machu picchu facts

Machu Picchu is one of the wonders of the world and is one of the main attractions in Peru. Most of the people who visit the Andean country are here to tour the wonderful Inca complex. But what do you know about this place? There is much that is known and unknown about this enchanting place, but there are things that are quite interesting to know. That is why together with Machu Travel Peru we will begin to tell you about some impressive Machu Picchu facts. These facts can not only be seen on a guided tour of the complex but also in the wonderful site museum. Know everything about this wonderful and enchanting magical place!

25 of the most impressive Machu Picchu facts

1. The meaning of the word Machu Picchu

Although the Incas did not have a writing system, they did have a very widespread language in the Empire. The main language spoken was Quechua. The conquerors tried to introduce the Spanish language in the 16th century. But despite this, many peoples still speak the Andean language. But there are no written records about the people who lived inside the citadel. Most archaeologists believe that Emperor Pachacuti had it built as royal property. However, many believe it was a retreat for some of the high-ranking religious leaders and scholars of the Empire.

Quechua is the source and origin of many place names, sites, and ruins around the country. First of all, Machu Picchu is described as a fairly ancient Inca citadel. So what does Machu Picchu mean? Machu Picchu means “Old Peak” or “Old Mountain”. As Machu Picchu refers to a solid structure with a conical shape, and in this case, interpreted as “mountain”. One of the most popular Machu Picchu facts.

2. What is the ancient citadel of Machu Picchu?

Located in the middle of a tropical forest right at the top of a mountain, is the quintessential attraction of Peru. Machu Picchu is considered one of the best archaeological treasures in Peru. It is one of the wonders of the world and also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. And it is not surprising, since it is one of the last vestiges of the Inca Empire. Many of its constructions remain intact over time. Perhaps one of the best-known Machu Picchu facts to learn in the different guided tours.

It is a historic sanctuary that captivates both tourists and locals. Not only because of its unparalleled architectural beauty but also because of its important cultural and historical legacy. This has led him to be recognized and admired around the world. It was declared a Cultural and Natural Heritage of Humanity in 1983 by UNESCO. The citadel consists of temples, palaces, terraces, monuments, ensembles, and walls; In addition to water channels, built with large blocks of stone. Today this attraction receives more than 1.5 million visits per year.

3. It is one of the last vestiges of the ancient Inca Empire

It was part of the Inca Empire. One of the largest in ancient America, encompassing Argentina, Colombia, Bolivia, Chile, and Ecuador. The empire saw its end in the year 1533 with the continuous Spanish invasions. Scholars believe that the Incas began building the citadel quite late. Some scholars believe that the Incas began Machu Picchu construction around AD 1450. That is a millennium after the fall of the Roman Empire and less than a century before the Spanish conquerors arrived in Peru. Most of the information that is known about the Empire is thanks to the archaeological ruins that remain, such as the beautiful citadel. To learn more about the history of the complex, you better visit Machu Picchu.

4. There are different hiking trails inside the Inca Citadel

Within the complex, there is more than one hiking option available. The Machu Picchu mountain and the Huayna Picchu mountain are some of them. On these routes, you will have some of the best panoramic views of the citadel and its surroundings. And with so many hiking trails available, you have to try at least one of them.

Many of the travelers who plan their trip to Machu Picchu, do so in order to enjoy the different trekking routes available. And the hike to the top of Huayna Picchu is one of the most popular to undertake. This is the famous classic backdrop peak on all Machu Picchu postcards. This hike has a terrifying set of stone steps called the “stairs of death.” But there is also a second peak just on the opposite side of the ruins, this is Machu Picchu Mountain. This is usually a less popular hike, but it has great views of the ruins. When purchasing your Machu Picchu tickets, you will have the option to choose which of the routes you would like to travel.

5. The evidence suggests that the citadel was abandoned

machu picchu facts inca citadel

The reason for the abandonment remains a mystery to historians. Over time, this city was forgotten and only the locals knew of its location. It is believed that the Inca citadel was abandoned around the year 1535. It was even abandoned without finishing some of its constructions, during a time of great changes in the Empire.

Since there was a civil war between Atahualpa and Huascar. When the war was ending, it is believed that they left the citadel and returned to their homes of origin. In colonial times, Manco Inca was exiled in Vilcabamba and Machu Picchu was forgotten. Furthermore, the Inca people did not keep written records, making the purpose of Machu Picchu unclear.

Although the conquerors accelerated the end of the Inca Empire, the evidence suggests that the site was abandoned before their arrival. Some even come up with the idea of ​​an epidemic. Some people believe that the citadel had to be abandoned due to an outbreak of smallpox brought by the conquerors. But without any solid evidence, the real reason remains a total mystery.

6. It takes a bit of effort to get to the complex.

Machu Picchu is located in the small province of Urubamba, in Cusco. Note that the Inca citadel was built against a cliff with a drop of approximately 400 meters. So it takes a bit of effort to get there. Unless you take the train to Machu Picchu, reaching the citadel can be a challenge. There are different alternatives such as the Inca Trail or the Salkantay Trek.

Many people embark on their adventure to the citadel without knowing that at least one day of travel is necessary. The tour only lasts about three hours, but the real odyssey is getting there and back. Despite the time it takes, the reward is unique.

7. The function of Machu Picchu is the subject of debates

intihuatana machu picchu facts

One of the most unpolished Machu Picchu facts is the purpose of the citadel. As for the function of Machu Picchu, it continues to be the subject of many debates. Machu Picchu is believed to have been used as an ancient observatory. Evidence of this is that the sacred structure is known as Intihuatana. This indicated when the two equinoxes of the year occurred. It is believed that within the different functions of the archaeological complex, it functioned as an astronomical observatory. But other theories suggest that it functioned as a sacred place of worship. While others mention the possibility of being an agricultural sector, a fortress, and a place of pilgrimage, among other things.

Some theories suggest that the journey to Machu Picchu from Cusco may have had a ceremonial purpose. Since instead of following the most sensible path to the banks of the Urubamba River, the Incas built the Inca Trail. This one is impractical but visually unparalleled. It is believed that this was a way to prepare the pilgrims for the magical entrance of Machu Picchu.

8. The Spanish conquerors never discovered the wonderful citadel

One of the most surprising Machu Picchu facts is that the conquerors never reached Machu Picchu. During their invasions, the conquerors never found the beautiful Inca citadel. Even Machu Picchu is known as the “Lost City of the Incas”, due to the belief that the Spanish never found the city. In addition, after the different invasions, the Incas fled to other regions. One of these places is believed to have been Vilcabamba. The city that the explorer Hiram Bingham was truly looking for when he came across the citadel of Machu Picchu.

Although the Spanish never found it, you can discover it and visit it. For this, you can take our many Machu Picchu tours. Thanks to its strategic location, the Inca complex was never discovered by the Spanish. But this does not mean that the ruins were hidden. Many locals knew of its existence. In fact, several Quechua farmers were cultivating the different terraces when Bingham appeared in 1911.

9. It is not only a Wonder of the World but also one of engineering

machu picchu facts wonder of the world

Among all the Machu Picchu facts, one of the most important is the engineering that took place. The construction of the complex has impressed many scholars. And it cannot be denied that the Inca citadel is an engineering marvel. The Incas were expert engineers, even more so if we take into account that they did not use wheels or pack animals. A technique called sillar was used. This consists of cutting stones with such precision that they are placed one on top of the other without any space between them. In addition, Machu Picchu was built on a terrain full of geological faults and fractures. Something to keep in mind when walking on its level squares. The citadel was built during the 15th century.

10. It is believed that it was thought of as a natural clock, as well as an observatory.

Much of the structure may have functioned as a clock. It was not only used as an observatory but it was also used as a natural clock. The structures that demonstrate this are known as the Temple of the Sun, the Intihuatana, and the Temple of the Three Windows. These are 3 of the main and most significant structures within the Inca citadel. This is one of the best Machu Picchu facts available. The Intihuatana is a rock whose various planes are polished with great precision. It is not only known as the rock that radiates energy, but also as the clock of the citadel. Many have understood that the natural environment of the complex is as important as the buildings themselves. The location and orientation of its most important structures are believed to be influenced by the location of the sacred mountains. Also known as Apus.

11. You can get your passport stamped in the Inca citadel

One of the things to remember is that you can stamp your passport at the entrance. You can enjoy various stamps on your passport within Peru. Lima airport will be the starting point of your adventure! The Lima to Machu Picchu distance is around 5 to 6 hours, considering a local flight from Lima to Cusco, then a mix of trains and road transport. You can get your passport stamped whether you are coming from the Inca Trail or from the same train to Machu Picchu. It is one of the best ways to remember your magical trip to the citadel.

12. You will be able to appreciate wonderful and unparalleled stone works

Their masonry skills were considered very advanced for the time. The way the stones were laid and cut is so perfect that it doesn’t even look like it was made by humans. Still, they were made by the Incas, and it is precisely because of these constructions that they are considered a great Empire. All Inca architecture is characterized by its wonderful stonework. Despite this recurring fame in Inca constructions, many buildings were also built with adobe and fieldstone.

But the granite rocks used to build the complex were extremely heavy. Some of them weighing more than 55 tons. Furthermore, the stones were pushed up the mountain by the bare hands of hundreds of men. Although there is also evidence that they were chiseled from the side of the mountain itself.

13. The complex was discovered relatively recently

machu picchu facts sacred stone

One of the most overlooked Machu Picchu facts is that it was discovered relatively recently. It was the explorer Hiram Bingham who rediscovered these wonderful ruins. Previously, Machu Picchu was only known to the locals, many of them even continued to farm on the surrounding terraces. It was Hiram Bingham who re-discovered the site in 1911, guided by the locals. Although it is worth mentioning that Hiram Bingham’s real goal was to find the lost city of Vilcabamba. But his discovery was much greater than expected. Many locals knew that the complex existed. It was even the locals themselves who guided the American explorer to the archaeological site.

14. There are many stone stairs to enjoy on the tour

The complex has more than 100 independent sets of stairs. Most of the individual stairs were carved from the same stone slab. If there is something that cannot be denied, it is that the Incas were fascinated by stairs. That is something that you will notice once you start touring the different archaeological sites. A good romantic idea is to enjoy a honeymoon in Machu Picchu. Climb the endless stairs and fall in love with the landscapes. A popular hike is the mountain of Huayna Picchu. It has a series of popular stairs that can be quite adrenaline-pumping for those with a fear of heights. So if you are looking to overcome your fears, this hike can be a great one.

15. The real constructions of the complex are not in sight.

The archaeological complex of Machu Picchu is made up of more than 150 buildings ranging from houses, baths, and even sanctuary houses. Inside the Inca citadel, you can find different buildings and constructions. Many of these were for ceremonial and religious purposes, but there are many for storage purposes as well. If you are planning a trip to Machu Picchu, then you should start booking your tickets.

Although it is true that the Incas are remembered for their incredible walls and constructions, their civil engineering projects were quite advanced for the time. When it is taken into account that the citadel was built on a fault between two peaks, that is when the amazement takes place. The site had to be sculpted by moving stone and earth to create the flat space that is seen. Most of the construction done is believed to be underground. Due to the different foundations and the drainage channels that work.

16. The construction of the Inca citadel was complete without wheels

machu picchu facts stones

One of the most surprising Machu Picchu facts is that no wheels were used for the construction. This is one of the most impressive facts of the complex. Although many of the stones were heavy, hundreds of men are believed to have pushed them across the steep slope. Let us bear in mind that the Inca culture was against pack animals and iron tools. Making this construction even more fantastic if we take into account its difficulty. Many of the stones even exceeded 50 tons. When these facts are taken into account, the construction looks more surprising.

17. One of the last surviving citadels to the passage of the conquerors

Unfortunately, most of the cities or complexes built by the Inca civilization were destroyed by the Spanish conquest. So Machu Picchu could be considered one of the last surviving cities of the invasions of the Spanish. Many of the Machu Picchu vacation deals will explain this as you tour the complex. Unfortunately, numerous Inca cities were destroyed by the conquest. But thanks to the hidden and strategic location of Machu Picchu, the site was never discovered by the conquerors. The Inca citadel was in a hidden place, totally invisible from below. Making it one of the last treasures of the Inca cities. An archaeological gem without parallel.

18. The main sectors of the archaeological complex

The archaeological complex of Machu Picchu is divided into two main areas. The urban area and the agricultural area. While the urban area is further subdivided into two parts. Hanan (the top side) and Hurin (the bottom side). Hanan was what was above, while Húrin was what was within or the bottom of the empire. The architectural principles by which the Machu Picchu map was divided coincide with the cultural principles of the Inca duality that governed their lives. The Inca worldview generally divided everything that existed into two different and opposite, but complementary sides. This same duality was integrated into numerous constructions of the Inca Empire, and Machu Picchu was no exception.

19. The different terraces built prevented the collapse of the structure

Being a construction on the heights, the Incas had to have measures to prevent the structure from sliding. To do this, they built more than 600 terraces to prevent the structure from slipping. To prevent the entire structure of the complex from collapsing, these terraces were built. And that had never been heard or seen at that time, which is why the feats of the Incas are considered quite impressive. The terraces were made up of different layers that allow water to drain and prevent landslides. This is one of the most wonderful Machu Picchu facts.

20. The routes of the Incas rivaled the routes of Rome

The roads and trails built by the Incas rivaled those of Rome. They built more than 40,000 kilometers of paved roads, bridges, and other types of trails. The road system built by the Incas linked the important cities of the coast and the mountains. All the roads of the road network also lead to the capital, Cusco. These routes are part of the popular Inca Trail, one of the different ways in how to get to Machu Picchu. This road network was the most extensive and advanced transportation system in South America during pre-Columbian times. Many of these cobbled routes are still intact to this day.

21. Machu Picchu was earthquake-proof

machu picchu facts stones

Another of the most surprising Machu Picchu facts is about its anti-seismic structure. To combat the fact that the area of Peru is quite susceptible to earthquakes, every building in Machu Picchu was built to be earthquake-proof. When earthquakes occur, the stones of Machu Picchu are said to “dance.” Furthermore, the Inca citadel was built near two faults. And knowing this, the Incas built with different techniques to make their buildings much better. These included the aforementioned ashlar technique, as well as trapezoidal-shaped doors and windows.

22. Machu Picchu was built with colossal stones

Most of the stones that were used to build the complex weighed more than 50 tons. This is one of the Machu Picchu facts that surprise most scholars. Many of the stone blocks were carved without iron tools. But the most surprising fact is that many of these stones are so tight that it is impossible to fit anything between them. And considering that some of these weighed heavily, it’s quite an architectural achievement.

The stones are believed to have been pushed up the mountain by hundreds of men. Although they were also chiseled from the mountainside. Note that the complex was built with a technique called sillar. Without this method of construction, many of the buildings might have already collapsed long ago. To know these facts and more, we recommend that you make your Machu Picchu reservations from now on.

23. It was not the true “Lost City of the Incas.”

machu picchu facts llama

When the American explorer came across Machu Picchu in 1911, he was looking for a different city. Originally, the explorer Hiram Bingham thought that he had found the lost city of Vilcabamba. Vilcabamba was a hidden capital to which the Incas had escaped after the arrival of the conquerors. It is now believed that the real Vilcabamba was built in the jungle a few miles away. Upon encountering Machu Picchu, Hiram Bingham thought he was in the last refuge of the Incas. But in reality, he had come across one of the most amazing Inca architectural gems. Thanks to its discovery, today we can enjoy this unique attraction.

24. The complex was dedicated to the nobility of the Empire

According to scholars, Machu Picchu was royal property. Despite the many doubts and debates surrounding the Inca complex, many believe that it was a real estate property created by Pachacutec. It is believed that this site was intended to be a resting place for the nobles. Although this position marks a contrast with those theories that maintain that it was a place of worship.

Other theories speculate that the Inca city was a sacred center where great political, economic and religious minds of the Inca Empire met. The population of Machu Picchu ranged from 300 to 1000 inhabitants. And it is believed that it consisted mainly of members of the Pachacutec lineage, and the religious elite. In addition, highly specialized artisans recruited throughout the Empire, called Yanaconas, lived there.

25. The main ways to get to the lost city of the Incas

There are two possible ways to go to the archaeological complex. Via train or through the incredible Inca Trail. If you choose the Inca Trail, you will end your adventure at the Sun Gate in Machu Picchu. On the other hand, if you opt for the train, you will arrive at the small town of Aguas Calientes. For this reason, it is recommended that you make your Machu Picchu reservations since the tickets usually are sold out very quickly. Whichever way you decide to get to the citadel, you will have a unique experience ahead of you.


We believe that the different Machu Picchu facts are best appreciated with a guided tour inside the wonderful complex. You will be delighted with everything that you will have at your disposal. We hope together with Machu Travel Peru to have quenched your curiosity regarding the archaeological complex. Still, there is much that is unknown about the Inca citadel. We hope this has encouraged your future travel plans. If you have any questions or queries, you can contact our team of qualified advisors.

Peru has so much to offer, it can be hard to know where to start. With many years of experience in the tourism sector, Machu Travel Peru is happy to help with anything regarding your trip to Machu Picchu and any tours around it. Make your Machu Picchu experience an unforgettable one!