Machu Picchu (Quechua, Old Mountain) is located at 2 430m on a mountain, which is 80km northwest of Cusco and through which flows the Urubamba River. Most archaeologists believe that Machu Picchu was built for the Inca emperor Pachacuti (1438–1472). Often referred to as “The Lost City of the Incas”, it is perhaps the most familiar icon of theInca World. Machu Picchu was constructed around 1450, at the height of the Inca Empire. It was abandoned just over 100 years later, in 1572, during theSpanish Conquest. It is likely that most of its inhabitants were wiped out by smallpox before the Spanish conquistadores arrived in the area, and it appears that they were aware of a place called Piccho although there is no record of the Spanish having visited the city. Although known locally, it was unknown to the outside world before being brought to international attention in 1911 by the American historian Hiram Bingham, who wrote the book “the Inca’s lost city”. In 1913 National Geographic devoted their entire April issue to Machu Picchu. Since then, Machu Picchu has become an important tourist attraction. Machu Picchu was declared a Peruvian Historical Sanctuary in 1981 and a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983. Since it was not plundered by the Spanish when they conquered the Incas, it is especially important as a cultural site and is considered a sacred place. Machu Picchu was named one of the New Seven Wonders of the World.
The ruins of Machu Picchu are divided into two main sections known as the Urban and Agricultural Sectors, divided by a wall. The Agricultural Sector is further subdivided into Upper and lower sectors, while the Urban Sector is split into East and West sectors, separated by wide plazas. According to archaeologists, the urban sector of Machu Picchu was divided into three great districts: the Sacred District, the Popular District to the south, and the District of the Priests and the Nobility. The central buildings of Machu Picchu use the classical Inca architectural style of polished dry-stone walls of regular shape. The Incas were masters of this technique, called ashlars, in which blocks of stone are cut to fit together tightly without mortar. The Incas were among the best stone masons the world has seen, and many junctions in the central city are so perfect that it is said not even a blade of grass fits between the stones.
Peru is a highly seismic land, and mortar-free construction are more earthquake-resistant, the stones of the dry-stone walls built by the Incas can move slightly and resettle without the walls collapsing. Inca walls show numerous design details that also help protect them from collapsing in an earthquake. Doors and windows are trapezoidal and tilt inward from bottom to top; corners usually are rounded; inside corners often incline slightly into the rooms; and “L”-shaped blocks often were used to tie outside corners of the structure together. How they moved and placed enormous blocks of stones remains a mystery, although the general belief is that they used hundreds of men to push the stones up inclined planes.
The space is composed of 140 structures or features, including temples, sanctuaries, parks and residences. There are more than 3000 stone steps –often completely carved from a single block of granite –and a great number of water fountains that are interconnected by channels perforated in the rock that were designed for the original irrigation system.
In January 2010, heavy rain caused flooding which buried or washed away roads and railways leading to Machu Picchu, trapping over 2,000 tourists in addition to 2,000 locals. Machu Picchu was temporarily closed, but it reopened on February 28, 2010. Peru’s rail crew has been hard at work since then, and Machu Picchu reopened to tourists on April 1, 2010
Watch out! Only the first 400 visitors are allowed to climb up “Wayna Picchu”, where you can see Machu Picchu from a 500m higher mountain, simply perfect! We woke up at 4 to be there at 5:30. As you can see it was crowded at 6.
Sources: Wikipedia, lonelyplanet.