Machu Picchu Facts
Many people ask: why is Machu Picchu so important?
The Citadel of Machu Picchu is considered the main tourist attraction in Peru and one of the most visited worldwide.
Explore Inca ingenuity at Machu Picchu, here are some facts about it:
- The exact age of Machu Picchu, the most representative and ancient city of Peru, has been clarified by scientific studies on the geology and archaeology of the site. Learn more about the origins of Machu PicchuMachu Picchu is also known as the Lost City of the Incas. It is a mysterious wonder. A city of stone built without the aid of wheels or iron tools. This is the best example of Inca engineering. More than 600 terraces prevent the city from sliding down the mountain. A water supply system extends over a length of about 1 km.
- Since its rediscovery over 30% of Machu Picchu has been reconstructed to give a better idea of how it originally looked and restoration continues today. It was named a Peruvian Historical Sanctuary in 1981 and UNESCO classified it as a World Heritage Site in 1983.Thanks to an internet poll in 2007, it was voted as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World.It is one of the most important historical Latin American sites and covers an area of 32,500 hectares.
- It is located on the mountain slopes of the eastern Andes in a tropical mountain forest at 7,970 feet above sea level.
- No wheels were used to transport heavy rocks for the construction of the city.Can you imagine the size and scale of Machu Picchu? The sanctuary is located in the district of Machu Picchu, in the province of Urubamba in the department of Cusco. The site is South America’s most impressive archaeological ruin. See how Machu Picchu was constructed.The Incas were superb craftsmen and experts at using a building technique called ashlar in which blocks of quarried granite stone – some weighing as much as 50 tons – were so precisely cut as to fit together tightly without mortar. These incredible civil engineering techniques reduced the effects of frequent earthquakes. Machu Picchu’s construction is especially amazing considering the Incas did not use draft animals, iron tools, or the wheel. It is a mystery how the massive blocks of stone were moved up steep terrain and through dense bush, but it is generally believed that hundreds of men were used to haul the stones up.
- Structures were built with a technique called “ashlar.” Stones are cut to fit together without mortar. Remarkably, not even a needle can fit in between two stones.Many of the stones that were used to build the city weighed more than 50 tons. How did these stones get up the mountain? Some were chiseled from the granite bedrock of the mountain ridge. For others, hundreds of men pushed the heavy rocks up the steep mountain side.
- The citadel is divided in two parts: Hanan and Urin, in accordance with the Inca tradition.The site covers 80,000 acres (32,500 hectares) and is divided into an urban area and an agricultural area. It is estimated that 60% of the construction was underground, including deep building foundations and crushed rock for drainage. The urban area comprised an upper part where the royalty lived and temples were built, and a lower part for workers quarters and warehouses.There are three main structures located in the Sacred District of Machu Picchu. One is the Temple of the Three Windows which, along with the main temple, are said to have the most impressive architecture in Machu Picchu. The second is the Temple of the Sun, a semi-circular temple that at one time was thought to have gold and precious jewels inlaid in the door. The third, the Intiwatana, is a stone located on the top of a hill. Access is via 78 steps which lead to a platform. It’s believed that this stone was used as calendar or an astronomic clock.Machu Picchu was an astronomical observatory, and its sacred Intiwatana stone (meaning ‘Hitching Post of the Sun’) accurately indicates the two equinoxes. Twice a year, the sun sits directly over the stone creating no shadow. The stone was also used to determine the precise periods for different festivals and celebrations of importance in the Inca religion.
- Machu Picchu means “Old Peak” or “Old Mountain” in the indigenous Quechua language. Most experts believe that Machu Picchu was constructed around 1400 AD as a royal estate for the Inca ruler Pachacútec Inca Yupanqui, the ninth ruler of the Incas. An empire builder, Pachacuti initiated a series of conquests that would eventually see the Inca grow into a South American realm that stretched from Ecuador to Chile. Machu Picchu was later abandoned during the Spanish conquest of the Inca Empire in 1532. Over time it became famous as the legendary Lost City of the Inca.
- The most popular way to approach the site is by trekking the Inca Trail. This three-day trek reaches a lung-squeezing height of 4,214 meters at its highest and there are several sections of original Inca stone paths along the way. Due to fears of erosion the government limits the number of people embarking on the trek to 500, which includes the compulsory, locally-hired porters.On the Inca Trail, many porters sleep with a shiny metal object or mirror beneath them. They believe it sends away spirits coming up through the earth and whisks them away. Ask any guide or porter, and most will tell you that sometimes they have experienced the feeling of being pulled out of their tents by spirits of the past.A popular ambition on the trek is to arrive at the fabled Sun Gate in time for sunrise; however this is more of a sun-ruse as high mountains block most the view at sunrise – you’re better off having an extra lie in.
- Unfortunately, most cities built by the Inca civilization were destroyed by the Spanish conquest. Machu Picchu was in a hidden location—invisible from below—and not found, making it one of the most well-preserved Inca cities and an archeological gem.
- Each year there is a race along the Inca Trail, which at 26 miles is pretty much a marathon. The current record is three hours and 26 minutes
- Rising 1180 feet over the ruins of Machu Picchu is the peak of Huayna Picchu with temples and terraces on its summit. According to local legends, the top of the mountain was the residence of the high priest who every morning before sunrise would walk to Machu Picchu to signal the coming of the new day. From the summit, a second trail leads down to the Great Cavern and the Temple of the Moon, both with fine masonry. The number of daily visitors allowed to enter Huayna Picchu is restricted to 400. Advance purchase of tickets will guarantee admission.
- Thirty minutes’ walk from the town of Aguas Calientes, the excellent site museum Manuel Chávez Ballón has information in Spanish and English on the archaeological excavations of Machu Picchu.