This Lost City of the Incas is a ruined ancient town high on a mountain ridge in Peru. Rising about 6,750 feet above the Urubamba Valley, Machu Picchu is the most familiar symbol of the Inca Empire.
This destination is not only the end point of the most popular hiking trail in South America, the Inca Trail, but was been designated a World Heritage Site.
To this day, the story of Machu Picchu remains a remarkable tale still filled with mystery and uncertainty. Located far up in the mountains, visitors would have had to travel through Incan check points and pass watch towers to reach the location. Still unknown exactly what the role and purpose of this spiritual site played in Incan life, it was created far hidden within the mountains and was well protected.
It wasn’t until 1911 that the ancient site was discovered by Hiram Bingham during an expedition and the lost Incan city, missed by the Spanish conquistadors, was found.
In 1913 Machu Picchu received massive amounts of publicity when National Geographic devoted an entire issue to the ancient site. With a large palace and temples, it’s estimated that only about 750 people resided in Machu Picchu at any one time.
In conjunction with being declared a World Heritage Site in 1983, Machu Picchu was also declared a Peruvian Historical Sanctuary in 1981. Since the site withstood the Spanish and was not plundered when they conquered the Incas, it is especially important as a cultural site and is considered a sacred place.
With the belief that the Earth as a solid rock should not be cut, the Inca built the city from rock quarried from loose boulder found around the area. They also constructed stone architecture from cracks between stones and relied on extremely defined cutting of blocks.
Machu Picchu was built in the classical Inca style, with polished dry-stone walls. Its primary buildings are the Intihuatana, the Temple of the Sun, and the Room of the Three Windows. These are located in what is known by archaeologists as the Sacred District of Machu Picchu. In September 2007, an agreement was reached regarding the return of artifacts which Hiram Bingham had removed from Machu Picchu in the early twentieth century.