Of course you know Machu Picchu in Peru one of the world’s most famous man-made wonders.
You also probably know it was a sacred religious site for Inca leaders of Peru, and that it lays hidden to the outside world for hundreds of years until American archaeologist Hiram Bingham stumbled upon it in 1911.
Even though thousands of travellers tramp through Machu Picchu every year – we’re talking pre-corona pandemic – , this mysterious site nearby Cusco still holds a few secrets you probably didn’t know about. 10 things you Didn’t Know about Machu Picchu
10 things you Didn’t Know about Machu Picchu
Below is a list of some cool facts about Machu Picchu you never knew you needed to know when preparing a trip to Peru. Or even when NOT preparing a trip to Peru, just because they’re fun to know!
- The first Westerner credited with unveiling Machu Picchu to the outside world, Hiram Bingham, was said to be looking for Vilcabamba, the elusive ‘Lost City of the Incas’ he’d been searching for years, when he was first led up the slopes to the then-overgrown ruins.
- Machu Picchu was never really lost at all! When Bingham arrived, there were several local farming families who were living among the centuries-old ruins. Once its inhabitants abandoned the site it was simply never inhabited en masse again. Today, Bingham is correctly credited with introducing Machu Picchu to the world, rather than discovering a long-forgotten treasure.
- Many of the porters on the Inca trail sleep with a shiny metal object or mirror beneath them. They believe it deflects spirits coming up through the earth and attacking them. Porters and guides have reported the feeling of being pulled out of their tents by spirits of the past.
- Machu Picchu has some unusual entry rules. Did you know you can’t enter dressed in the traditional costume of another country? Don’t expect to be let in if you show up in a Japanese kimono, German lederhosen or Scottish kilt. Also, you must keep your clothes on. The park warns against ‘nudists and obscene acts contrary to morality and decency’ following problems with tourists streaking and posing nude for pictures.
- Machu Picchu is a Quechua word meaning ‘old peak’.
- Incredibly, the stones which were used to construct Machu Picchu were all carted to the site by hand (the Incas never discovered the wheel). Not only that, the quality of Inca stonemasonry is legendary. The Incas cut each stone block by hand and wedged them together so closely that the blade of a knife cannot be inserted between two stones.
- There’s a lot you can’t see at Machu Picchu. The Incas conducted about 60 per cent of their construction work on the city underground, where a labyrinth of foundations, walls and drainage lies.
- There’s a hidden museum! The Museo de Sitio Manuel Chávez Ballón is a great museum providing a wealth of information, but it’s a bit tricky to find. It lies at the end of a dirt road near the base of Machu Picchu, and it’s worth visiting before exploring the ruins as it provides great context and facts.
- There’s a secret temple you can explore but it isn’t for the faint-hearted. To reach the Temple of the Moon you need climb to the left side of the Huayna Picchu Mountain, up a ladder, for an hour. Only one person can climb at a time. The entrance is protected by an overhanging cave.
- For most people, the Inca trail to Machu Picchu is a gruelling physical challenge usually completed over four or five days. However there is a super fit (or perhaps crazy?) group of athletes who tackle the trail as part of the annual 26.2 mile Inca Trail marathon. The current record is an astonishing three hours and 26 minutes.
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Do you want to read this article in Dutch?
10 dingen bijzondere weetjes over Machu Picchu