Tucked away in the Andes Mountain range, above the Sacred Valley and just northwest of Cusco, stands Machu Picchu, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, believed to have been a royal estate or sacred religious site for Inca leaders, whose civilization was virtually wiped out by the Spanish invaders in the 16th century. The Citadel was built around 1450 and though Machu Picchu was not thought to have been discovered by the Spanish, it was abandoned a century later during the time of the Spanish Conquest. Although known by the locals, this great Citadel remained unknown to the outside world until being brought to international attention in 1911 by the American historian, Hiram Bingham. Historians believe that Machu Picchu was built at the height of the Inca Empire and is made up of more than 150 buildings, ranging from baths and houses to temples and sanctuaries. To walk through Machu Picchu is to walk through history, with many of its buildings still standing, irrigation systems working and the pure grandeur of this great Citadel still strong.
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