Machu Picchu bears, with Cuzco and the other archaeological sites of the valley of the Urubamba (Ollantautaybo, Runcuracay, Sayacmarca, Phuyupamarca, Huiñay Huayna, Intipucu, etc.) a unique testimony to the Inca civilization. Cuzco and the old villages still retain traces of land occupation from the Inca Empire to preserve, in a more global manner, an archaeological heritage which has become susceptible to the effects of urbanization. Furthermore, Macchu Picchu is an outstanding example of man's interaction with his natural environment.
Standing 2,430 m above sea level, in the midst of a tropical mountain forest in an extraordinarily beautiful setting, Machu Picchu was probably the most amazing urban creation of the Inca Empire at its height. Its giant walls, terraces and ramps seem as if they have been cut naturally in the continuous rock escarpments. The natural setting, on the eastern slopes of the Andes, encompasses the upper Amazon basin with its rich diversity of flora and fauna.
Machu Picchu covers 32,500 ha in some of the scenically most attractive mountainous territory of the Peruvian Andes. As the last stronghold of the Incas and of superb architectural and archaeological importance, Machu Picchu is one of the most important cultural sites in Latin America; the stonework of the site remains as one of the world's great examples of the use of a natural raw material to provide outstanding architecture which is totally appropriate to the surroundings. The surrounding valleys have been cultivated continuously for well over 1,000 years, providing one of the world's greatest examples of a productive man-land relationship; the people living around Machu Picchu continue a way of life which closely resembles that of their Inca ancestors, being based on potatoes, maize and llamas. Machu Picchu also provides a secure habitat for several endangered species, notably the spectacled bear, one of the most interesting species in the area. Others animals include: dwarf brocket, the otter, long-tailed weasel, pampas cat and the vulnerable ocelot, boa, the Andean cock of the rock, and the Andean condor.
The natural vegetation is of humid and very humid lower montane forest of the subtropical region, mainly with genera and ferns of the Cyathea and palms.
Set on the vertiginous site of a granite mountain sculpted by erosion and dominating a meander in the Rio Urubamba, Machu Picchu is a world renowned archaeological site. The construction of this amazing city, set out according to a very rigorous plan, comprises one of the most spectacular creations of the Inca Empire. It appears to date from the period of the two great Incas, Pachacutec Inca Yupanqui (1438-71) and Tupac Inca Yupanqui (1472-93). The function of this city situated at least 100 km from the capital, Cuzco, has not been formulated which are not verifiable given the absence of written documentation and sufficiently explicit material evidence.
Without making a judgement as to their purpose, several quite individual quarters may be noted in the ruins of Machu Picchu: a quarter 'of the Farmers' near the colossal terraces whose slopes were cultivated and transformed into hanging gardens; an 'industrial' quarter; a 'royal' quarter and a 'religious' quarter. Inca architecture reveals itself here in all of its force with the titanic earthen works which multiplied the platforms, levelled the rocky relief, constructed ramps and stairways and literally sculpted the mountain whose cyclopean constructions appear to be a prolongation of nature.