The site is located on the highest part of the eastern Andes, above the Rio Urubamba and northwest of Cusco Department. Created as a historical sanctuary on 8 January 1981, Inscribed on the World Heritage in 1983.
The Sanctuary ranges from 1,800 to 3,800 meters above sea level.
The site lies in the cloud forest and includes part of a highly gorgeous mountain massif of the eastern Andes, which rises steeply from the Urubamba River valley. The area around the Archeological Complex of Machu Picchu consists of many rocky pinnacles with exposures supporting thin soils, although the area also includes sites with complex systems of old Inca terraced land constructed to conserve the soils.
Geologically the area is very complex, being a combination of marine sedimentary rocks of the Cretaceous-Tertiary period and intrusive volcanic material, including lavas and granites. The sedimentary deposits include Ordovician schist’s, slates and quartzite. Streams and rivers feed the major Rio Urubamba valley system as well as a number of smaller valleys in the northern side.
Due to its geographic and topographical characteristics, the Historic Sanctuary of Machu Picchu presents climatic varieties because there are peaks that reach the height of 6,270 meters above sea level where the temperature is extremely cold and the lower parts are approximately 2,000 m.a.s.l with more temperate temperatures.
Temperatures in the Machu Picchu area differ if they are evaluated in the high zones or in the bottom of the canyons, although in general, the climate of this sector is benign, that is, with typically subtropical characteristics: warm and humid, with feeling warm during the day and cool at night. For being in a subtropical zone it has a temperature that oscillates between the 8º and 22º C. The minimum temperatures are of 8º C to 11.2º C, whereas the maximums are the order of the 20 – 22.20º C.
The annual rainfall is between 1,500 mm and 2,000 mm at low altitudes. The dry season lasts from May to September and the wet season from October to April.
Machu Picchu (“Old Mountain”) is the contemporary name given to this Inca llaqta (ancient Andean town) built before the fifteenth century on the rocky promontory that links the Machu Picchu, Putucusi and Huayna Picchu mountains on the eastern slope of the Cordillera Central, south of Peru and 2450 m.a.s.l., altitude of its main square.
According to documents from the mid-sixteenth century, Machu Picchu would have been one of the rest homes of Pachacutec, ninth Inca of Tahuantinsuyo between 1438 and 1470. However, some of its best buildings and the obvious ceremonial nature of the main access road to The llaqta account for its previous origin and its presumed use as a religious sanctuary. Both uses, the palace and the sanctuary, would not have been incompatible. Even when its supposed military character has been ruled out, so the popular qualifiers of “fortress” or “citadel” do not currently have scientific validity.
The first direct references to Machu Picchu visitors indicate that Agustín Lizárraga, a tenant of Cuzco lands, arrived at the site on July 14, 1902. The visitor left a graffiti with his name on one of the walls of the “Temple of the Three Windows” which was later verified by Hiram Bingham, American history professor interested in finding the last Inca redoubts of Vilcabamba who is considered the scientific discoverer of Machupicchu on July 24, 1911, guided by another land tenant, Melchor Arteaga, and accompanied by a sergeant of the Peruvian Civil Guard named Carrasco.
Bingham found two families of peasants living there: Recharte and Álvarez, who used the platforms south of the ruins to grow and drank the water from an Inca canal that still worked. Pablito Recharte, a boy who already resided in Machu Picchu, guided Bingham to the “urban area” covered by dense vegetation.
Machu Picchu is considered at the same time a masterpiece of architecture and engineering, its peculiar architectural and landscape features, and the veil of mystery that has woven around much of the literature published on the site, have turned it into one of the most important tourist destinations on the planet.
The Historic Sanctuary of Machu Picchu not only houses a large archaeological complex but is the habitat of an impressive number of natural species of flora and fauna, some in danger of extinction; such as, the spectacled bear and several native plants. It has more than 32, 592 hectares of beautiful landscapes, which house the habitats of a huge diversity of wild animals and plants. In addition to containing archaeological vestiges built in harmony with the landscape.
Known as one of the most diverse ecological places in Peru. Inside it is possible to find up 13 life zones, which makes possible a unique biodiversity in this part of the world, giving it a great environmental value.
In the flora of the place, there are great extensions of forests of native trees, among which we find the queuña, intimpa, cedar, alder and pisonay; which create ideal habitats with huge sources of food for the numerous wildlife. With landscapes decorated by an enormous amount of species of ornamental plants as the more than 420 species of orchids (many of them endemic), begonias and more.
The strategic location of Machu Picchu between the Andes and the Amazon, allows the presence of microclimates, which give way to the formation of fragile ecosystems, which make life possible, of small species; as insects, birds and mammals, among them stand out, the Andean bear, the river otter, the Andean fox, the capisos, dwarf deer; the condor, the mountain turkey, the sword-billed hummingbird, tucanets, torrents duck as the most representative; among these are some threatened species. The entire area of the Historic Sanctuary of Machupicchu, including its support area, is ideal for birdwatching.