Machu Picchu rests High in the rocky countryside of the Andes Mountains, above the Urubamba River Valley, and was abandoned in the 16th century and not rediscovered until the early part of the 20th century by the American archaeologist Hiram Bingham. It is invisible from below and completely self-contained, surrounded by agricultural terraces sufficient to feed the population, and watered by natural springs, Machu Picchu seems to have been used by the Inca as a secret ceremonial city or royal estate for Inca leaders. The Inca civilization was virtually wiped out by Spanish invaders in the 16th century. For hundreds of years, the existence of this mysterious city remained a secret known only to indigenous inhabitants living in the region. The site stretches over an impressive 5-mile distance, featuring more than 3,000 stone steps that link its many different levels. Today, over a million people visit Machu Picchu every year.
Machu Picchu was built during the reign of Inca Pachacutec between 1438 – 1471, and took approximately 30 years to construct. The true origin or purpose for this hidden city is still unknown due to limited historical information, therefore historians and archaeologisits can only speculate as to its true purpose. Machu Picchu means “Old Mountain” in the Quechua Language and was actually named by Hiram Bingham after its discovery in 1911. The name derives from the mountain that lies to the south-west of the city.
Machu Picchu Today
Machu Picchu Bacame a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983 and was chosen to be one of the New Seven Wonders of the World in 2007, Machu Picchu is by far Peru’s most visited attraction and South America’s most famous ruins, welcoming millions of visitors each year. Increased tourism, the development of nearby towns, and environmental degradation continue to take their toll on the site, which is also home to several endangered species. As a result, the Peruvian government has taken steps to protect the ruins and prevent erosion of the mountainside in recent years as well as implement regulations on the tourism and number of travelers on the Inca Trail each day.