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Any time a tourist plans to leave their home for Peru, you can be sure there's one destination at the top of their must see list. That destination is Machu Picchu, also known as the Lost City of the Incas. Machu Picchu is a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the new Seven Wonders of the World, and therefore the most popular tourist destination in Peru. If you're planning on visiting Machu Picchu while you're in Peru, this article can help you learn what to expect so you can plan your visit to this ancient city.
Many people assume that since Machu Picchu is so popular it must be quite close to a major city, but it was named the "lost" city for a reason: it is so remote that for many years the European invaders had no idea it existed until 1911. With no cities expanding Spanish conquerors to sack it, Machu Picchu has remained better preserved than many accommodations you've probably seen. The ruins are located in the Andes Mountains about 80 kilometers from the city of Cusco. Visiting requires taking a day trip by tour bus or car.
Machu Picchu was built by the ancient Inca culture in around 1400 AD. Most archaeologists theorize the purpose of the city was to serve as an estate - a combination of palace and farm - for the Incan ruler Pachacuti, but rulers stopped using it when the Spanish Invaded and left many house plans unfinished. Locals continued to live there, but they too abandoned it and it fell into ruin. Today, much of Machu Picchu has been restored to what archaeologists believe was its original state.
As for what Machu Picchu looks like it is tucked up underneath a mountain peak on a plateau that has been carved out of the rock in terraces to accommodate homes and fields for farming. The Urubamba River valley runs below it and it is often covered with mysterious mists in the morning. Unlike a stone structure, the buildings and retaining walls of Machu Piccu were cut from stone so precisely that no mortar was needed to fit the stones together. They were even designed to resist earthquakes.
When you visit Machu Picchu, it is important that you respect the site and help it to remain intact for other visitors to enjoy. Do not take any items, even rocks, from the site, and do not attempt to climb the structures. If you want a memento of your visit, take a photo. There is a continuing controversy over development in the area, so if you are concerned do not use the cable car, tram, or stay at the resort hotel.