The legendary Machu Picchu is an ancient Inca citadel located at 8,000 ft. (2,4000 m) in the Andean mountains and is a must-visit for every traveler coming to Peru. Being a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it is considered one of the most iconic and significant culture sites in the world.
It was built in the mid-1400s, likely as a royal estate for the Inca Emperor Pachacuti and served as a retreat for him and his family, as well as a center for religious and spiritual retreats.
In this blog post, we’ll discover what makes this ancient site so fascinating by examining the best historical and architectural facts about Machu Picchu.
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Historical Facts About Machu Picchu
1. The Inca Emperor Pachacuti Built Machu Picchu
Pachacuti was the 9th ruler of the Inca and most likely built Machu Picchu as a royal estate for him and his family. Until today, the real purpose of the site is still not entirely clear.
There are different opinions by modern-day researchers, saying that apart from a royal estate it was also used as a religious site, a trade hub, an astronomical observatory center and more.
2. The Incas Left Machu Picchu After The Spanish Invasion
In the 16th century, the Spanish, led by the conquistador Francisco Pizarro and 168 men, traveled to South America and carried out a cruel campaign through Machu Picchu. Another cause of the great decimation of the Inca people was the diseases introduced by the Spaniards, such as smallpox, measles and others.
All of these are possible reasons for the demise of Machu Picchu and the reduction of inhabitants of the sanctuary.
3. Hiram Bingham Rediscovered Machu Picchu
Hiram Bingham III is the legendary explorer and scientific researcher who arrived at Machu Picchu on July 24th, 1911. He was led to the site by locals that told him about this ancient place. Once he found it, he was astonished by the excellent condition of Machu Picchu and its beautiful temples and palaces.
Because of his help and thanks to Yale University and the National Geographical Society, he brought back the popularity of Machu Picchu.
4. The Ancient Inca Trail Was Used as a Pilgrimage Path to Machu Picchu
The famous Inca trail is one of the most impressive hikes in the world and was originally built in the fifteenth century by the Inca Empire. The entire trail is around 26 miles (42 km) long. It starts at the Urubamba Valley and ends at the beautiful Machu Picchu.
The ancient Inca trail was used as a pilgrimage path to Machu Picchu because it was the only route that connected the Inca Empire with the sacred city. Besides that, passing through some of the most fertile lands in the Inca empire, the trail was also used as a trade route.
Nowadays, the path is a very popular pilgrimage and is used by hikers, mountain bikers and horseback riders.
Architectural Facts About Machu Picchu
1. Machu Picchu Is Earthquake-Resistant
Peru is a country frequently damaged by earthquakes. This means that Machu Picchu is exposed to a potential risk of collapsing, right?. However, did you know that the Machu Picchu ruins were built between 2 geological fault lines? This is fascinating, because this way the Inca engineers made the ruins earthquake-resistant.
2. Machu Picchu Was Constructed Without the Use of Wheels
Can you imagine that the Incas built Machu Picchu without the use of wheels? This means that they transported all of the heavy stones from quarries up to Machu Picchu without any additional help.
Hundreds of men had to push the heavy stones up the steep slope, some of them exceeding 50 tons. In fact, they did not use pack animals or iron tools as a support because this was against their culture.
3. Machu Picchu Is Surrounded by Two Mountains You Can Hike
All Machu Picchu tours will lead you through the ancient ruins where you’ll learn more about its unique history. But did you know that you can buy tickets to Huayna Picchu or Machu Picchu Mountain from where you’ll enjoy an incredible view over the ancient ruins?
Huayna Picchu mountain did not only house the highest priest and local virgins, but it also had the Temple of the Moon built into it, one of the three major temples at Machu Picchu.
Machu Picchu mountain is said to be the birthplace of the sun and the home of the gods. It was built as a spiritual center and a place of refuge.
4. Machu Picchu Was Equipped With an Advanced Water System
Machu Picchu was built high in the Andes Mountains. Therefore, before starting to construct, the Incas needed to find out how to transport water from the Urubamba river to the ancient city and how to exit the water while avoiding landslides.
They made this happen by creating an intricate system of canals, aqueducts and innovative underground drainage systems. First and foremost, they carved channels into the bedrock of the river. Then, they laid down stones and bricks to create a watertight system.
After that, they also built aqueducts that carried the water to the ruins, while using a combination of stone, mortar, wood and clay. This fascinating system was so well-constructed that even today they are still in use.
Helpful Tips for Visiting Machu Picchu
Purchase tickets in advance
The site has a limited number of tickets available each day, and they often tend to sell out quickly. Make sure to purchase your tickets in advance to ensure you can visit on the day you prefer. This is especially important if you consider visiting Huayna Picchu or Machu Picchu Mountain.
Overnight in Aguas Calientes
Spending the night before your tour in Aguas Calientes will allow you to avoid the crowds as you can enter Machu Picchu as early as possible in the morning.
Plan your transportation
There are several ways to get to Machu Picchu, including by train or by hiking the Inca Trail or the Salkantay Trek. Choose the option that best fits your schedule and physical ability.
Use the bathroom before entering
As there aren’t any bathrooms in the actual site itself, we recommend you use the bathroom before your visit. Once you leave the archaeological complex, it’s not possible to re-enter.
Wear appropriate clothing
Using layers of clothes that can be adjusted based on the weather, comfortable shoes that offer good support and a hat to protect you from the sun is very important when visiting Machu Picchu. We also recommend taking sunscreen and mosquito repellent.
As the altitude can cause dehydration, it’s recommended to drink plenty of water throughout the day.
Respect the site
Machu Picchu is a sacred and historic site, so please make sure to respect the rules and guidelines for visiting. Don’t leave any trash, do not touch the ruins or climb on them and be mindful of your surroundings.
As the weather can change very quickly at Machu Picchu, it’s important to know when to visit so you can maximize your chances of getting these postcard-like pictures.
The Best Time to Visit Machu Picchu
The best time to visit Machu Picchu depends on your personal preferences and what you hope to experience during your visit. Two important things to consider when planning your trip are the weather at Machu Picchu and the crowds.
Weather at Machu Picchu
The climate at Machu Picchu is tropical and there are two main seasons: the rainy season (November to April) and the dry season (May to October).
In the rainy season, rainfall can be strong (especially in January and February) and Machu Picchu tends to be covered in clouds, but the region’s vegetation will be lush and green. The dry season is characterized by dry and sunny weather. This makes it the ideal season for postcard-like pictures at Machu Picchu.
Crowds at Machu Picchu
The quantity of visitors at Machu Picchu can vary greatly depending on when you visit. The dry season, which is the high season for tourism in Peru, is typically the busiest time of the year. This can mean a lot of tourists and longer lines at the gates.
If you want to avoid the crowds, we recommend doing your Peru tour in May or in October. These months aren’t as crowded and the weather tends to be very good. If your only option is to visit during high season, we recommend you enter Machu Picchu as early in the morning as possible or in the afternoon.
Machu Picchu – A Mysterious Site With Impressive History
As you’ve seen, Machu Picchu is not only famous for its beauty, but also for its astonishing architectural and historical facts. Strolling through the ancient ruins and touching the stone walls while your guide tells you even more mind blowing things should definitely be on your bucket list.
When to visit the sanctuary depends on your personal preference and we hope you’ll join one of our Machu Picchu tours soon. If you have any questions, feel free to contact us via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.