Machu Picchu is one of the most impressive testaments to the greatness of the Incan Empire. Perched high up in the Andes Mountains, Machu Picchu draws millions of visitors each year to admire the well-preserved remnants of the ancient civilization. Its high altitude makes it a tough adventure not for the faint of heart, but it’s worth all the effort as you get to see the impressive site that was built from scratch without iron instruments or wheels. It’s been over a century since Machu Picchu was discovered by Hiram Bingham III, but the place still keeps most of its secrets to itself. Here are 7 facts that prove Machu Picchu is one of the biggest wonders on Earth.
It wasn’t all that lost
Hiram Bingham III, the explorer and adventurer who discovered Machu Picchu in 1911, was actually looking for the famed Lost City of the Incan Empire named Vilacamba. Supposedly, that was the place where the Incan royalty escaped to after the invasion of conquistadores. All his life he believed that Machu Picchu was that very city and died without knowing the truth. It appears there was another ancient city hidden deep in the jungle 50 miles from the site of Machu Picchu and archaeologists confirmed that was actually Vilacamba. Machu Picchu itself wasn’t all that lost and forgotten – when the explorer came there for the first time, there were a few families living there.
It’s an engineering marvel
It’s hard to imagine the amount of work put into creating this city – and it was preserved so well despite all the earthquakes that happen regularly in Peru! The beautiful buildings of Machu Picchu, as well as others you can find throughout the remnants of the Incan Empire, were created using no mortar. The stones where cut with meticulous precision in such a way that they fit each other perfectly. They were just wedged together to form a monolithic structure that could withstand the most powerful earthquake. It is said that the stones would ‘dance’ a bit when an earthquake started, bouncing slightly, but then everything would fall in place. This is the reason why we can still admire the engineering marvels of the Incan Empire today!
It’s a lot to take in
Built in 1450, Machu Picchu isn’t just a few buildings thrown together high up in the mountains – it’s a huge complex consisting of more than 150 structures, connected together by ramps, walls, terraces, and narrow lanes. There are numerous platforms, ditches, and plazas to explore, but most of the constructions are gathered around three main buildings – Room of the Three Windows, Temple of the Sun, and Intihuatana. Numerous terraces were used for agriculture and irrigation, which seems almost impossible to achieve so high up in the mountains.
You can climb up high
Huayna Picchu can receive only 400 visitors per day, so no wonder there are queues lining up early in the morning for the bus to Machu Picchu to get there as fast as possible. This small mountain offers a unique view of Machu Picchu and can be seen in the backdrop of many photos from the site. What most visitors don’t know is that they can also climb the mountain on the other side – the Machu Picchu Mountain. It’s 1640 ft. high and offers breathtaking views of Machu Picchu and the whole valley.
The secret Temple of the Moon
If you do happen to visit the grass-covered Huayna Picchu, don’t leave just after a few minutes of taking pictures and admiring the view. That place is a bit more than that! It turns out there’s a secret, dangerous-looking path leading to a cave that is home to the Temple of the Moon. It’s a spectacular little shrine with beautiful stonework one simply cannot miss.
It might have a deeper meaning
Giulio Magli, an archaeoastronomer from Italy, had a theory that Machu Picchu wasn’t just a great city with religious significance – in fact, it held a special place in the Incan cosmology and was the final spot of a huge pilgrimage, which started at Lake Titicaca. They believed that the first Inca appeared on the Island of Sun on Lake Titicaca and went on his mysterious celestial journey to the stars. To mirror his path, Ancient Incas built an elaborate Inca Trail of their own that led straight to Machu Picchu, making it the final destination of this peculiar pilgrimage. The pilgrims would end up entering the city and climbing up to reach the Intihuatana Stone, which is the highest spot of the Machu Picchu.
Mysteries remain unsolved
Much of the Machu Picchu remains unexplored with new spots being discovered all the time. Thick foliage is covering the surroundings of Machu Picchu, hiding trails and buildings that might be lurking on the slopes. The more we look at Machu Picchu, the harder it is to grasp how Ancient Inca could possible carry all these huge rocks without instruments or even wheels. There are theories suggesting that some alien civilization helped the Inca build their masterpieces, while others state there was a more ancient and far more advanced civilization before the Incan Empire, who built the site. It is, indeed, strange to see larger well-carved stones in the base of most buildings with sloppier stones in the middle and at the top. Were the Inca gradually becoming worse builders, losing some ancient knowledge, or were they simply copying what was created long before them? These questions remain unanswered.