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One of the world’s greatest archaeological wonders, Machu Picchu, is a 500-year-old mystery full of history, culture, and religion. Machu Picchu forms part of Peru’s identity and is the country’s primary domestic and international tourist destination. Its natural breathtaking view and historic background makes Machu Picchu the most significant legacy of the Inca civilization.
Machu Picchu was found by an American explorer and Yale University professor of Latin American History, Hiram Bingham (Source 1). Of course, he was not the first white man to examine this Inca civilization as there were a few people before him, but this archaeological complex was not known by the outside world until its discovery in 1911. Bingham had spent weeks in the forest of the Andes Mountains searching for the forgotten ruins of last capital of the Inca, Vilcabamba, but instead he had found what is dubbed as Machu Picchu. Built in the 1400s, Machu Picchu was abandoned when the Inca Empire was conquered by Spaniards in the 1500s; however, many questions still remain. Who had built Machu Picchu? Why had they built it? Despite its mysteries, thousands of visitors each year come to the “city in the clouds”.
Situated among the Andes Mountains and the Amazon Basin, Machu Picchu’s geography is one of the many reasons tourists come to look, reflect, and wonder. Above the rushing water of the Urubamba River, in the middle of a tropical mountain forest, Machu Picchu is probably the most incredible creation of the Inca Empire. This world wonder covers 79 acres of mountain slopes, peaks, and valleys that surround the monument of “La Ciudadela” (the Citadel) at more than 7800 feet above sea level (Source 2). Machu Picchu also has a rich diversity of flora and fauna. It provides a habitat for several endangered species including the spectacled bear, the otter, the long-tailed weasel, the Andean condor, and much more. The city’s lasting beauty comes from the blending of its architecture and its mountaintop environment.
Machu Picchu has approximately 200 structures that are religious, ceremonial, astronomical, and agricultural. According to Source 1, The Stones of Machu Picchu, Bingham recorded, “Suddenly I found myself confronted with the walls of ruined houses built of the finest quality of Inca stonework.” He had stared in amazement at the “walls of white granite ashlars (stone building blocks)” that had been “carefully cut” and “exquisitely fitted together”. Several individual quarters have been noted in the ruins of Machu Picchu. This includes an agricultural or “farmer” quarter, an “industrial” quarter, a “royal” quarter, and a “religious” quarter. The giant walls, terraces and ramps of Machu Picchu seems as if they have been cut naturally. The stonework of this site remains as one of the world’s most impressive examples of the use of a natural raw material and man-land relationship to provide outstanding architecture.
Tourism is greatly beneficial to the growing economy of Peru. The Historic Sanctuary of Machu Picchu is part of Peru’s national protected areas system and is protected for both cultural and natural heritage. The boundaries of the historic sanctuary are defined, and the area is surrounded by a buffer zone that exceeds the size of the property. Visiting Machu Picchu helps this ancient Inca civilization to be preserved.
From its fascinating history to its breath-taking landscape, Machu Picchu is an attraction to be admired. To this day, the mysteries of Machu Picchu remain unsolved. Even so, Machu Picchu remains a popular tourist destination.
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