Machu Picchu is an ancient Incan citadel in the Cusco region of Peru. It was built during the 15th century and is considered one of South America’s most important archaeological sites.
Machu Picchu is situated on a mountain ridge above the Sacred Valley, consisting of several hundred remarkably well-preserved stone structures. The site is divided into two main areas: the agricultural and urban sectors. The farm industry contains terraces and fields where crops are grown, while the urban sector includes temples, palaces, and other ceremonial buildings.
The most famous structure in Machu Picchu is the Intihuatana, a granite pillar that served as an astronomical clock and calendar. Other notable facilities include the Temple of the Sun, the Temple of the Three Windows, and the House of the Priest.
The Incas abandoned Machu Picchu during the Spanish conquest, and it remained hidden from the outside world until it was rediscovered in 1911 by the American historian Hiram Bingham. Since then, it has become a popular tourist destination and a symbol of Incan culture and history.
Machu Picchu was built during the 15th century, during the height of the Inca Empire. The exact year of its construction is unknown, but it is believed to have been built around 1450. The structure of Machu Picchu is thought to have taken place over several decades and involved a large workforce of skilled artisans and laborers. The Incas abandoned the site during the Spanish conquest in the 16th century. It remained hidden from the outside world for centuries until it was rediscovered in 1911 by the American historian Hiram Bingham.
Strategically located between the peaks of two mountains – Machu Picchu to the south and Huayna Picchu to the north – the city offers incomparable views of the valleys on both sides. It would have been challenging to attack due to its remote location and well-protected access points at Inti Punku (the Sun Gate) and the Inca Bridge.
The city was so well camouflaged that, fortunately, the Spanish conquistadors never found Machu Picchu.
However, the city was abandoned during the second half of the 16th century, most likely due to a smallpox outbreak. Not much is known about the city from this time until its rediscovery by Yale professor Hiram Bingham in 1911.
It is likely that the local population occasionally visited the site and inhabited the area. Colonial documents from the 19th century mention the city, and a map from 1874, created by a German engineer, uses the names “Machu Picchu” and “Huaina Picchu” to delineate the ruins.
After Bingham’s discovery, the site gained international fame as the “Lost City of the Incas,” a theory that Bingham incorrectly conjectured and popularized in his successful book.
Over 1.2 million people visit Machu Picchu each year, many opting to trek along the Inca Trail or one of the other trails leading to the ancient city.
Machu Picchu is the most famous and beloved Inca archaeological site worldwide.
Today, Machu Picchu is a testament to the Inca civilization’s architectural and engineering brilliance and remains a mysterious masterpiece.
What are the primary hiking trails to Machu Picchu? Trekking to Machu Picchu, whether via the Inca Trail or one of the other available trails, offers an unforgettable experience. The stunning mountain landscapes, diverse flora and fauna, and rich cultural and archaeological sites are breathtaking.
Below are the main routes to Machu Picchu and information on alternative Inca Trail treks.
The classic Inca Trail is the most popular trail to Machu Picchu. The route follows the original hiking trails that the Incas would have taken from the Sacred Valley to Machu Picchu and features an array of impressive Inca sites and stunning scenery.