The Ruins At Machu Picchu: The Almost Mystical History

Machu Picchu (Quechua for 'Old Peak') remains Peru's most iconic Inca phenomenon. It is a testimony to how great the pre-Columbian Inca Empire was and is one of the world's seven wonders and a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The old city is lodged high up in the Andes slopes, and every year, millions of tourists brave the weather and altitude to visit and behold the wonder.
At an altitude of 2,430m above sea level, the view of the ruins on a clear day is absolutely stunning. So many aspects make Machu Picchu one of the most sought-after tourist attractions, and we at Skyhook have compiled them for your inspiration.
Machu Picchu ruins

What Exactly is Machu Picchu?

The ruins at Machu Picchu were described by Peruvian archaeologist Luis Lumbreras as a citadel made of temples and palaces, dwellings and storehouses - a site fulfilling ceremonial religious functions.
Many also call it the 'Lost City of the Incas'.
It is located in the Urubamba Province above the Sacred Valley. Its three primary structures are the Temple of the Sun, the Intihuatana, and the Temple of the Three Windows.
The site has undergone restoration to give curious visitors an idea of what it initially looked like. In 1981, Peru declared Machu Picchu - and about 326 square kilometres rich in diverse Central Andean and Peruvian Yungas flora and fauna surrounding it - a historic sanctuary.
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The Story Behind the Inca Ruins at Machu Picchu

The World Heritage site covers 32,592 hectares of picturesque landscape between the Peruvian Andes and Amazon Basin.
It is believed that Machu Picchu was built by the Inca in the 1450s to house 500-750 people. It was abandoned about a century later because of the Spanish invasion. When the Conquistadors arrived in 1932 and conquered the empire, the Inca fled to a hidden city called Vilcabamba.
Still, Machu Picchu's location against a 400m sheer cliff overlooking the Urubamba River kept it safe from the Conquistadors for centuries. It remains hidden from the valley below and often appears enshrouded in mist.
The arrival of American explorer Hiram Bingham III in 1911 led to its rediscovery when a group of local farmers led him to the site. Many legends - as told by local guides from their Inca ancestors and theories from today's archaeological researchers - exist to explain the site's main role.
But still, to this day, the real function of the citadel remains unknown. Historians believe it may have been an estate for Emperor Pachacutec or a religious site for pilgrimage and paying tributes to departed ancestors.
Many of the ruins have ceremonial features that point to religious functions. A more recent theory by archaeologist Giulio Magli suggests that Machu Picchu may have been the end of a pilgrimage made by the First Inca from the Island of the Sun in Lake Titicaca along the scenic Inca trail to Machu Picchu - with the last phase being climbing the steps to the Intihuatana Stone.
There are dozens of possibilities which add to the ruins' mystique.
Machu Picchu Facts

The Remarkable Craftsmanship Employed in Machu Picchu's Construction

When you visit the Peru Inca ruins of Machu Picchu in Peru, you'll be struck by how precise and sharp the Inca builders were - especially centuries before today's technology and resources (including mortar or the wheel) were available.
The nearly 200 structures that make up this centre are surrounded by stone terraces. Thanks to meticulous planning, Machu Picchu is divided into an upper and lower region with a massive square between the two. Despite the time, elements, and earthquakes, many of the ruins stand strong, with incredibly fine details still showing on the stones.
The Inca's building technique (Ashlar) included cutting stones with bronze tools and using harder stones from their quarries to pound the cut stones into specific shapes. These stones were cut so precisely and wedged together so closely that the aesthetic component was unquestionable.
Even better, the buildings withstand the most intense of Earthquakes. Both Cusco and Peru's capital, Lima, have been levelled by earthquakes, and Machu Picchu itself sits on two fault lines. However, observers say that during an earthquake, the stones on Inca-style buildings 'bounce through the tremors and fall back in place.' This architectural model has left many Inca buildings standing for decades.
overlooking Machu Picchu Mountain (2-day Inca trail)

Machu Picchu is Rich in Ancient Incan and Peruvian Culture

Macho Picchu's walls have mind-blowing art carved into them, not to mention the altars, cave entrances, and aqueducts. Being masters of astrology, the citadel was built to align with the sun's rising at specific times of the year.
There are also plenty of opportunities to immerse yourself in Peruvian culture beyond Machu Picchu's gates. Machu Picchu is about 75km from Cusco, the ancient Capital of the Inca that still holds the people's architecture, way of life, and secrets.
When you land here, you'll experience the warm and vibrant Andean culture first-hand as you stroll through the bazaars and streets. People here speak both Quechua and Spanish and gladly receive their guests with souvenirs, legends, and excellent food.
Between Cusco and Machu Picchu is the Sacred Valley; a beautiful natural feature, home to several ancient Inca sites. And along the Lares trail to Machu Picchu is the Lares Valley, home to indigenous Andean people whose way of life and fantastic art will amaze you.
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Kind weather offers a beautiful view of Machu Picchu

The Bottom Line

There is so much to see and do at Machu Picchu, and we hope this dive into the site's history has inspired you to add it to your bucket list.
Here at Skyhook, we can guide you in planning a memorable expedition so you can behold the magic for yourself. You can reach out, and we will help you book the best treks to Machu Picchu, so you can take it all in!