At 2,430 metres AMSL, Machu Piccu is Peru’s most visited historical site in the Andes, and is the iconic site most associated with the Incan civilisation. Discovered in 1911 by Hiram Bingham, MP was unknown to the world save for a few local farmers still using the land.
Now, people flock to the site by the thousand to wander in awe at the huge stones carved to perfection, to see just how many things are shaped like llamas (loads) and to take in the absolute wonder that is Machu Picchu. But unless you have a guide, it’s easy to get swallowed by the magnitude of the place. Before heading off on your adventure, stock up on some Inca knowledge. Here are five things about the Lost City of the Inca’s you probably didn’t know.
Machu Picchu is earthquake proof
Yup, the clever little Inca’s knew all about brick-rattling earthquakes and developed a method to keep their beautiful mountain towns standing tall. The huge slabs of rocks they used as bricks, were fitted perfectly together without even a lick of cement. These rocks were put together like lego, meaning that when the earth erupted with vibration, the stones merely shuffled a dance and kept everything in place, rather than cracking and destroying. Clever, eh?
There’s an Inca Trail marathon
Sounds like hell, as if hiking the thing isn’t hard enough? However, it does exist and you can enter the 26.2 mile Inca Trail Marathon to Machu Picchu. The record for this marathon, which reaches over 4000 metres above sea level, comes in at under 4 hours. Nope.
Machu Picchu covers 32,592 hectares of mountain slope, valley and peaks
And in that space, between 1,000 and 1,200 people lived there at any one time. The site was also split into three sections; agricultural, urban and sacred.
The Royal Plaza has been used as a helipad
And unfortunately ruined in the process. In preparation for the king and queen of Spain to arrive in 1978, the stone located in the middle of the main plaza at MP was removed to allow a helicopter to land. It was soon replaced, but in 1989, the rock was removed again to allow helicopters to land during a meeting of Latin American leaders. Whilst the rock was being removed a second time, irreparable damage was caused to the stone and the decision was made to bury it.
Fresh fish could be brought from the sea to Machu Picchu in 24 hours
Young male runners, known as Chaski in the local language, would run messages and goods between Inca settlements. They would use the 24,800 miles (40,000 km) of Inca Trail to run short bursts of 2-3km at top speed before relaying with the next Chaski on route. This system meant that a message to Quito from Cusco, 1,500 miles, would take just six days, and fresh fish from the Peruvian coastal region of Chala could be delivered to Machu Picchu in just 24 hours. Time for a Royal Mail reform, don’t you think?
– All photos by Aaron Hardin, who kept spirits consistently high on the Inca Trail.
– Written in association with Valencia Travel Cusco.