Machu Picchu comes from a Quechua word that means old mountain, however, according to several scholars, its name could have originally been Llactapata. It was built not long before the 15th century, 80 km northwest of Cusco city and it is a citadel where a small Inca population lived.
According to documents dated from 16th century, the citadel was a resting place for the Inca Pachacútec between 1438 and 1470. However, according to studies, the ruins were allegedly used before his rule so it can be said that it was a religious sanctuary because of its strong ceremonial nature.
Machu Picchu was declared as Peruvian Historic Sanctuary in 1981 and it entered the World Heritage list in 1983. It was also chosen as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World.
If you come to Peru, you have to travel to Cusco, and if you visit Cusco, you must to visit Machu Picchu.
On a trip to Machu Picchu there are many ways to visit the citadel. The most common is to go from Cusco and return the same day; however, there are many accommodation options to overnight at Aguas Calientes town.
Other way is overnight in the Sacred Valley and take the train from Ollantaytambo station, or at your return stay and overnight at the Sacred Valley.
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Machu Picchu is in a zone that shows human presence from at least 760 BC, presumably migrants from the Andean region coming from the Sacred Valley that were basically looking for extending their farming territories. The research made in the zone indicates that there were no buildings before the Incas.
When the Inca empire arrived at the zone, Pachacútec, the first Inca of the Tahuantinsuyo, was impressed by the zone’s geography and ordered the construction of a luxurious civil and religious center. It is believed that Machu Picchu had a mobile population as the llactas (Inca cities) that had 300 to 1,000 inhabitants from the Inca elite, possibly from the Inca’s panaca (the Inca’s offspring’s families, excluding his successor)
The agriculture was developed in Machu Picchu to supply the zone’s inhabitants. Important administrative and agricultural complexes were built, and the communication was possible thanks to the Inca trail network that made it easy to transport food and messages.
When Pachacútec died, his panaca managed his properties according to the royal Inca tradition, and they had to allocate income to worship the dead Inca’s mummy.
After the arrival of the Spaniards, Machu Picchu passed to the jurisdiction of several colonial estates, and due to its remoteness, it became less and less important and was ignored by the colonial regime, but not by the Andean man. The citadel’s buildings were eventually covered by bush, but the farming terraces were still used.
At the beginning of the 20th century, Machu Picchu was home to two families that farmed in the Inca terraces and drank water from pipelines that still worked. In 1911, Hiram Bingham, the archaeologist, arrived at the zone guided by a tenant of these lands. One of the kids of the family took him to the built-up zone, where the archaeologist could see the great treasure hidden under the bush. From that moment on, thanks to the Yale University’s sponsorship, the National Geographic and the Peruvian government work was done in the zone to discover the city’s remains.
Nowadays, the citadel is open to public to visit and it is one of the 7 wonders of the world. Daily entrance is restricted to preserve part of our history.
Machu Picchu is located in Cusco, in the province of Urubamba, in the district of Machu Picchu, northwest of Cusco city. The archaeological site’s complex was built on the batholith of the Vilcabamba river and the Sacred Valley and it is flanked by two mountains: Machu Picchu and Huayna Picchu.
Because of its location, the zone has abundant vegetation and a tropical climate.
Machu Picchu can be explored in approximately two hours. It is necessary to go with a guide to know the importance of each corner of the place.
If you like adventure, you should climb the Huayna Picchu, you will be amazed by the view from its top.
Another option is to hike to the ruins through the Inca trails. It can be done in four days, camping to rest at night or it can be done in two days, camping or staying overnight in the town of Machu Picchu.
The trains to the town of Machu Picchu, departure every day from Poroy (15 minutes from Cusco by car) or from the Ollantaytambo station in the Sacred Valley.
Machu Picchu is an archaeological site as well as a historic sanctuary protected by the Peruvian Service for Natural Protected Areas. Its purpose is to protect endangered species as the spectacled bear (Tremarctos ornatus) and the Andean cock-of-the-rocks (Rupicula peruviana), as well as the archaeological remains.
The area’s most representative species are the torrent duck (Merganetta armata), the añuje or Kalinowski agouti (Dasyprocta kalinowskii), the viscacha (Lagidium peruanum), the coati (Nasua nasua), the white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus), the Peruvian dwarf brocket (Mazama chunyi), the culpeo fox (Pseudalopex culpaeus), the cougar (Puma concolor), the woodpecker (Piculus rubiginosus), the Andean cock-of-the-rocks (Rupicula peruviana), the spectacled bear (Tremarctos ornatus), the Andean condor (Vultur gryphus) and the long-tailed otter (Lontra longicaudis).
In the Warmihuañusca sector we can see viscachas and deer and, sometimes, even spectacled bears.
The most representative flora species are the alder (Alnus acuminata), the cecropia (Cecropia tacuna), the white cedar (Cedrela lilloi), the quina (Cinchona pubescens), el pacae blanco (Inga feuillei), the basul (Erythrina edulis), the Brazilian coral tree (Erythrina falcata), the chachacomo (Escallonia resinosa), the yanay (Nectandra furcata), and the laurel (Nectandra laurel). In the Warmihuañusca pass we can see relict forests of unca (Myrcianthes oreophilla) the queñua (Polylepis racemosa), and the tasta (Escallonia myrtilloides).
We can also find an impressive number of orchids. 340 species have been registered, that is to say, 20% of the total variety of the 1,700 species identified in Peru.
Machu Picchu has a semi-tropical climate with warm days and cold nights. The rainy season is from November to April.
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