Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Machu Picchu

If you’re anything like me, you never learned about Machu Picchu or the Incas growing up. And if I had never been sent to do an internship in Huancayo, Peru, there’s a chance I never would’ve learned about the rich history of South America. The more we learn, the more we grow and the more compassionate we can be as we come to understand how we’re all so much more the same than we are different. With that in mind, here’s Machu Picchu 101 for you to give you insight on the significance of this archeological site.

  1. Where is Machu Picchu located?

    The Machu Picchu archeological site, one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, is found in South America, specifically in southern Peru. It's hidden away in the Andes mountains, which explains why it was relatively intact when it was “found” by the American historian and explorer, Hiram Bingham. I use “found” in quotation marks because the locals already knew the Inca ruins were there and even took Hiram Bingham to them.

  2. What is Machu Picchu?

    Machu Picchu refers to a citadel built in the 1400s during the time of the Incas. It's not 100% clear what the area was used for because the Incas had no written language, but archeologists believe there was a residential area for common folk, a sector for the nobility, and a religious space for rites and sacrifices. Among all the archeological treasures of the estate, what was most memorable to me was the Intihuatana, a ritual stone that may have been used as a sundial as it functions as an astronomic calendar.

  3. Who built Machu Picchu?

    Machu Picchu was believed to have been constructed by the Inca Emperor, Pachacútec. Archeologists also believe that construction continued under the next Inca Emperor, Túpac Inca Yupanqui.

  4. When was Machu Picchu built?

    Since there are no written records of Machu Picchu, we don't know the exact date Machu Picchu was built, but recent radiocarbon dating research suggests that the area was occupied from 1420-1532 AD.

  5. How do I get to Machu Picchu?

    At the time of posting this, all international flights must arrive in Lima, Peru. From there, you would take a domestic flight to Cusco, Peru. On typical Machu Picchu tours, You would then take a train from Cusco to the town at the base of the Machu Picchu archeological site, and finally a bus up to the top of the mountain. See How to Travel to Machu Picchu for more details.

  6. How high is Machu Picchu?

    The Machu Picchu archeological site and UNESCO World Heritage Site is at an altitude or elevation of 2,430 meters or 7,972 feet.

  7. How old is Machu Picchu?

    Based on the radiocarbon dating research described above, Machu Picchu is celebrating its 602nd birthday sometime this year.

  8. When was Machu Picchu discovered?

    Machu Picchu was made known to the world by Hiram Bingham when a local Peruvian took him to the archeological site in 1911. Although the Inca ruins were familiar to the people living in the immediate area and may have been explored by other foreign visitors before Bingham, it really wasn't until Bingham's expeditions that Machu Picchu was brought to the limelight.

  9. What does Machu Picchu mean?

    The term “Machu Picchu” is often translated to mean “old mountain.” More specifically, “machu” means “old” or “elderly” in Quechua, the main language of the Inca Empire still spoken today in much of the Andes. “Picchu” comes from “pikchu” in Quechua, which can be translated as “pyramid” (the general shape of a mountain).

  10. Is Machu Picchu the correct name for the archeological site?

    Actually, it may not be! A 2021 study determined that the area was likely called “Picchu” or “Huayna Picchu” after the closest mountain to the site, not “Machu Picchu” (the highest mountain in the area).

Did I miss any of your Machu Picchu questions? Ready to visit Machu Picchu? Let me know!


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