Located more than 7,000ft (2,134m) above sea-level in southern Peru, the ancient Incan citadel of Machu Picchu is Peru’s most visited tourist destination. A UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1983 and one of the New Seven Wonders of the World in 2007, Machu Picchu is well-recognised thanks to its ‘Instragramability’ and ‘bucket list’ appeal. In addition to this, thanks to Inkaterra’s ongoing partnership with The AJE Group (a Peruvian multinational beverage company) and the Municipality of Machu Picchu Pichu Pueblo, the citadel is also now known for being the first destination in Latin America to recycle 100% of its solid waste. This is the result of the implementation of an organic waste treatment plant, a plastic waste compactor and a biodiesel plant in the citadel.
Yet despite being one of the world’s most well-known destinations, there remain a number of lesser-known details about the citadel that few visitors know. Here are five of our favourite facts about Machu Picchu:
1 – For years, Machu Picchu was only known locally, until in 1911 the ancient citadel was rediscovered by Yale professor Hiram Bingham. Although the purpose of Machu Picchu remains unknown (with suggestions ranging from a royal estate to secret ceremonial centre), it would appear that the Incas hoped the site would remain a secret, for fear of it being seized by invaders
2 – When Hiram Bingham first encountered Machu Picchu in 1911, he discovered it by mistake. At the time, he was looking for the city of Vilcabamba, the hidden capital known as the Lost City of the Incas. Although he argued for his whole life that Machu Picchu and Vilcabamba were in fact one and the same, he was proved wrong after his death in 1956.
3 – Machu Picchu is comprised of over 150 buildings, ranging from baths and temples to sanctuaries and houses. The compound also contains over 100 different flights of stairs, most of which were carved individually from single slabs of stone. Amazingly, it is also commonly believed that despite the impressive size and weight of the rocks used in the citadel’s construction, no wheels were used to transport them up the mountain. Instead, it is thought that the rocks were moved up the steep hillside using nothing more than manpower.
4 – Known to be some of the best masons in the world, the Incas’ skills are clearly visible at Machu Picchu. The structures, which were constructed using a technique called ‘ashlar’, are cut so precisely that they do not require mortar to hold them together. One of the main benefits of this building style is an engineering advantage, as the lack of rigidity in the structures means they are free to move. As the area is prone to earthquakes, it is thanks to the ‘ashlar’ technique that the citadel is still standing to this day.
5 – Despite everything we already know about Machu Picchu, there are still more things to learn about the seventh wonder of the world. Only in 2014, a French explorer named Thierry Jamin found a door at the site that was previously undiscovered. Although there is speculation that the entrance leads to a burial chamber, the Peruvian government has forbidden its opening, so, for now, we can only speculate.
For those wanting to discover the citadel for themselves, then there is no better place to stay whilst doing so than Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel, or, for those travelling on a budget, El MaPi by Inkaterra provides an alternative option.
To discover more about all of our properties in Peru, please visit: www.inkaterra.com