Set on a steep bridge, there are approximately 200 structures that make up this incredible center for ancient Inca's religious, ceremonial, and agricultural history. Located on the highest part of the eastern Andes, above the Rio Urubamba and northwest of Cusco, Machu Picchu is in the middle of a tropical mountain forest at 2,430 meters above sea-level.
Machu Picchu was inscribed on the World Heritage List by UNESCO in 1983 and described as "an absolute masterpiece of architecture and a unique testimony to the Inca civilization." Prior to that, it was declared a Peruvian Historic Sanctuary in 1981. And in 2007, it was voted one of the New Seven Wonders of the World in a worldwide Internet poll.
The three primary structures of Machu Picchu are the Intihuatana, the Temple of the Sun, and the Room of the Three Windows. And it's believed by most archaeologists that Machu Picchu was constructed as a royal residence for Pachacuti, the Inca emperor. Machu Picchu was built at the height of the Inca at around 1450 but was abandoned 100 years later because of the Spanish Conquest.
Over the centuries, it eventually fell into ruin and covered by the jungle. It was lost to the world until it was rediscovered in 1911.
Today, the Machu Picchu Historic Sanctuary (SMH) is Peru's most visited natural protected area. It was declared a Natural and Cultural Heritage to Humanity as it protects archaeological complexes and ecosystems with an impressive diversity of wild flora and fauna, some of which are endangered.
The SHM is located in Machu Picchu district, Urubamba province, Cusco department and stretches over an area of 80,537 acres. Within it, you will find remarkable Inca archaeological complexes, sites, and monuments of immense historical and cultural value.
The Qhapaq Ñan network which is best known as the Inca Trail connects the various archaeological sites. There are six routes currently available for hiking the Inca Trail, and it is one of the most popular and sought-after trekking experiences in South America.
The park is accessible by road or by rail from the lower valley where you can then take a bus or car to the ruins. However, every year, thousands of tourists walk the Inca Trail to visit Machu Picchu. They assemble at Cusco before starting on the one-, two-, four- or five-day journey on foot and walk through the Andes to this extraordinary isolated city that is full rich in history and mystery.