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Portada / About Peru /  Machu Picchu Information / Citadel of Machu Picchu

Citadel of Machu Picchu

The citadel of Machu Picchu is one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World and the main tourist destination in Peru. Here we present everything you need to know about the Inca citadel.
Turista con Machu Picchu de fondo
Panoramic view of the citadel of Machu Picchu from the Guardian's House (La Casa del Guardián).

The citadel of Machu Picchu is one of the 7 Wonders of the World, built by the Inca Pachacutec, this incredible archaeological center is the main tourist attraction of Peru.

What is Machu Picchu?

The citadel of Machu Picchu is, arguably, the most important architectural construction of the Inca Empire, surrounded by a vast tropical forest, it was built during the reign of Inca Pachacutec.

The name Machu Picchu comes from Quechua, meaning “Old Mountain” (“Machu” meaning “Old” and Picchu “Mountain”).

Today, the archaeological site of Machu Picchu is the main tourist attraction of Peru, being a must-visit for anyone who comes to the country.

Where is it located?

The archaeological site of Machu Picchu is located in the Eastern Southern Andes of Peru at an altitude of 2,430 meters, on the left bank of the Vilcanota River over the Sacred Valley of the Incas.

The district of Machu Picchu, province of Urubamba, is located 112.5 km northeast of the city of Cusco.

History of Machu Picchu

The citadel of Machu Picchu was built in the mid-15th century, during the reign of Inca Pachacutec (the main expander of the Inca Empire), which probably served as his residence and religious center. This important enclosure was abandoned with the arrival of Spanish colonization.

It was rediscovered by Hiram Bingham, historian and professor at Yale University, in 1911, on an expedition in the city of Cusco, accompanied by the peasant Melchor Arteaga he arrived at the archaeological site, astonished by the construction of roads, agricultural terraces, warehouses, among others, all covered by dense vegetation typical of the area that evidenced the passage of time.

The Inca citadel was presented to the world in 1913, becoming an important tourist attraction. Year after year, the popularity of Machu Picchu has grown, so much so that on December 9, 1983, it was declared by UNESCO as a World Cultural Heritage site, and on July 7, 2007, it became one of the 7 New Wonders of the World.

Flora and Fauna of Machu Picchu

The Historic Sanctuary of Machu Picchu is not only of great cultural importance but also boasts a rich biodiversity, being located between the cloud forest and the Andes Mountains.

Flora

Within the Historic Sanctuary of Machu Picchu, there is a wide variety of flora, with over 400 different species of plants identified, among which Orchids (Orchidaceae), Bromeliads (Bromeliaceae), Ferns (Pteridophyta), and Angel's Trumpets (Brugmansia arborea), among others, stand out.

It also features native trees such as the Q’euña (Polylepis australis), Pisonay (Erythrina edulis), Cedar (Cedrus), and others.

Fauna

The fauna inhabiting Machu Picchu is also very diverse, ranging from mammals such as the Spectacled Bear (Tremarctos ornatus), the Dwarf Deer (Pudu mephistophiles), and the Andean Fox (Lycalopex culpaeus andinus), among others.

In the Sanctuary, you can also find a variety of birds, among which the Andean Cock-of-the-rock (Rupicola peruvianus), the national bird of Peru since 1941, stands out. 

The Historic Sanctuary is considered one of the best places for birdwatching due to its immense biodiversity, among the birds that inhabit this place are the Andean Condor (Vultur gryphus), the Green Jay (Cyanocorax yncas), the Cinnamon Flycatcher (Pyrrhomyias cinnamomeus), and more.

Which city is closest to Machu Picchu?

The closest city to the Citadel of Machu Picchu is Ollantaytambo, belonging to the province of Urubamba located in the Sacred Valley of the Incas. Ollantaytambo is a mandatory stop for anyone wishing to visit the Archaeological Site of Machu Picchu.

Besides Ollantaytambo, there is the town of Aguas Calientes or Machu Picchu Pueblo, which is just a 25-minute bus ride from the Inca citadel. It is located at the base of Machu Picchu on the banks of the Urubamba River, with a population not exceeding 5000 inhabitants.

What is the climate like in Machu Picchu?

The climate in the Citadel of Machu Picchu and Aguas Calientes is warm because they are located in the cloud forest area of Peruvian territory. It has a tropical climate, making it warm and humid during the day and with a cool atmosphere at night.

Machu Picchu, Cusco and Valle Sagrado 5 days Machu Picchu, Cusco and Valle Sagrado 5 days

Facts about Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu is earthquake-resistant

The citadel of Machu Picchu was built between two geological faults, thus it is prone to several seismic movements. However, the architecture with which it was designed does not allow even a slight movement between the stones.

Machu Picchu is earthquake-resistant, and its more than 500 years standing is proof of the resilience of the site.

Hydraulic engineering in Machu Picchu

Without a doubt, Machu Picchu is a masterpiece of hydraulic engineering. The Incas had to devise ways to transport, store, distribute, and drain water from the citadel.

A channel of 749 m in length was constructed with a 3% incline; it had 16 fountains for distributing water in every sector of the site, and the slope allowed water to flow continuously throughout the year.

Iconic structures of Machu Picchu

Temple of the Sun

The Temple of the Sun (Templo del Sol) is the most important sector within the archaeological site, as it pays tribute to the most important deity of the Inca culture. The place was built in a circular shape, with windows and niches, all decorated with gold and silver.

This important place also served as an astronomical observatory to determine the change of seasons and the arrival of each solstice, thanks to the strategic position of its windows.

Temple of the Three Windows

The Temple of the Three Windows (Templo de las Tres Ventanas) is probably one of the best-crafted places in the entire citadel. This construction consists of a wall 10 meters long by 8 meters wide with 3 trapezoidal windows that provide a panoramic view of the Huayna Picchu and Putucusi mountains. It was an important place where religious ceremonies and worship were held.

Intihuatana

The Intihuatana, which in Quechua means “where the Sun is tied”, served as a tool for astronomical observation and as a calendar, in addition to having ceremonial functions in certain religious activities within the city.