The history of Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu celebrated the centenary of its re-discovery in 2011 (although there were plenty of local people aware of the ruins' existence at that time, and happy to guide Hiram Bingham to them). During its first hundred years, the site not only became an iconic travel destination but also had its fair share of controversy and celebrity... let's hope the next hundred keep it rock solid in terms of sustainability and responsibility:
15th century: The 'Lost City of the Incas' was built high up in the mountains above Cusco, at the height of the Inca Empire and housed as many as 1,000 people.

16th century: Abandoned by the Incan rulers at the time of the Spanish Conquest.

24 July 1911: Yale professor Hiram Bingham III re-discovered the overgrown ruins of this ancient Incan city, having been led there by a local Quechua boy. "Suddenly we found ourselves in the midst of a jungle-covered maze of small and large walls, the ruins of buildings made of blocks of white granite, most carefully cut and beautifully fitted together without cement." He started archaeological studies of the area, and removed ceramic vessels, silver statues, jewellery, and human bones, taking them back to Yale University. (After negotiations Yale have finally agreed to return them.)

1913: The site had an entire issue of the National Geographic Society devoted to it.

1954: The film 'Secret of the Incas' was made by a major Hollywood studio on location, employing 500 indigenous people as extras. (It also featured in The Motorcycle Diaries, filmed in 2004, and the sundial was chipped during the filming of a beer commercial at the site.)

1970s: 30 percent of Machu Picchu's dry-stone walls had been restored.

1980s: Declared a Peruvian Historical Sanctuary and then a UNESCO World Heritage Site

Our top Machu Picchu Vacation

Peruvian Andes trekking vacation to Machu Picchu

Peruvian Andes trekking vacation to Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu with an Expedition Leader and Doctor.

From US $3616 14 days ex flights
Small group travel:
2023: 16 Jul, 13 Aug, 3 Sep, 15 Oct
Travel Team
If you'd like to chat about Machu Picchu or need help finding a vacation to suit you we're very happy to help.
2003: Machu Picchu was receiving 400,000 visitors a year.

2007: Declared one of the 'new' Seven Wonders of the World

2008: The World Monuments Fund placed Machu Picchu on its Watch List of the 100 Most Endangered Sites in the world because of environmental degradation. The Peruvian government and UNESCO agree to limit visitor numbers to 2,500 per day

.2010: Mudslides trapped thousands of tourists and locals, after heavy rainfall washed away railway and roads.

If you want to trek the Inca Trail to this amazing site be sure to book early as there are only a very limited number of trekking permits available.
Written by Justin Francis
Photo credits: [Page banner: Bill Damon] [Intro: Ian Gampon] [Machu Picchu: Willian Justen de Vasconcellos]