You are here: Peru Facts > Machu Picchu
Machu Picchu Discovering Peru's Forgotten City
Located 70 kilometers northwest of Cusco, Machu Picchu is perhaps Peru's most legendary Incan landmark. Often called "the forgotten city", Machu Picchu is one of the last remnants of the great Inca empire. For years, this archaeological site was forgotten by the rest of Peru, until Hiram Bingham rediscovered it in 1911. Seen by some as a sort of ancient sanctuary buried deep within the wilderness of Peru, thousands of tourists travel to these ancient ruins every year. The ancients in the city of Machu Picchu spoke Quechua, which was outlawed by the Spanish conquistadors when they conquered Peru in 1532. Some time before the Spanish conquest, the city was deserted, probably due to plagues that were sweeping the region at the time (brought by the Spanish attackers). This article will highlight some of the most important aspects of Machu Picchu, as well as important tips to keep in mind when visiting the ruins of this ancient civilization.
Perhaps the most attractive feature of Machu Picchu is the ancient architectural ruins. Comprising of over 140 structures, this city is an architectural masterpiece. The Incas did not use traditional mortar and stones to build their walls- they used a process called ashlar. Ashlar is a process by which stones are simply laid next to each other, to compose a wall. This process is often so precise that a knife blade cannot be forced in between two stones. In addition, the ancient Incas also created a built-in irrigation system. This advanced system of irrigation allowed the Incan citizens to support their agriculture needs. We do not know how the ancient civilization managed to build this magnificent city using basic architecture technology, since the Incas did not have a written language at that point in time. Unfortunately, this is left as a mystery in the history books of today.
Visiting this forgotten city is to some an experience in and of itself. Since the city is in a remote area, there are few ways to travel directly to the site. Some tourists prefer to hike to the ancient ruins, using either a two or four day hiking program which usually takes them down the historic Inca Trail. Since the altitude is quite high (8,000 feet above sea level), anyone who hikes to this ancient city should be in the best possible shape. However, for those of us that do not want to hike for at least two days, there are transportation alternatives. The most popular alternative to hiking is to take a train from Cusco to the ancient city. That way, you can leave Cusco by train in the morning, and take the train back to Cusco in the evening. If you want to stay overnight, there is also a hotel located inside the ancient city. Helicopter access to the city was banned in the 1970s due to concern of the helicopters damaging the ruins.
Whether you are wanting to explore this forgotten city for the adventure of discovering Peru's hidden secrets, or whether you are planning to visit purely for educational purposes, this ancient city contains more scientific and cultural artifacts and heritage than any museum display can offer. One thing is certain- it will be an experience you will never forget!
Copyright © 2006 Perufacts.org