Machu Picchu, the famous Peruvian "Lost City of the Incas" was possibly first 'rediscovered' in 1911 by Hiriam Bingham, a young assistant professor in Latin-American history at Yale University.
Local Indians had known about it all along. Bingham was searching for the lost city of Vilcabamba when he stumbled across Machu Picchu (Vilcabamba was later found deeper in the jungle).
For more than 300 years tales had been told about Machu Picchu, but explorers had searched in vain and the city was believed by most to be just a myth.
Bingham discovered a city beyond his imagination. High in the Andes Mountains, Machu Picchu is built of white granite buildings and 100 perfectly built farming terraces.
Each terrace is ten feet high and hundreds of feet long and hewn out of solid rock. The soil for these terraces and the granite blocks for the buildings were carried from
valleys far below without the aid of wheels. Machu Picchu was built to accommodate 2,000 people and was impregnable to attack from below.
The reason for its construction is unknown today, although there are theories. Some believe that Machu Picchu was built in the early 1400's as a defensive structure
in the recently acquired Inca territory.
Little is known about Machu Picchu's last inhabitants. Bingham discovered 174 skeletons in burial caves and 150 of these
were female. He believed that the women were Inca "chosen women." Chosen women were the most beautiful virgins in the empire and were trained to serve the nobility and
assist in religious rites. Some became concubines and others were brides of the sun, some of which were offered as sacrifical victims.
Bingham believed that some of the chosen women were taken to Machu Picchu for safety. There they could perform their religious rites and pray for the Spanish invaders
to be driven from their land. As the years passed, and the Incas became a defeated people, the chosen women and their guards grew old and died.
Bingham's theory has less support today. Many believe that Machu Picchu was already deserted and forgotten at the time of the Spanish conquest and that
many of the men of Machu Picchu may have been buried at a different location.
There are several trails at Machu Picchu to explore. One leads to Huayna Picchu,
a mountain that overlooks the city. It has its own ruins and a fabulous view. Part of the trail passes through a section of Inca tunnel. The trail takes about one
hour to climb. Other trails lead to the temple of the moon, the top of Machu Picchu's peak and the Inca drawbridge.
The Mueso de Sitio and the ruins, which
consist of staircases, temples, palaces, towers, terraces, fountains, and the famous sundial, require at least one day to explore and two days to fully experience.
Visit Machu Picchu on one of our Wildland Adventures to Peru.