This is one of those places you want to see before you die, a place that you will remember for all of your days. It is called Machu Picchu, and is the remains of an ancient Incan city high up in the Andes Mountains of Peru. It is 43 miles northwest of Cuzco, way up at the top of a ridge surrounded by dense jungle.
Not much is known about the origins, or the history of the civilization that lived there. Most archaeological experts believe that it was most likely a religious retreat and royal estate created by the Incas. It was built around 1460 by the Incan rulers but abandoned 100 years later when the Spanish invaded.
This ancient city lies at an altitude of 8,000 feet, much higher than the Urumbamba Rive Cloud forest. It was probably abandoned because it was so hard to get to. As mentioned before it was founded by the Incan emperor Pachacuti, and after his death it passed to his family who were responsible for its maintenance.
Most of the buildings located in this ancient city were residences, with a few temples and public buildings. When it was founded there were about 1200 people that lived here. Most of the buildings are made of granite blocks that were cut with bronze tools and then smoothed out with sand.
What makes these structures interesting, is the question: How did the Incas get these stones moved to such an altitude? And how did they manage to fit the stones so perfectly together that they required no mortar? The joints are so tight that a knife cannot even fit through the stones.
Another unique feature of this city is that the structures were built into the landscape and the sculptures are carved into the mountain. The Incas supplied water to their ancient city thorugh cisterns and channels.
The temples sit on the precipice of the mountains. The houses were unique in that some of them were even two stories tall, and the second story was reached with a ladder made of rope, since there are few trees at this altitude. The houses are formed in groups with a communal courtyard for the group.
The roofs were made of thatch and had trapezoid shaped doors and windows which were very uncommon.
Even today, when you visit Machu Picchu, you are left with awe, that such a people could create such a wonderful city so high in the mountains. The silence and the strength of the structures are astounding.