Hidden in the countryside of Cuzco, Peru, lies a mystery of ancient ruins. Sitting atop a mountain in a rainforest full of endangered species and Peruvian history, it is worth the journey for a chance to explore Machu Picchu. As Hiram Bingham, an archaeologist, said, “Few romances can ever surpass that of the granite citadel on top of the beetling precipices of Machu Picchu, the crown of Inca Land.”

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The History Of The Ruins

Machu Picchu is believed to have been built at the height of the Inca Empire, which dominated western South America in the 15th and 16th centuries. It is estimated to have been abandoned about 100 years after its construction, coinciding with the Spanish colonization of the general area. However, no evidence shows that the Spanish ever reached Machu Picchu, and it is theorized a smallpox outbreak is what led people to leave the area.

The Mystery of Machu Picchu

Archaeologists identified several distinct sections of Machu Picchu. There is a designated area for farming, a residential neighborhood, a royal district, and a sacred area. There are more than 150 buildings that make up the baths, houses, temples, and sanctuaries. One of the most well-known structures is the Temple of the Sun and the Intihuatana Stone – a sculpted, granite rock that is believed to function as a solar clock and/or calendar.

Machu Picchu is mostly theorized as a royal estate or sacred religious site for Inca Leaders and nobles. Other theories, taking into account the proximity to the mountains and other geographical features, discuss the possibilities it was a prison, a station for testing new crops, a women’s retreat, a trade hub, or potentially a city devoted to the coronation of kings. The biggest mystery of this world wonder is what exactly it was used for.

The Temple of the Sun

The Temple of the Sun

The Intihuatana Stone casting a shadow

Modern Day Machu Picchu

The site was possibly rediscovered by a few in the 19th and 20th centuries, but Hiram Bingham was the most vocal about his visit in 1911. The archaeologist and his team were informed of the ruins on the mountain by a local farmer. The farmer referred to it as Machu Picchu, which means ‘old peak’ in the native Quechua language.

Today, it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is one of the New Seven Wonders of the World as of 2007. Machu Picchu is Peru’s most visited site and South America’s most famous ruins. An increase in Tourism has led to the development of nearby towns and environmental degradation, which take their toll on the site, which is also home to several endangered species. The Peruvian government has taken steps to protect the ruins and prevent erosion of the mountainside.

Visit Peru with EXP Journeys

Discover Peru on a private guided experience with EXP Journeys. Enjoy luxury accommodations, private cheffing, and a variety of unique outdoor adventures. Immerse yourself in the brilliant culture of Peru and get an up-close look at the mysterious seventh wonder of the world.

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