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Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu is the most visited tourist attraction in Peru. It is
70 kms northwest of Cusco.
Machu Picchu was constructed around 1450, at the height of the
Inca empire, and was abandoned less than 100 years later, as the
empire collapsed under Spanish conquest.
The presence of numerous temples and ritual structures indicate
that Machu Picchu held spiritual significance for the Inca.
Over the centuries, the surrounding jungle grew
to enshroud the site, and few knew of its existence.
It wasn’t until 1911 that american historian and explorer Hiram
Bingham brought the “lost” city to the world’s attention.
Machu Picchu stands in the middle of a tropical mountain forest,
in an extraordinarily beautiful setting.
It was an amazing urban creation of Inca Empire at its height;
its giant walls, terraces and ramps seem as if
they have been cut naturally in the continuous rock
escarpments. The natural setting, on the eastern slopes of
the Andes, encompasses the upper Amazon basin
with its rich diversity of flora and fauna.
The space is composed of
140 constructions
including temples,
sanctuaries, parks and
residences, houses with
thatched roofs.
Machu Picchu is a UNESCO
World Heritage site.
It is Peru’s most visited
tourist attraction (400,000 in
2003) and major revenue
generator. A no-fly zone
exists in the area.
From the top, at the cliff of
Machu Picchu, is a vertical
precipice of 600 meters
ending at the foot of the
Urubamba River.
Machu Picchu is located
about 2,350 meters above sea level.
All visits to Machu Picchu at some point
leave from Cusco, which can be reached via
a domestic flight from Lima, or international
flight from La Paz, in Bolivia.

Many tourists take morning train from Cusco (3.5 hours journey) explore
the ruins for a few hours and return to Cusco in the afternoon. From Puente
Ruinas station buses take tourists up the mountain to Machu Picchu.
Thousands of tourists hike the Inca Trail – each year,
a two to four day journey on foot
from the Urubamba valley up through the Andes mountain range.
They require travelers to be reasonably fit. The trip involves sleeping in tents.
Bingham and others
hypothesized that the citadel
was the traditional
birthplace of the Inca people
or the spiritual center of the
“virgins of the sun,” while
curators of a recent exhibit
have speculated that Machu
Picchu was a royal retreat.
All of the construction in Machu Picchu
uses the classic Inca architectural style
of polished dry-stone walls of regular
shape. The Incas were masters of this
technique, called ashlar, in which
blocks of stone are cut to fit together
tightly without mortar.
How they moved and placed enormous
blocks of stones is a mystery, although the
general belief is that they used hundreds of
men to push the stones up inclined planes.
There are more than
one hundred flights of stone steps
– often completely carved
in a single block of granite.
It is unknown if the Incas left
behind any documentation
about building process because
the writing they employed,
called khipus, has not been
translated.
Llamas roam
freely over the
entire site.
Llamas keep
the grass tidy
and are
capable of
reaching many
spots
inaccessible by
lawnmowers
or sheep.
In 1913, the site received
significant publicity after
the National Geographic Society
devoted their entire April issue
to Machu Picchu.
The only hotel is the Machu Picchu Sanctuary Lodge.
You pay US$715 (double), a hefty premium
because of the location, location, and location.
Guests of this hotel can enjoy
the magnificent isolation of the sanctuary.

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