7 Machu Picchu Facts: Things You Might Not Know About This Wonder

Before visiting Machu Picchu, there are some things that everyone should know to fully understand this magical place.

Machu Picchu was declared a Peruvian Historical Sanctuary in 1981, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983. In 2007, it officially made it big: Machu Picchu was voted one of the New Seven Wonders of the World in a worldwide online poll. Only 30 years after UNESCO designated Machu Picchu as a World Heritage Site, it receives over 1 million visitors annually.



  • This 15th century civilization of Machu Picchu was a sacred site to the Incas that is believed to have been built around the height of the empire in 1450, but was abandoned a century later at the time of the Spanish Conquest. Architectural touches were added over the span of 50 years, so we don’t known exactly when it was built or for how long construction continued.



  • Machu Picchu was only brought to the attention of the international community in 1911 by American Hiram Bingham, a professor and historian at Yale University.  Bingham thought he had discovered the famed “Lost City of the Incas”, but further discoveries have shown the real lost city is about 50 miles west, deeper in the jungle.

  • What’s most interesting about Machu Picchu though, is that despite an international awareness of its impressive architecture, connection to the land, and cultural significance, nobody knows for certain what its actual purpose was. We don’t know exactly how long it took to build, we don’t know why it was built, and we don’t even know with certainty who was the first outsider to discover Machu Picchu.

  • The site covers a remarkable span of 5 miles, hosts more than 3,000 stone steps between the various terraces and levels, contains almost 200 unique structures in classic Inca architectural style, and connects nature, astrology, religion and architecture in a way that no other site we’ve seen has.


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  • There is a big historical argument for who discovered Machu Picchu for the first time. Hiram Bingham is known around the world as the guy who brought this Inca citadel to the world, but many people claim that it was Agustin Lizarraga who first discovered this important site, and you’ll notice that Bingham intentionally omitted all references to Lizárraga when he was asked.


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  • Although it feels pretty high in elevation, Machu Picchu is actually lower than Cusco city. Machu Picchu is located at 2300 masl, and the city is at 3400 masl.

  • Most simply put: In order to be a UNESCO World Heritage Site, locations must demonstrate outstanding international value, and meet at one of ten criteria. Machu Picchu meets four. If those facts can’t convince you of what a marvel Machu Picchu is and why it’s so famous, we think you’ll need to go see for yourself!


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