The mighty Inca Empire — the last of the great Andean civ­i­liza­tions — rose from the Peru­vian high­lands in the ear­ly 13th cen­tu­ry. Con­trol­ling a pop­u­la­tion of 10 mil­lion, they were the last ful­ly devel­oped indige­nous civ­i­liza­tion before Colum­bus arrived in the Amer­i­c­as. There is noth­ing more sym­bol­ic of their cul­ture than the great archae­o­log­i­cal site of Machu Pic­chu. This UNESCO World Her­itage Site is not only Peru’s most vis­it­ed mon­u­ment, but has also been named one of the New 7 Won­ders of the World. Built in 1450 and aban­doned a cen­tu­ry lat­er, the com­plex gives us an incred­i­ble insight into Inca dai­ly life, reli­gion and tech­ni­cal prowess. Here are 7 impres­sive facts about Machu Pic­chu.

facts about machu picchu

Entry relat­ed to loca­tion: Peru

Despite being only 70 kilo­me­ters from Cus­co, Machu Pic­chu seems to be far away. Every year, over 1.5 mil­lion tourists come here for the ardu­ous walk, or the scenic train ride. Many dream to see this gem of the Inca Empire. If you’re still unsure if this archi­tec­tur­al and cul­tur­al mar­vel is worth a vis­it, check out some incred­i­ble facts about Machu Pic­chu. And once you’re ready to make the trip, be sure to choose a wor­thy excur­sion to help make the process easy and mem­o­rable.

1. This is a complex of buildings

Machu Pic­chu is not a sin­gle archi­tec­tur­al struc­ture, but a com­plex of more than 150 build­ings. These include baths and res­i­dences, as well as sanc­tu­ar­ies and tem­ples. How­ev­er, much of Machu Pic­chu is orga­nized around three main struc­tures — the Inti­hu­atana, the Tem­ple of the Sun, and the Room of the Three Win­dows. Many of the sec­ondary build­ings are actu­al­ly repli­cas that have been erect­ed to give vis­i­tors a bet­ter idea of ​​what Machu Pic­chu orig­i­nal­ly looked like.

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machu picchu complex

2. Machu Picchu is located at a high altitude

Let’s start with a well-known fact — Machu Pic­chu is locat­ed at an alti­tude of 2429 meters above sea lev­el on a cliff over­look­ing the Urubam­ba Riv­er. This trip is not for the faint of heart. Vis­i­tors should pre­pare not only for a phys­i­cal­ly demand­ing hike on the trail, but also for pos­si­ble alti­tude sick­ness. Vis­i­tors are advised to spend a few days in Cus­co, which is at a high­er alti­tude, to get used to the con­di­tions. Locals rec­om­mend chew­ing coca leaves to relieve symp­toms.


3. Incredible engineering feat

While the site is locat­ed on the side of a cliff, the Incas did their best to keep Machu Pic­chu alive for cen­turies. The com­plex includes the con­struc­tion of more than 600 ter­races to pro­vide sta­bil­i­ty so that the struc­tures do not slide down the moun­tain.

engineering feat

In order to ensure prop­er water sup­ply, a 776 meter long canal was designed to sup­ply water to the city cen­ter and sup­ply the foun­tains. This water was also used for com­plex irri­ga­tion sys­tems that irri­gat­ed farm­land and fed the pop­u­la­tion. These sys­tems were so well designed that they are still in oper­a­tion today with only minor repairs.

4. Perfect fit of stones

With such good engi­neer­ing skills, it is clear that con­struc­tion was the Inca’s forte. Incred­i­bly heavy gran­ite stones for the con­struc­tion of the struc­ture were deliv­ered up the side of the moun­tain with­out the use of vehi­cles. Each stone has been carved to per­fec­tion using a tech­nique called ash­lar. Each stone con­verges per­fect­ly tight­ly with­out the use of any mor­tar.

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adjustment of stones

5. The name has a deep meaning

Quechua was the lan­guage of the Inca empire and is still spo­ken today in parts of the Peru­vian high­lands. Machu means “old”, while pic­chu means “pyra­mid or cone”. Many inter­pret the name as “Old Moun­tain”.

origin of name

6. Emperor’s Rest House

It is believed that Machu Pic­chu was a roy­al estate com­mis­sioned by the ninth Inca ruler Pacha­cu­ti Yupan­qui after a mil­i­tary vic­to­ry. Respon­si­ble for expand­ing the Inca empire through­out South Amer­i­ca, Pacha­cu­ti used Machu Pic­chu as a desir­able vaca­tion spot for him­self and his fam­i­ly. Most of the oth­er inhab­i­tants of Machu Pic­chu were care­tak­ers and sup­port staff, with many only com­ing when the emper­or lived there.
Locat­ed next to the Tem­ple of the Sun, the emper­or’s dwelling includes a pri­vate gar­den, a sep­a­rate bath­house and the only pri­vate toi­let in the com­plex.

machu picchu with facts

See also — Top 6 inter­est­ing facts about the Great Wall of Chi­na on Life­Globe.

7. The complex was not discovered by the Spaniards

When the Span­ish con­quis­ta­dors put an end to the Inca Empire, they destroyed most of the cities. Luck­i­ly they did­n’t find Machu Pic­chu. In fact, there is only one men­tion of “Pic­chu” in Span­ish doc­u­ments, imply­ing that it belonged to the Inca emper­or.

goats on the slopes of machu picchu

It is not real­ly clear why the Incas aban­doned Machu Pic­chu, although there are the­o­ries that a small­pox out­break killed most of its inhab­i­tants before the arrival of the Spaniards. The hid­den loca­tion allowed the city to remain intact until 1911, when Pro­fes­sor Hiram Bing­ham III of Yale Uni­ver­si­ty dis­cov­ered the dense­ly veg­e­tat­ed com­plex.

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Below is a list of short facts about Machu Pic­chu that will also inter­est you:

  • The Peru­vian gov­ern­ment has peti­tioned the US gov­ern­ment for the return of more than 40,000 arti­facts col­lect­ed by Hiram Bing­ham and deliv­ered to Yale Uni­ver­si­ty. They con­sist of mum­mies, bones, ceram­ics and pre­cious met­als.
  • The ruins of Machu Pic­chu were declared a UNESCO World Her­itage Site in 1983 and are on the list of the New 7 Won­ders of the World.
  • Machu Pic­chu is locat­ed at an alti­tude of 2400 meters above sea lev­el.
  • The set­tle­ment was strate­gi­cal­ly locat­ed on a moun­tain range through which the Urubam­ba Riv­er flows.
  • The “Lost City of the Incas”, as it is com­mon­ly known in Peru, is the most impor­tant archae­o­log­i­cal site in South Amer­i­ca and is reg­u­lar­ly vis­it­ed by tourists from all over the world.
  • Machu Pic­chu is famous for its three sig­nif­i­cant build­ings, name­ly the Inti­hu­atana, the Tem­ple of the Sun and the Room of the Three Win­dows.
  • Most of the Inca cities were destroyed by the Span­ish con­quis­ta­dors. How­ev­er, the fact that this city was tucked away in the moun­tains away from the eye of obser­va­tion makes Machu Pic­chu one of the best pre­served places in South Amer­i­ca.
  • Tourists wish­ing to vis­it the ruins can stay in the vil­lage of Aguas Calientes, which is locat­ed at the foot of the moun­tains.

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