Travel Destination: Machu Picchu, Peru

Hidden Gem in the Rocky Countryside?

Have you ever heard of Machu Picchu? If not, you must be the one living under a rock. 

There are many places around the world people don’t get to know or hear about. However, it is very hard for someone not to know about this beautiful natural place with a lot of history about religion and Inca civilizations. 

Machu Picchu was, in fact, one of the first places we visited when we first got our passports. Yes, that’s way back to some years ago, but the experience remains with us, and we would love to get a second chance. 

You would believe the place is only ruined constructions and green everywhere, but despite this historic place’s “simple” area, you will love how it makes you feel. 

We were part of the reluctant people in visiting it in the beginning. If we are honest, we used to think, “What can be so special about a ruined city?” 

We are happy we ate our words after deciding to give it a chance by pure luck with our tickets. 

This place is definitely one you should visit not only because of the location itself, but rather the entire experience of visiting the country and Machu Picchu’s surroundings. 

If you are waiting for a sign to decide to go, this is the one! We will be sharing some details to support that decision as well. 

Machu Picchu’s History: What You Must Know Before Visiting

Remember our mention about Inca civilizations? Well, this also involves Spanish invaders. 

There’s so much history in this historic sanctuary that we have plenty to cover today. 

According to historians, Machu Picchu was built at the heights of the Inca Empire.

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This empire ruled western South America between the 15th and 16th centuries. It was quite prominent during its time. However, the empire and Machu Picchu itself are believed to have been abandoned 100 years after it was built, most likely around the time that the Spanish conquered the pre-Columbian civilization. 

Although there is no evidence to suggest that conquistadors attacked the citadel on the mountaintop, others believe that they did so because of a smallpox outbreak. Also, based on the raids and battles during this period in the region. 

Modern archaeologists believe Machu Picchu was a royal estate that served the Inca emperors as well as nobles. 

Some believe it was a sacred site because of its proximity to mountains and other features that the Incas considered sacred. 

In the decades since Machu Picchu was revealed to the world for the first time, many hypotheses have been proposed. 

Scholars differ in their interpretations, with some interpreting it as a prison or trade hub, a station to test new crops, a retreat for women, or a city dedicated to the coronation of monarchs, among others.

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When Was Machu Picchu Discovered?

Despite the questions that arise from the previous centuries and how the Spanish aren’t certain, we must move to what we know for sure. 

Hiram Bingham, an American archaeologist, arrived in Peru in 1911 with a small group of explorers to search for Vilcabamba. This was the last Inca stronghold that fell to the Spanish. 

Bingham and his group traveled on foot and by mules from Cuzco to the Urubamba Valley. There, a local farmer informed them of some Inca ruins at the top of a nearby hill. 

After a difficult climb up the mountain’s ridge, in cold and drizzly conditions, Bingham was greeted by a small group of peasants on July 24 who guided him through the rest of his journey. 

Bingham was led by an 11-year old boy who showed him the way to the complex network of stone terraces that marks the entrance to Machu Picchu.

Bingham was thrilled to share his discoveries in “The Lost City of the Incas,” a bestseller that saw a slew of tourists travel to Peru to follow his path up the once-obscure Inca Trail. 

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Bingham also excavated Machu Picchu artifacts and brought them to Yale University for inspection. However, in some present history, this action triggered a custody dispute that lasted almost 100 years. 

The Peruvian government filed a lawsuit against President Barack Obama and asked for the return of the items. Yale eventually agreed to their repatriation.

Hiram is considered the one who made Machu Picchu famous to the rest of the world. In fact, his name is on the highway buses that travel there. 

However, it is doubtful that Bingham was the first outsider. It is possible that missionaries and other explorers visited the site in the 18-19th century, but they were less vocal about their discoveries.

In addition to this info, you must be curious about how Machu Picchu is in specific and what people have discovered over the years. 

Machu Picchu’s walls and terraces are set in a lush tropical forest on the Peruvian Andes’ eastern slopes. 

The stairways, ramps, and terraces blend seamlessly with the natural environment. The Inca civilization’s engineering, architectural and agricultural prowess is evident in the site’s exquisitely crafted stonework, terraced areas, and sophisticated irrigation system. 

The central buildings of the site are prime examples of a masonry technique that was mastered by Incas, in which stones were cut to fit together with no mortar.

The city is made up of several distinct areas, according to archaeologists. These include a farming area, a residential district, a royal district, and a sacred zone. 

The Temple of the Sun and the Intihuatana Stone are two of Machu Picchu’s most famous structures. This granite rock is thought to have been used as a calendar or solar clock.

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Where It Stands Today

If you know Machu Picchu, you must know it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the most popular places to visit in South America. 

In terms of ruins, it is the top one. However, this side of the continent offers other beauties like Angel’s Fall in Venezuela. Thus, it has some tough competition. 

Regardless, it registers over 2 million visitors every year, and despite recent limitations due to COVID-19, tours are starting to open regularly once more. 

Besides being a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1983. In 2007, it was designated as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. 

Although tourism is a great benefit for the country’s economy, the site is home to many endangered species and continues to be affected by it. 

The development of nearby communities and environmental degradation are part of the downsides of the ruins being open to the public. In recent years, the Peruvian government took steps to preserve the ruins and stop erosion.

However, they haven’t been enough, and with the country’s unstable political situation, it is hard to know how the ruins will be taken care of. 

UNESCO has made great efforts to push authorities and organizations to preserve the ruins and respect this world heritage site.

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Is It Worth the Trouble? – Why People Love It

Reaching this point, you must be wondering why people decide to visit Machu Picchu. 

Well, we could mention all the amazing views and places around it, but we will get into that a bit later. 

For now, let’s enter the topic of popularity. 

Machu Picchu is a favorite for its popular hiking trail and how much history can be found in the historical ruins based on archeologists’ investigations. 

If you ever visit Peru, you CANNOT leave without going to Machu Picchu nor Cusco since the surrounding regions are also rich in cultural aspects. 

We won’t get tired of mentioning how much you can appreciate in the place but also the areas you go through to get there. 

Thus, it is a full adventure that involves more than the ruins themselves.

Photographers are particularly eager to visit it due to all the photo opportunities in the area. In fact, we are not photographers, but you bet we took many just like any other tourist would do to appreciate the natural setting.

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Finally, if you want a reason to visit it as soon as possible, just like many people are doing, you must remember that Machu Picchu won’t be here for too long. 

The citadel stability in terms of structure is quite in ruins (besides the literal definition behind it). 

Many people and experts think it won’t be able to stand for many more years, and even a natural event could bring it to its end. This is why the masses decide to move as soon as they can to visit the ruin. 

What to Do in Machu Picchu – Visiting 

Again, we are back to the situation of this place as “nothing more but ruins.” 

We know many people believe this. We did, so we don’t see why others wouldn’t. 

However, as we mentioned at the beginning of this article, it is a matter of taking the entire picture. 

The country offers great touristic places around the ruins, and the food in Peru is just 15 out of 10. 

Thus, there is much more to do than visit the ruins. Though we are confident that you will love them just like all the people who decided the travel was worth the time. 

During our visit, we went for several tours and multi-day alternatives.

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Our first choice was the Machu Picchu day trip from Cusco. However, we decided to take the 5-day trek to Machu Picchu through the Inca trail before leaving. 

We wanted to experience something new and stop the comfort of reaching day in a day. You bet it was worth our money considering the beauty we were able to appreciate!

But besides the experience we had in the ruins, including a private lunch that was more than amazing, we went for other alternatives. 

The Aguas Calientes (hot springs) in a nearby area was relaxing enough after our first tour. The Putucusi mountain and the option of going hiking were a great addition to our experience so far. 

Plaza Manco Capac, the Mercado de Artesanias, and the waterfalls and museums you can visit are just amazing. Let’s not forget about Huayna Picchu, a mountain the Urubamba River bends, and the incredible sacred valley you will get astonished by. 

We know people get too into visiting the place in specific. However, there’s much more than just the ruins unless you will be spending a week or a quick trip to Machu Picchu mountain only.  

Overall, inhabitants and tourists in the nearby communities, love spending time in the natural environment. So, we are sure that besides what we experienced along with other options like testing food and some wine, it will make your trip incredible.

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A Shooting Location: Filming in Machu Picchu 

Unlike what you would think, the location isn’t that open for filming. 

Despite some films taking place in the ruins as the primary or secondary scenario, it is hard to access it with all the required equipment or more like: It is hard not to have tourists around you. 

Peru’s government has never been too eager to allow filming, but some documentation by National Geographic has highlighted the location. However, they don’t focus on it alone. 

Some films like “Secret of the Incas” from 1954 have Machu Picchu historical sanctuary as part of the main location. 

Sometimes, people refer to the ruins and even have some images of them. However, the shooting didn’t take place there to some limitations. 

In other words (and to avoid going in circles), there aren’t many films taking place on this UNESCO World Heritage Site, but the few ones are quite from decades ago. 

“The Cursed Venus” from 1967 and “Max Is Missing” (1995) are others we can mention.

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5 Crucial Facts About Machu Picchu, Peru

  • The location isn’t strange to earthquakes. In fact, it is located atop two fault lines, making Machu Picchu a dangerous place when seismic activity is taking place.
  • You can find a secret temple that is considered a ceremonial shrine.
  • There are several side paths; no one knows where they go. It is almost impossible to explore this area due to the area’s dangers and how the tropical rain forest overgrows in the trails.
  • Archaeoastronomer, Giulio Magli, suggests that the journey from Cusco to Machu Picchu could have had a ceremonial or sacrificial purpose.
  • According to the Quechua language, Machu Picchu means “Old Peak” or “Old Mountain.”

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Written by Dame Cash

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