Machu Picchu, Aguas Calientes, Peru
GPS: -13.161854419745, -72.543680246461
Built in the 15th century by the Inca Emperor Pachacuti, the lost city of Machu Picchu was abandoned a century later by its inhabitants. This event coincided with the fall of the Inca Empire and then the Neo-Inca state of Vilcabamba in 1572 after the arrival of the Spanish Conquistadores in South America. When he came to power in 1438, Pachacuti transformed an Inca Empire of modest size into a prosperous and structured state around its capital Cuzco. He carried out several brilliant military actions, established his supremacy over several hundred tribes and ended up controlling a vast territory between the Andes and the Amazon. It covers several reunified kingdoms including six countries (part of Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Bolivia, Chile and Argentina). Left dormant in modern times, the royal domain of Machu Picchu was not rediscovered until 1911 by the American explorer, Hiram Bingham, who studied and mapped it for the first time.
The location on top of a rocky ridge, perched in the clouds of the Peruvian Andes at over 2,400m above sea level, makes Machu Picchu an exceptional site and a place of spirituality. Meaning “old mountain” in the Quechua language, this Inca citadel is a marvel of architectural engineering. Hanging in the mist and surrounded by steep cliffs, it is divided into terrace cultivation areas, residential buildings and places of worship. The city had multiple vocations but their exact nature remains an enigma. They could be religious, ceremonial and astrological, as well as having an administrative function or being a place of trade within the empire. Some specialists believe that the site of Machu Picchu could also have served as a dwelling place for the Virgins of the Sun (vestals dedicated to the solar cult), as a secondary residence and resting place for the emperor, or as a retreat for high-ranking Inca officials during an external attack.
Developed in the Sacred Valley (Urubamba Valley and River) alongside many other Inca sites, the Machu Picchu is surrounded by a defensive wall. It separates the urban sector of the city from agricultural terraces on several levels. Among its majestic ruins, the site has a total of 200 buildings and monuments built in dry stone (white granite). Most are devoted to Inti, the sun god for the Incas (the moon and the stars are among the other deities). These constructions are exceptionally well preserved in a region subject to torrential rain, earthquakes and landslides. The way in which the stones have been used in the Temple of the Sun makes it possible to calculate and predict with precision the summer and winter solstices. The Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, a former royal path, remains the most picturesque route to reach the city on foot from Cuzco. When using the trail you will cross extraordinary landscapes (mountain passes, valleys, rivers, tunnels, inca ruins…) before reaching the Urubamba Valley and glimpse the much desired citadel of Machu Picchu.