The Inca Empire lasted from 1438 to 1533 and at its peak occupied an area from northern Chile to southern Colombia.
In 1911, American archaeologist Hiram Bingham found Machu Picchu and introduced it to the world and, since then, this has become one of the most iconic places on the planet.
Located 110 km from Cuzco, the capital of Peru, Machu Picchu served as a mixture of astronomy center, place of worship and country house of Emperor Pachacutec, the ninth Inca emperor, who ordered its construction in the 15th century.
It was hidden in a steep mountain, surrounded by higher peaks, in the transition zone between the Andes and the Amazon.
It is an area of many clouds, occupying the entire top of the mountain of the same name, 2,350 meters high, and because of this, Machu Picchu remained isolated from the Spanish conquerors.
Experts believe that the hill was sacred, due to the peculiar geography of the setting, surrounded by the Vilcanota River.
One theory says that the mountain was part of a sacred route to Lake Titicaca, the cradle of the Inca civilization, according to mythology.
Behind Machu Picchu is the Huayna Picchu mountain, 2,720 meters high, where the Incas built a trail to the top, as well as terraces and temples.
The Incas fitted together huge blocks of stone without mortar, using tools to polish the edges and assemble puzzles.
This architecture is earthquake-proof: if the earth shakes, the blocks shake and then return to their original place.
How the Incas transported rocks from the mountains is still a mystery.
In the Sacred Square, there are the Temple of the Three Windows, the Main Temple and the House of the High Priest. Connected to Intihuatana by a staircase, it was the privileged center for celestial observation.
The Intihuatana served to indicate the solstices and equinoxes, based on shadow markings made by the Sun.
When it reached its maximum point, it was the winter solstice (June) and from then on, the days became longer, which served to organize agricultural cycles.
The Temple of the Sun was an astronomical observatory. On the winter solstice, the Sun rises exactly through a gap in the mountains, illuminating the temple window. On the summer solstice (December), it rises at the Puerta del Sol, where you reach Machu Picchu when doing the famous Inca Trail.
The water supply was guaranteed by a 750-meter canal connected to a spring that fed 16 interconnected sources.
The urban area had houses, temples, mausoleums and squares, while the agricultural area had terraces and enclosures for storing food. The terraces were used both for cultivation and for draining rainwater.
With a total of 106,000 m² of built area, divided into 250 levels (40 of which in the urban area), the complex housed 172 buildings and 1,200 inhabitants.
The rooms where Emperor Pachacutec stayed when he came to the city are located in the Royal Sector of Machu Picchu, while the Common Quarter was the area where the workers lived.
Before being presented to the world, the citadel was not a total mystery, at least not to Peruvians.
Archaeologist Hiram Bingham arrived at Machu Picchu thanks to the help of locals who knew it as Picchu, and at the time three families lived there.
Bingham was delighted with the discovery, but he was in search of another city, Vilcabamba, located 47 km to the west, which was the emperor’s last refuge.
With Bingham’s confusion, Machu Picchu ended up wrongly inheriting the title of Last Inca City.