On the west side of South America is the land of Peru. It has an incredible history. The people that live in Peru rival the Egyptians, the Chinese, and the Mayans. They were builders who left monuments that still stand solid today.
Machu Picchu is the most famous, but the countryside is dotted with the rock monuments that the Peruvians built. Peru is just a little smaller than Alaska, or twice the size of Texas.
The population of the country is about 30 million, and now it is made up of half the Incas (the native people of Peru) and half immigrants that have come from countries all over the world. The Inca civilization thrived from 1200 AD up until Francisco Pizarro González and his Conquistadors conquered the millions of Incas in 1532 with 168 men, 27 horses, and 1 cannon. Pizarro and his men also had guns, which the Incas did not have.
In 1535, Pizarro found the city of Lima on the coast of the Pacific Ocean. It is the capital city and currently has eight million people.
The millions of tourists that arrive every year usually are drawn to the buildings that the Inca built. The Inca did not have a written language, so much of what they built and how they constructed it without power equipment is still a mystery.
If you are going to journey to Peru to visit the Inca ruins, your trip will generally begin in Lima and then take you by air to Cusco, which is high in the Andes. The Andes stretch all the way down the western coast of South America, for a distance of 4,300 miles. Most tour groups will give you a half-day off when you arrive to get used to the altitude because Cusco is 11,000 miles above sea level.
Cusco was the capital of the Inca Empire where they built a mighty fortress that would stand forever. Sacsyhuaman is this fortress. One of the things you will find most interesting about the construction is the Incas did not use any mortar between the stones. The rocks were chiseled so finely that one cannot put a knife blade between the stones. Some of the stones weigh 100 tons and would have taken hundreds of men to move them.
As you leave Cusco and go north through the Sacred Valley, you will come to a narrow-gauge railroad. A ride of about 90 minutes will bring you to the small town of Aguas Calientes which sits on the Urubamba River that winds around the most famous Inca ruins, Machu Picchu. To reach your destination of Machu Picchu you will board buses and that is a winding journey of a few miles and more than 1000 feet up the mountain.
As you reach the top you will need your passport or some identification and a ticket to get into these magnificent ruins.
Hyrum Bingham, a Yale historian, was the first North American explorer to discover the ruins in 1911. Since then millions of people have trekked to see this magnificent city. There are many theories as to what this site was to the Incas, one of which is that it was built for an estate for one of the Inca Sapa (king). It has three areas, which are the living quarters, agriculture area, and common meeting areas. It was abandoned about 100 years after it was built.
I first visited the ruins forty years ago and have been there twice this year. It is one of the most beautiful ruins I have seen in the world. It is the best-preserved site of the Incas, as the Spanish did not know about it so they did not destroy it and build their buildings on top of it.