Speak to anybody about traveling or traveling to Peru in particular and everybody will have heard of Machu Picchu. The Inca site has been voted one of the Seven Wonders of the World and is one of the most visited places in South America. Therefore, what is Machu Picchu you may ask and that is a great question.
Most agree that Machu Picchu was built by Inca Pachacutec, the greatest Emperor of Tahuantinsuyo who ruled from 1438 to 1471. The construction of Machu Picchu began when the Inca territories started to grow. Inca Pachacutec was the first to emerge beyond the valley of Cusco after the victories over the Chancas who lived also in Peru region.
What is Machu Picchu? Built as refuge for the elite Inca and for the Inca aristocracy, the fortress was located on the eastern slopes of the Vilcanota mountain range, about 80 miles from the Imperial city of Cusco. Surrounded by steep cliffs and away from the sight of strangers in the forest, the citadel had one narrow entrance helping to protect the city from invasion.
The site for the city was chosen with great care; the region was the perfect location for a luxurious city with the perfect climate, great soil and great natural beauty and was one of the great cities of the Tahuantinsuyo civilization along with Ollantaytambo. Furthermore close by was a quarry where white stone was found which was used in the construction of Machu Picchu.
The purpose of Machu Picchu is not known, as the Inca never had a written language so there is no record of what the site was used for, we can only speculate.
Occupied by at least three generations of Incas, Machu Picchu was abandoned in a sudden and mysterious decision. There are many theories as to why but none have been proven.
The construction of Machu Picchu by the Inca Pachacutec was with the environment and ecology in mind. The Inca never knew the wheel and it is amazing how they were able to construct such a site by hand. Every part of Machu Picchu had a either religious, administrative, political or social purpose. The structure was built to stand the test of time and has done so for the past 500 years.
Discovering The Ruins
Deserted for centuries, sitting alone covered in jungle the ruins were hidden from the Spanish so largely the remained this way until on July 24 1911 when an American Professor, Hiram Bingham, who was looking for another city, stumbled across the site with the help of a local farm boy. There are theories that in 1901 another team of explores found the site and left their names recorded at the site. One of these discoverers, Agustin Lizarraga found a tribe of locals living in the area and leased a part of the site to the farmers, making the site known but the local people who had no idea as the value of the site.
Bingham when he saw Machu Picchu immediately contacted National Geographic and the Peruvian government requesting a grant to start studies at the site. He carried out work at Machu Picchu from 1912 to 1915. In this time, they managed to clear the jungle and many of the Inca tombs were excavated. In 1913, National Geographic published an article on Machu Picchu revealing the citadel to the world, with many Machu Picchu pictures for the world to see.
In the years that followed Machu Picchu became an important tourist attraction for Peru and South America and in 1983 the site became a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Today hundreds of thousands of people every year visit the Inca Citadel. All these visitors are taking their toll on the ruin so the Peruvian government has taken steps to protect the ruins and prevent erosion of the mountainside.
Today you can visit Machu Picchu every day of the year many come and do an informative Machu Picchu tour. You must first arrive at the Inca city of Cusco before you can go to Machu Picchu. From Cusco you can take one of the many train services available, from the budget to the luxury that will take you on a fascinating day tour. Alternatively, for the more adventurous do one of the many different hikes on offer. The famous Inca Trail for example is a four-day trek that takes you through the Andes past some wonderful Inca ruins before arriving into Machu Picchu on the fourth day. There are many more treks that will take you to Machu Picchu depending on your fitness level and time you should do some investigating.
These days with the internet when you are doing your research on your trip to Machu Picchu, you will be able to do a Machu Picchu Virtual tour; here you will see some of the wonderful places that you can visit. Lifelike images of the site will ignite your travel bug. What is Machu Picchu? Travel to Peru and experience the magic first hand.