Machu Picchu (also sometimes “Machu Pikchu”) is a stunningly beautiful Inca site in the Machupicchu District in Peru. In the native language, Machu Picchu means “Old Peak.” This historic sanctuary is home to a set of mysterious ruins which have laid in place for thousands of years. The Lost City of the Incas is one of the most tangible remaining relics of the Inca Empire. Machu Picchu has been a tourist destination since its discovery, as people from all around the world yearn to explore the ruins of a long-gone civilization. The experience of wandering through these impressive ruins is simultaneously mystifying and magical.
Machu Picchu is in the Cusco Region of the Urubamba Province. The ruins sit roughly 7,000 ft above sea level, gently nestled against the side of a hill next to the towering Andean Mountain Range (a.k.a. The Andes).
The ruins themselves are one of the world’s best archaeological sites. The three primary structures are the “Inti Wantana”, the “Temple of the Sun”, and the “Room of the Three Windows.”
The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) designated it as a World Heritage Site in 1983.
There are a few historical facts that are unanimous, even as archeologists continue to put together the history of the great Inca city. Machu Picchu was built around 1450, nearly 600 years ago. It was one of the few Inca sites that weren’t ravaged by the Spanish during the Spanish Conquest.
Hiram Bingham was the first verified Westerner ever to witness Machu Picchu led by a local guide. The locals had kept the site to themselves, allowing for its continued preservation (even during wartime). Hiram didn’t fully announce the existence of the place until 1911, making Machu Picchu a relatively recent discovery.
Thanks to modernization, you no longer need a designated tour guide to lead you out to this fantastic site – train trips from nearby Cusco take only a few hours. If you’d like a unique experience, however, you can hike the Inca Trail – a trail blazed by Hiram Bingham that took him roughly six days to travel. This trail can take you anywhere from 2-4 days to complete, depending on the speed at which you journey. It is one of the top five best hikes in the entire world.
It is no longer possible to obtain the permission to trek the Inca Trail solo – you must go with a group or guide. It is so due to regulations attempting to preserve the natural beauty of the area, and to keep this historical site intact for many years to come.
The restoration process continues to this day so that the visitors have an idea of what the city would have looked like in its heyday.
The site had currently suffered from the influx of tourists visiting the area. Because of that, many tourists and visitors are urged not to try to touch or affect the area in any way, or resist taking the trip at all.
Many theories examine the purpose of Machu Picchu. Some say it was the very last Incan city, some say it was a temple of the Sun God, other say it was a royal estate or retreat. Archeologists have yet to discover the true identity of Machu Picchu.