High in the Andes mountains of Peru perched atop a narrow plateau lies the breathtaking ancient city of Machu Picchu. This Incan citadel was built in the 15th century as an estate for Emperor Pachacuti, then abandoned and concealed from the outside world until its rediscovery in 1911. Shrouded in mystery and natural grandeur, Machu Picchu has captured imaginations worldwide as one of the most important archaeological sites on Earth.
A Picturesque Mountain Setting
Machu Picchu occupies a picturesque location overlooking the Urubamba River valley, enclosed on three sides by steep verdant peaks and plunging ravines. The Inca intentionally chose this remote and challenging landscape for defensive reasons and to connect with their landscape-revering spiritual beliefs. In fact, the positioning of Machu Picchu relative to sacred surrounding mountains mimics the layout of the Milky Way galaxy as seen from the Southern Hemisphere.
Marvels of Incan Engineering
The ruins contain over 150 buildings and ingenious engineering feats, the most iconic being the Temple of the Sun. Massive stones weighing up to 50 tons were precisely fitted together without mortar to create earthquake-resistant walls that have stood for centuries. Sophisticated hydraulics systems utilizing natural springs and rainwater provided fresh water year-round for the city. Terraced agricultural fields sliced into the mountainside could produce crops like maize and potatoes to sustain inhabitants.
A Site Perfectly Preserved
By limiting access and settlement in Machu Picchu to the Inca elite, the civilization controlled its valuable resources and limited damage to the fragile ecosystem. As a result, the site is extremely well-preserved compared to other Incan cities conquered and demolished by the Spanish. When Machu Picchu was abandoned in the 16th century, thick vegetation quickly took over hiding the ruins from the outside world for centuries.
Immersive Experiences for Modern Travelers
Modern-day travelers can immerse themselves in Incan history at Machu Picchu in many awe-inspiring ways. Hiking the challenging Inca Trail transports you back in time as you walk in the footsteps of the ancient Inca. Or witness the sun rising over the Temple of the Sun during the winter and summer solstices, illuminations planned purposefully by the Inca to honor their sun god Inti. Machu Picchu remains the perfect mystical intersection of culture, nature, spirituality and discovery.