Machu Picchu's History: Who lived there and why was it abandoned?

Reading : 3 min March 27 2023

Machu Picchu is an Inca citadel located on a mountain ridge in the Cusco Region of Peru. Built in the 15th century, it is one of the most iconic archaeological sites in the world and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Inca Empire was one of the largest pre-Columbian civilizations in the Americas, stretching from Ecuador to Chile. Machu Picchu was built during the height of the Empire and served as a royal estate for the Inca Emperor Pachacuti.

The Incas were master builders, and Machu Picchu was constructed using stones that were perfectly cut and fitted together without the use of mortar. It was a massive complex, with terraces, plazas, temples, and residences. It was a sacred place, but its exact purpose is still debated today. Some believe it was a royal estate for the emperor and his family, while others think it was a religious retreat for the elite of the empire.


The Incas lived in Machu Picchu for around 100 years before the Spanish conquest of Peru. After the Spanish conquest, the Inca Empire was all but destroyed and Machu Picchu was abandoned. There are several theories around why it was abandoned, including a smallpox epidemic, civil war, and the Spanish conquest.

Today, Machu Picchu is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Peru. Visitors come from all over the world to marvel at the Inca architecture and to explore the fascinating history of the Incas. It is a reminder of the once-great Inca Empire and the ingenuity of its people.

Machu Picchu In Peru - Ruins Of Inca Empire City And Huaynapicchu Mountain  In Sacred Valley, Cusco, South America. Stock Photo, Picture And Royalty  Free Image. Image 100697982.

Myths about why Machu Picchu was abandoned

As you already know, Machu Picchu is one of the most famous archeological and historical sites in South America and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site too. For centuries, the site has been shrouded in mystery and speculation, with numerous myths and theories about why it was abandoned.

One of the most popular myths is that the city was built as an estate for the Incan emperor Pachacuti. This theory was spread by the explorer Hiram Bingham, who “rediscovered” the site in 1911. However, archaeological evidence suggests that the city was actually a religious and spiritual center, used for ceremonies and rituals.

Los Incas del Tahuantinsuyo, el Imperio más grande de Sudamérica | PeruRail

Another popular myth is that the city was abandoned due to the Spanish conquest of the Incan Empire in the 16th century. While it is true that the Incas did abandon Machu Picchu during this period, there is no evidence to suggest that this was the cause of their abandonment. In fact, recent archaeological evidence suggests that the city was abandoned long before the Spanish arrived.

But probably the abandonment of Machu Picchu was due to a combination of factors, including a smallpox epidemic and a severe drought in the area. In addition, the citadel was built in a remote and difficult to access place, so it was very hard to maintain a large population.

The mystery of Machu Picchu's abandonment has been the subject of debate for years. Although many questions remain unanswered, the most likely explanation revolves around disease, drought and its remote location. But, despite its abandonment, the site remains a powerful symbol of the Incan Empire and a testament to their engineering skills.

Who found Machu Picchu?

The credit for the discovery of Machu Picchu goes to a Yale University professor and explorer named Hiram Bingham. In 1911, Bingham was searching for the last capital of the Inca Empire, which he believed to be the city of Vilcabamba. During his explorations, he came across the ruins of Machu Picchu and was the first one to explore the citadel.

Peru: The day Machu Picchu was made known to the outside world | News |  ANDINA - Peru News Agency

Bingham was fascinated by the site and quickly realized that it was an important archaeological discovery. He began to document the ruins and soon published his findings in a book entitled “The Lost City of the Incas”. This book helped to bring Machu Picchu to the attention of the world and made it one of the most popular archaeological sites of the time.

But Bingham didn't actually discover Machu Picchu. In fact, the site had been known to local people for centuries and was even visited by European explorers in the 19th century. However, it was Bingham who brought the site to the attention of the world and helped to make it one of the most iconic archaeological sites in the world.

Bingham’s discovery of Machu Picchu was a major milestone in the history of archaeology and his work helped to bring the site to the public’s attention. Today, Machu Picchu is one of the most visited archaeological sites around the globe and a major tourist attraction in Peru. Thanks to Hiram Bingham’s work, future generations will be able to experience the wonders of Machu Picchu for years to come.

Book now and enjoy our luxury tour to Machu Picchu and the Sacred Valley, where you’ll discover the magic of this ancient citadel. With this amazing tour you will also be able to visit Ollantaytambo in the Sacred Valley and the most important places in Cusco city, like the Cathedral and the Plaza de Armas. Come to Cusco and discover the magic that surrounds the Imperial city!



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