The Ruins of Machu Picchu
Machu Picchu stands 2,430 m above sea-level, in the middle of a tropical mountain forest, in an extraordinarily beautiful setting.
It was probably the most amazing urban creation of the Inca Empire. Its height, its giant walls, terraces and ramps seem as if they have been cut naturally in the continuous rocky declines.
Natural and Archeological
The natural setting, on the eastern slopes of the Andes, encompasses the upper Amazon basin with its rich diversity of flora and fauna.
Recognized for outstanding cultural and natural values, the mixed World Heritage property covers 32,592 hectares of mountain slopes, peaks and valleys. It surrounds its heart, the spectacular archaeological monument of “La Ciudadela” (the Citadel).
Built in the fifteenth century, Machu Pichu was abandoned when the Inca Empire was conquered by the Spaniards in the sixteenth century. It was not until 1911 that the archaeological complex was made known to the outside world.
Tucked away in the rocky countryside northwest of Cuzco, Peru, Machu Picchu is believed to have been a royal estate or sacred religious site for Inca leaders, whose civilization was virtually wiped out by Spanish invaders in the 16th century.
For hundreds of years, until the American archaeologist Hiram Bingham stumbled upon it in 1911, the abandoned citadel’s existence was a secret known only to peasants living in the region.
Man-made Wonder of the World
The site stretches over an impressive 5-mile distance, featuring more than 3,000 stone steps that link its many different levels.
Today, hundreds of thousands of people tramp through Machu Picchu every year, braving crowds and landslides to see the sun set over its towering stone monuments. They marvel at the mysterious splendor of one of the world’s most famous man-made wonders.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1983 and designated one of the New Seven Wonders of the World in 2007, Machu Picchu is Peru’s most visited attraction and South America’s most famous ruins. It welcomes hundreds of thousands of people a year.
Increased tourism, the development of nearby towns, and environmental degradation, continue to take their toll on the site, which is also home to several endangered species. As a result, the Peruvian government has taken steps to protect the ruins and prevent erosion of the mountainside in recent years.