Machu Picchu (also sometimes spelled “Machu Pikchu”) is a stunningly beautiful Inca site, located in the Machupicchu District in Peru. In the native language, Machu Picchu simply means “Old Peak”. This historic sanctuary is home to a set of mysterious ruins which have laid in place for thousands of years. The “Lost City of the Incas” is one of the most tangible remaining relics of the Inca Empire. Machu Picchu has been a tourist destination since its discovery, as people from all around the world yearn to explore the ruins of a long-gone civilization. The experience of wandering through these impressive ruins has often been described as simultaneously mystifying and magical.

The Location
Machu Piccu is specifically located in the Cusco Region of the Urubamba Province. The ruins sit roughly 7,000 ft. above sea level, gently nestled against the side of a hill next to the towering Andean Mountain Range (a.k.a. The Andes).

The ruins themselves have been heralded as one of the world’s best archeological sites known to man. The three main structures have been labeled the “Inti Wantana”, the “Temple of the Sun”, and the “Room of the Three Windows”.

It was designated as a World Heritage Site in 1983 by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

The History
While archeologists are still putting together the history of the great Inca city, there are a few historical facts that are largely agreed upon. Machu Picchu was built around 1450, nearly 600 years ago. It was one of the few Inca sites that weren’t ravaged by the Spanish during the Spanish Conquest.

Hiram Bingham was the first verified Westerner to ever witness Machu Picchu, as he was led by a local guide to the attractions in Cusco. The locals had kept the site to themselves, allowing for its continued preservation (even during wartime). Hiram didn’t fully announce the existence of the site until 1911, making Machu Picchu a relatively new discovery.

The Sights
Thanks to modernization, you no longer need a designated tour guide to lead you out to this fantastic site – train trips from nearby Cusco take only a few hours. If you’d like a special experience, however, you can hike the Inca Trail – a trail blazed by Hiram Bingham that took him roughly six days to travel. This trail can take you anywhere from 2-4 days to complete, depending on the speed at which you travel. It is considered to be one of the top five best hikes in the entire world.

Note that you are no longer allowed to hike the Inca Trail solo – you must go with a group or guide. This is due to regulations attempting to preserve the nature beauty of the area, and keep this historical site intact for many years to come.

The Facts
-Much of the ruins have been restored so that visitors have an idea of what the city would have looked like. Restoration continues to this day.

-The site had currently suffered from the influx of tourists visiting the area. Because of that, many tourists and visitors are urged to not try to touch or affect the area in any way, or resist taking the trip at all. It is on the 100 Most Endangered Sites list kept by the World Monuments Fund.

-There are many theories as to what Machu Picchu was used for. Some say it was the very last Incan city, some say it was a temple to the Sun God, other say it was a royal estate or retreat. Archeologists have yet to discover the true identity of Machu Picchu.