Nestled high in the slopes of the Andes, the ruins of Machu Picchu continue to reveal the mysteries of the Inca Empire. Having never been discovered by Spanish conquerors, it was found relatively intact by US explorer Hiram Bingham on July 24th, 1911, making Machu Picchu a prime example of Inca architecture.
The name Machu Picchu is thought to mean Old or Ancient Mountain and most archaeologists agree that Emperor Pachacuti chose the site in the mid-fifteenth century due to its sacred geography and position for astronomy. Many archaeologists speculate that Machu Picchu’s fine stonework and temple precincts indicate its importance as an agricultural center and the layout and quantity of the temples indicate that it was a religious centre. It boggles the mind to think exactly how the Incas managed to transport the stones up Machu Picchu mountain, but it the site’s mysterious origins that are central to its enduring appeal.
It’s easy to spend a whole day wandering the citadel, with numerous flights of steep stone steps interconnecting its palaces, temples, storehouses and terraces. The mystical citadel is perched 2592 meters (8504 feet) high on Machu Picchu mountain, set against a vast backdrop of steep lush mountains that spike up from the deep valleys of the Urubamba and its tributaries below. The highlights are the elegant Sun Temple, the surreal Royal Mausoleum, the monolithic shrines of the Sacred Plaza and the mysteriously carved Intihuatana stone. More energetic guests should try to get their hands on one of the 400 daily tickets to climb to the summit of Huayna Picchu, the peak which sits 2720 metres above sea level. The steep, sometimes nearly vertical climb is not for the faint-hearted, but those who do make it may be rewarded with exclusive birds-eye views of the Machu Picchu citadel which make all the sweating and puffing worthwhile.
Machu Picchu is the bucket-list tourist attraction and often the highlight of many peoples’ trip to Peru; the vastness, location and detail of the ruins make it unmissable.