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10 things about Machu Picchu you may not have known

We've highlighted ten things you may not know about the travel icon that is Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu (Mark Goble)

The story of the alleged ‘discovery’ of the mystical ruins of Machu Picchu is said to have inspired a generation of explorers and even blockbuster movies. However, there is a wealth of information about the site that isn’t made immediately available to those who cross the threshold of the Sun Gate and stare down in awe at the genuine wonder that is Machu Picchu. Here we've collected ten top facts, you may not have known about.


1. The first Westerner credited with unveiling Machu Picchu to the outside world, Hiram Bingham, was in fact said to be looking for the entirely different lost Inca site of Vilcabamba when he was first led up the slopes to the then-overgrown ruins.

2. Recently, the accepted history that Bingham was the first outsider to lay eyes on Machu Picchu has been challenged and several alternative candidates have been put forward. The strongest possible contender is German engineer Augusto Berns who may have been to the site 40 years prior to the American.

3. When Bingham endeavoured to reclaim the site from the encroaching jungle he uncovered a treasure trove of artefacts that he took with him to Yale University, including mummies, bones, ceramics and precious metals. The Peruvian government has long petitioned the university for their repatriation and in 2008 revised the estimated number of pieces from 4,000 to over 40,000.

4. The most popular way to approach the site is the Inca Trail trek. This three-day trek reaches a lung-squeezing height of 3,660 metres at its highest and there are several sections of original Inca stone paths on the way. Due to fears of erosion the government limits the number of people embarking on the trek to 500, which includes the compulsory locally-hired porters.

5. Each year there is a race along the Inca Trail, which at 26 miles is even longer than a marathon. The current record is three hours and 26 minutes.

6. Many of the porters will sleep with a shiny metal object or mirror beneath them when on the trail. They believe it deflects spirits coming up through the earth and whisking them away. Ask any guide or porter, and most will tell you that at some time they have experienced the feeling of being pulled out of their tents by spirits of the past.

7. A popular ambition on the trek is to arrive at the fabled Sun Gate in time for sunrise; however this is more of a sun-rouse as high mountains block most the view – you’d be better off having an extra lie in.

8. Once at the actual site, there are rules about entering. One of the lesser-known requirements is that that you may not enter dressed in the traditional costume of another country, so for all those thinking of going dressed in their kilt and sporran, their kimono, or Swiss milkmaid outfit, should think again.

9. The most expensive Bollywood film ever made, Endhiran, released in 2010, was partly shot on location at Machu Picchu. It features an ex Miss World as the starring actress and is one of only a few films to be given permission to film in the ruins.

10. A few years ago, two spectacled bears – of Paddington Bear fame – were seen wondering the ruins alongside the throngs of visitors. Spectacled bears are occasionally spotted in the area, but it is very rare to see them in the ruins themselves.


Tucan Travel have been running tours to Machu Picchu for 25 years. You can find out more about their award-winning trips here

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