomical events. Other theories include that Machu Picchu was built to: control the economy of conquered regions, use as an Inca prison, test different agricultural techniques, for the Gods to live in, or for special events such as the crowning of kings.
Machu Picchu was brought to international attention in 1911 by Hiram Bingham, Yale lecturer and American historian, who was led to the site by a Quechua boy. He made several trips and conducted excavations which yielded various artifacts that he took back to Yale with him. He coined the name “The Lost City of the Incas” with his first book publication. In 1913, the popular National Geographic Society magazine devoted an entire issue to Machu Picchu and sealed the site's fame. In 2007, Peru and Yale University reached an agreement to share rights over the artifacts that were taken to Yale by Hiram Bingham.
The area around Machu Picchu is spectacular and rich with flora and fauna. In 1981 Peru declared an area of 125 mi2 (325 km2) surrounding the site as a Historical Sanctuary. Despite this, the impact of tourism and uncontrolled development in the region has landed Machu Picchu on World Monument Fund's list of Endangered Sites.
Machu Picchu, an amazing tribute to the Inca culture located in a breathtaking region, is not to be missed on your next visit to Cuzco, Peru.