Machu Picchu Facts & General Information
Machu Picchu is one of the Seven New World Wonders. It holds the status of an (endangered) UNESCO World Heritage Site and is a Protected Natural Area by the State (SERNAP). Above all, it might just be the number one bucket list destination in South America. As such there are is no doubt about its beauty and outstanding location. Here is a list of facts on Machu Picchu
- GPS Coordinates: 13.1633°S, 72.5456°W
- Country: Peru
- Department: Cusco
- Province: Urubamba
- District: Machu Picchu
Machu Picchu is believed to be a country estate of an Inca Lord. As such it covers a huge area. The whole area, often referred to as ‘The Sanctuary’ covered an area of 32,592 hectares, covering a mountain face along the river Vilcanota-Urubamba.
There are no direct roads leading into Machu Picchu. It is only accessible via a single track train route or by foot. There are various treks, the most famous of them the Camino Inca – which used to be the main route into Machu Picchu during the times of the Inca.
Though few tourists realize this before their first visit, Machu Picchu is actually located inside a tropical mountain forest. Jungle. Many orchids, but also monkeys and spectacled bear can be observed in the dense foliage – if you got a keen eye or are lucky.
The most important facts about Machu Picchu
Machu Picchu means “Old Mountain” in the native Quechua language. It is not the actual name of the Inca citadel but is rather the name the locals used after it got abandoned. The original name is lost.
Machu Picchu was built around 1450 AD under the rule of the Inca king Pachacutec. It is believed to have been constructed as a country estate, though other scholars believe it has been a sacred center. There is evidence that the valley has been occupied by humans since around 760 B.C.
Machu Picchu got constructed without the use of wheels, as they were not known to the South American natives before the advent of the Spanish. Some of the stones weigh more than 50 tons.
The main temples and buildings of Machu Picchu were, much like throughout the rest of the Inca empire, constructed without the use of mortar. The technique is called “ashlar”.
Machu Picchu was never finished and got abandoned during the time of Spanish Invasion, some 100 years after the constructions started. There is still an open quarry inside of Machu Picchu to date.
There is no evidence, whatsoever, that Machu Picchu ever got attacked. This is why some scientists speculate that a smallpox epidemic actually led to its desertion. It is more probable, though, that after Pachacutec’s death other religious sites (such as the easier accessible Ollantaytambo) gained prominence.
The original population of Machu Picchu ranged around 300 to 1,000 people. Most of them probably privileged people, such as royalty, priests, and artisans.
Hiram Bingham generally holds the title for rediscovering Machu Picchu in 1911. There is evidence that the German engineer Augusto Bern has visited the site 40 years prior to Bingham. Even earlier, Antonio Raimondi crossed the place. Inside the temple of the three Windows, there is a small graffiti with Agustín Lizárraga’s name dating back to 1902.
Following a custody dispute lasting over a hundred years, the artifacts that Hiram Bingham excavated and brought back to Yale can now be seen in a Museum in Cusco. Among them mummies, ceramics, and jewelry.
Machu Picchu is the only Inca site in Peru with an intact Intihuatana stone. A gigantic rock associated with the Inca calendar and probably used for important religious rituals.
Machu Picchu is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1983. In 2007 it was also named a New Seven Wonders of the World.
Machu Picchu is the most visited attraction in Peru, with over a 1 Million tourists each year. Entrance is officially limited to 2,500 per day – though in recent years more and more exceptions are being made.
Intense tourism, but also the climate conditions threaten Machu Picchu. Only the terraced architectonical ingenuity of the Inca keeps the citadel from sliding down into the valley below. Landslides are known to have occurred in recent years.
The most popular route into Machu Picchu is the Inca Trail (Camino Inca). Tickets are strictly regulated to 400 people per day. The trek is 26 miles long and is usually done in 3 days. One additional day is used for exploring the ruins itself. As of 2016, 250 more people per day are allowed to do the 2-day version of the classic Inca trail.