Wander the Peruvian mountains like the Incas used to: Google’s Street View cameras go right into the ruined city, and therefore so can you.
Machu Picchu is a 15th-century Inca citadel situated on a mountain ridge 2,430 metres (7,970 ft) above sea level. It is located in the Cusco Region, Urubamba Province, Machupicchu District in Peru, above the Sacred Valley, which is 80 kilometres (50 mi) northwest of Cuzco and through which the Urubamba River flows.
Most archaeologists believe that Machu Picchu was built as an estate for the Inca emperor Pachacuti (1438–1472). Often mistakenly referred to as the “Lost City of the Incas” (a title more accurately applied to Vilcabamba), it is the most familiar icon of Inca civilization. The Incas built the estate around 1450 but abandoned it a century later at the time of the Spanish Conquest. Although known locally, it was not known to the Spanish during the colonial period and remained unknown to the outside world until American historian Hiram Bingham brought it to international attention in 1911.
Machu Picchu was built in the classical Inca style, with polished dry-stone walls. Its three primary structures are the Inti Watana, the Temple of the Sun, and the Room of the Three Windows. Most of the outlying buildings have been reconstructed in order to give tourists a better idea of how they originally appeared. By 1976, thirty percent of Machu Picchu had been restored and restoration continues.
Machu Picchu was declared a Peruvian Historical Sanctuary in 1981 and a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983.In 2007, Machu Picchu was voted one of the New Seven Wonders of the World in a worldwide Internet poll.
In the Quechua language, machu means “old” or “old person”, while picchu means “peak; mountain or prominence with a broad base that ends in sharp peaks”, hence the name of the site means “old peak”.
Machu Picchu was built around 1450, at the height of the Inca.Its construction appears to date to the period of the two great Inca rulers, Pachacutec Inca Yupanqui (1438–71) and Túpac Inca Yupanqui (1472–93).It was abandoned just over 100 years later, in 1572, as a belated result of the Spanish Conquest.It is possible that most of its inhabitants died from smallpox introduced by travellers before the Spanish conquistadors arrived in the area.
Although it was located only about 80 kilometers (50 mi) from the Inca capital in Cusco, the Spanish never found Machu Picchu and so did not plunder or destroy it, as they did many other sites. The conquistadors had notes of a place called Piccho, although no record of a Spanish visit exists. The types of sacred rocks defaced by the conquistadors in other locations are untouched at Machu Picchu.
Over the centuries, the surrounding jungle overgrew the site, and few outside the immediate area knew of its existence. The site may have been discovered and plundered in 1867 by a German businessman, Augusto Berns. Some evidence indicates that German engineer J. M. von Hassel arrived earlier. Maps show references to Machu Picchu as early as 1874.
In 1911 American historian and explorer Hiram Bingham travelled the region looking for the old Inca capital and was shown to Machu Picchu by a local farmer. Bingham brought Machu Picchu to international attention and organized another expedition in 1912 to undertake major clearing and excavation. He returned in 1914 and 1915 to continue with excavation.
In 1981, Peru declared an area of 325.92 square kilometres (125.84 sq mi) surrounding Machu Picchu a “Historical Sanctuary”. In addition to the ruins, the sanctuary includes a large portion of the adjoining region, rich with the flora and fauna of the Peruvian Yungas and Central Andean wet puna ecoregions.
In 1983, UNESCO designated Machu Picchu a World Heritage Site, describing it as “an absolute masterpiece of architecture and a unique testimony to the Inca civilization”.