Machu Picchu, also known as Machupijchu, is located in the Cordillera de Vilcabamba of the Andes Mountains, 80 kilometres (50 miles) northwest of Cuzco, Peru. It is located above the Urubamba River valley at a height of 7,710 feet in a little saddle between the two peaks known as Huayna Picchu and Machu Picchu, or “Old Peak” and “New Peak,” respectively (2,350 metres). Machu Picchu was one of the few outstanding pre-Columbian ruins discovered virtually intact and was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983.
Despite the fact that the place eluded the Spaniards, Augusto Berns, a German adventurer, may have visited it in 1867. However, Hiram Bingham of Yale University was the first person to make the site of Machu Picchu well known in the West after being directed there by a local Quechua-speaking native named Melchor Arteaga in 1911. Bingham’s search had been for the “lost metropolis of the Incas,” Vilcabamba (Vilcapampa), from whence the final Inca emperors mounted a fight against Spanish domination until 1572.
Based on evidence from his 1912 excavations at Machu Picchu, which were supported by Yale University and the National Geographic Society, he dubbed the place Vilcabamba; nevertheless, his interpretation is no longer widely accepted. (However, many sites continue to accept Bingham’s methods and refer to Machu Picchu inaccurately as the “lost metropolis of the Incas.”) Later, evidence linked Vilcabamba to another ruin discovered by Bingham, Espritu Pampa. In 1964, the American explorer Gene Savoy directed the large dig at Espiritu Pampa.
The site was in disrepair and overgrown, but Savoy uncovered the ruins of 300 Inca homes, 50 or more additional buildings, massive terraces, and other structures, indicating that Espritu Pampa was a much larger settlement. Bingham excavated at Machu Picchu again in 1915, 1934 by Peruvian archaeologist Luis E. Valcarcel, and 1940-1941 by Paul Fejos. According to other discoveries revealed around the Cordillera de Vilcabamba, Machu Picchu was one of many pucaras (fortified fortresses), tambos (travellers’ quarters or inns), and signal towers along the vast Inca foot route.
Machu Picchu’s dwellings were most likely built and lived between the mid-15th and early or mid-16th centuries. According to the manner Machu Picchu was built and other sources, it was a royal complex of Pachacuti Inca Yupanqui (reigned c. 1438–71). When a handful of skeletons were discovered there in 1912, Bingham believed that Machu Picchu was a sanctuary for the Virgins of the Sun (the Chosen Women), an elite Inca order.
However, in the advent of the twenty-first century, technology showed a substantial number of guys and a diverse spectrum of physical types. Because of the skeleton and material relics, scholars now assume Machu Picchu was a royal retreat. Although the reason for the site’s abandonment is unknown, a lack of water may have played a factor.
The overall design and level of preservation of the ruin are amazing. Numerous terraced agricultural terraces encircle the region’s southern, eastern, and western portions, which were previously watered by an aqueduct system. Some of those terraces were still in use by native Indians when Bingham arrived in 1911.
The plazas, residential quarters, terraces, cemetery, and main structures are linked by walkways and thousands of stone blocks and footholds carved into the underlying rock. The Main Plaza, which is partially divided by large terraces, is located in the north-central region of the property. The only official entrance, which leads to the Inca Trail, is located at the southeasterly end.
Few of Machu Picchu’s white granite buildings have stonework as magnificent as that of Cuzco, although all are outstanding. The Sacred Rock, also known as the Temple of the Sun, is found in the ruin’s southern part (it was called the Mausoleum by Bingham). Its main point is a small grotto and an inclined rock pile, with cut stone walls filling in some of the imperfections. A horseshoe-shaped enclosure, the Military Tower, rises above the rock. The temple district, also known as the Acropolis, is located in the western region of Machu Picchu.
The Temple of the Three Windows is a polygonal stone hall 35 feet (10.6 metres) long and 14 feet (4.2 metres) wide. It includes three trapezoidal windows on one wall, the largest known in Inca masonry. It is located in the southwest corner of the Main Plaza. The Intihuatana (Sun-Hitching Post), a well-preserved ceremonial sundial consisting of a huge pillar and pedestal carved as a single piece and standing 6 feet (1.8 metres) tall, is located near to the Main Plaza. This feature was damaged in 2000 while filming a beer commercial. The Princess’s Palace is a two-story, expertly constructed stone structure that formerly housed an Inca nobility.
The Palace of the Inca is a collection of apartments with a courtyard and niched walls. Another path leads to the famous Inca Bridge, a rope bridge that spans the Urubamba River opposite Machu Picchu. Other abandoned civilizations were created in the vicinity; Machu Picchu is simply the most fully excavated of these. One such settlement is located atop the gloomy mountain of Huayna Picchu, which can only be reached via a long, perilous climb and trek.
Machu Picchu is Peru’s most important economic tourism attraction, attracting visitors from all over the world. For this reason, the Peruvian government wishes to restore the objects Bingham took to Yale. The ruins are regularly visited as a day trip from Cuzco by first using a narrow-gauge railway and then ascending nearly 1,640 feet (500 metres) from the Urubamba River valley on a serpentine route.
The Inca Trail is a less-traveled route. For the stretch of the walk from the “km 88” railway stop to Machu Picchu, normal trekking periods range from three to six days. The road spans a wide range of elevations between 8,530 and 13,780 feet (2,600 and 4,200 metres), and it is bordered with diverse types and sizes of Inca ruins.
It is made up of thousands of stone-cut steps, multiple towering retaining walls, tunnels, and other ancient engineering wonders. Machu Picchu has a hotel and restaurant, and thermal spas may be found in the nearby village of Aguas Calientes. A forest fire in August 1997 damaged the Inca Bridge and other aspects of Machu Picchu, although repairs began almost immediately. The construction of a cable-car link to the site has sparked concerns about the impact of tourism.