LIFE Photo Collection
Machu Picchu is a 15th-century Inca citadel in southern Peru. It remained undiscovered, and undamaged, by the Spanish colonisers, and was only brought to international attention in 1911 by American historian Hiram Bingham. This photograph was the very first taken.
The ruins of Machu Picchu stand 2,430 metres above sea level, on the eastern slopes of the Andes. Far below is the Urubamba Valley, surrounded on all sides by the tropical forests of the Amazon basin. Click and drag and use the arrows to explore, here, then scroll on for more.
The Sacred Rock
It's believed that Machu Picchu was sited and oriented on ritual principles, and the so-called Sacred Rock may be key. This enormous boulder is said to resemble the mountain known as Cerro Pumasillo that it stands before.
The Temple of the Sun
Standing just outside the Temple of the Sun, we can see the extent of Maccu Picchu's farming terraces. Though the Inca were expert agriculturists, the citadel suffered from a small supply of food and fresh water, which had to be imported at great effort.
Temple of the Condor
The Temple of the Condor is one of the most striking sights at Maccu Pichu. Two huge boulders on the hillside have been carefully carved into the wings of a condor, whose torso and head are carved into the floor. Small offerings of food and drink were made here.
Intihuatana, meaning The Hitching Post of the Sun, is thought to be the most important site in Machu Picchu. The intricately carved boulder aligns with the biannual solstices, and at midday on 11 November and 30 January, stands almost exactly above the pillar, casting no shadow.
Overlooking the entire site is the towering peak of Huayna Picchu. Take a few hours out of your day and hike up to the top to find extraordinary views of Machu Picchu and the surrounding jungle - testament to the ingenuity and industry of the Inca.
Globular jar by Inca cultureMuseo Machupicchu - Casa Concha