High atop the splendorous mountains of Andes in Peru is situated an ancient city of architectural wonder, Machu Picchu, a city which has been in ruins since the 14th century yet attracts hundreds of visitors from all over the world every year. Located 2450 metres above sea level, this city is one of the most beautiful World Heritage sites and a symbol of the ancient Incan Empire. Ever since it was discovered, archeologists and historians have been trying to discern why it was built, which remains a mystery to many even today.
Surrounded by beautiful cliffs of mountains and valleys all around, Machu Picchu is situated on a ridge, about 80 kilometres from the Peruvian city of Cusco, and it has a rich grandeur that will for sure captivate the hearts of those who visit it. The city remained lost and hidden for about 300 years until an American explorer and historian, Hiram Bingham, discovered it in 1911 during one of his expeditions to trace Vilcamamba, the last city ruled by the Incans.
Since then, many historians and archeologists have been visiting Machu Picchu to find out its history. Their findings reveal mysterious and fascinating details of the lost city. They believe that the entire city served as an estate to the ninth Incan emperor, Pachacutec, who ruled over the land of Cusco between 1438 and 1471.
Indeed, the history of Machu Picchu dates back to the 14th century when the Incan Empire rose to power and formed a largest empire in the world in the western South America, covering a land of about 38000 kms. Nevertheless, their rule lasted only for 100 years until the Spanish invaders laid siege to the empire in 1572.
Although Hiram Bingham has been credited with the discovery of this historical site, evidences tell us that even much before him, explorers and adventurers had been to this land in the 18th century.
Machu Picchu has around 200 structures, most of them constituting homes, temples and sanctuaries. The entire city sprawls over 32,500 acres and bears testimony to the engineering wonders of the Inca civilisation.
Each structure is exquisitely carved out of granite stones without using mortars or wheels. In fact, the Incans used the ancient building technique called ‘ashlar’, in which rocks were placed tightly one above the other without mortars.
The engineers who built Machu Picchu were well aware of the fact that the land was prone to earthquakes and they built the city in a way that it would last forever without being affected by the earthquakes. The archeologists have found out that when earthquake occurs, the stones in the structure shake to the tremors but fall back into place.
Inside the city, there are tombs, stairways made of stone slabs, 16 fountains that receive water from the springs on the mountains and terraced fields that were used to grow crops once. All these, together, have made Machu Picchu one of the most famous archeological sites in the world.
Though the entire city of Machu Picchu is enchanting to look at, you shouldn’t miss the Temple of the Sun and the Intihuatana stone, a sculpted granite rock which the Incans used as a solar clock.
The Incans considered the entire land sacred, as it was situated closer to the sky, the abode of the Sun, their God. Hence, they had built a temple for their deity, close to the place where their emperor resided. One of the remarkable features of this temple is that during the June solstice, the rays of the rising fall on one of its windows, providing a spectacular view.