South America is home to many intriguing cultures that are as mysterious as they are ancient. Its cultural mix of indigenous peoples and European colonial influence has produced a rich history and stunning architecture. Peru houses its own ancient secrets as the home of the Incan empire. Nestled within the mountains of Peru, the ancient Incan city Machu Picchu is a stunning remnant of an intriguing culture. This site also makes for a great adventure travel destination.
One of South America's best kept secrets
Machu Picchu was described by one blogger as the Lost City of the Incas, and with good reason. Despite the fact that the city has been around since the 15th century, it was almost completely unknown to much of the world until half a millennia later, when it was discovered by an American professor. Designated a UNESCO world heritage site in 1983, we are still uncovering secrets about the city and what it may say about the culture it represents.
Believed to be either a site of religious significance for the Inca or a retreat for the emperor Pachacuti, Machu Picchu was allegedly only in use by the Incan Empire for about a century, until the Spanish conquistadors invaded Peru. While the Incas abandoned Machu Picchu following the conquest of Peru, the site remained unfound until the 20th century.
A city full of mystery
Despite the city's modern-day fame, Machu Picchu doesn't do a lot to make itself accessible to tourists. Located a train ride away from the city of Cusco and a bus ride - or hike - up the side of a mountain, a trip to Machu Picchu is only for the dedicated and stalwart. But for those who do commit to completing the pilgrimage, the city offers a wealth of insight into the culture of the Inca. National Geographic reported that the very city itself is a testament to Incan ingenuity; carved into the side of the mountain and built without the use of draft animals or even wheels, Machu Picchu is an architectural masterpiece. In fact, it's reported that roughly 60 percent of the city is actually underground.
Machu Picchu has been a popular tourist attraction for decades, but there is still an air of mystery surrounding it. According to National Geographic, it's entirely possible that more of the city remains as-yet undiscovered. The mountain city sits nestled in the dense foliage of the surrounding forest, and it's estimated that the ruins may expand well beyond what has yet been uncovered.