100 Years Amazing the World: A Celebration of Machu Picchu
High in the Peruvian Andes, nearly 8,000 feet above sea level, stands the fascinating, ancient city of Machu Picchu. The “Lost City of the Incas” was rediscovered by American explorer and Yale University Professor Hiram Bingham 100 years ago in 1911. Bingham shared the wonders of Machu Picchu with the world through the artifacts he unearthed and articles featured in National Geographic magazine. This year, 2011, commemorates the 100th anniversary of Hiram Bingham's first trip to Machu Picchu. Celebrations are planned throughout this year, with the main event being held in July.
Bingham wrote in “In the Wonderland of Peru,” an article that appeared in National Geographic magazine in 1913, “The superior character of the stone work, the presence of these splendid edifices, and of what appeared to be an unusually large number of finely-constructed stone dwellings, led me to believe that Machu Picchu might prove to be the largest and most important ruin discovered in South America since the days of the Spanish conquest.”
Bingham uncovered numerous Incan artifacts, each with their own story to tell about this mythical place and its Incan ancestors. He returned in coming years on two separate National Geographic Society sponsored expeditions to excavate items and, eventually, thousands of artifacts were placed at Yale University for further research.
Debates have stirred ever since about this city in the sky: How was this incredible city built? Was it a royal retreat, a military citadel, a religious site? Was it small pox or civil war that disbanded its residents? Do the artifacts unearthed by Bingham belong to Yale University or the Peruvian government?
While answers to the many questions surrounding Machu Picchu may remain a mystery, one question has at last been resolved. Yale University and the Peruvian government have reached an agreement for the return of all artifacts to their home country. The artifacts will be placed at a university in Cusco, the former capital of the Incas. Scholars and inquisitive travelers from around the world can come to study the collection when, ultimately, they become housed in a museum and research center.
Since Bingham’s discovery, Machu Picchu has astounded many. As one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, Machu Picchu is one of the world’s most captivating places.
“Ambling around the temples, dwellings, terraced plots and open areas of Machu Picchu, we were impressed with the intricate stonework and the solidity of these buildings, which have stood the test of time. No pictures or descriptions do the sheer scope and majesty of the site justice and I feel privileged to have seen it with my own eyes.” - Lori Gifford, ExpeditionTrips
If Peru is on your travel wish list, 2011 will certainly be a festive time to go. The Peruvian Ministries of Culture, Education, Foreign Affairs, Foreign Trade and Tourism and Environment are working up big plans for the 100th year anniversary, the main event for which will commence July 7, 2011. This summer, Cusco will become an epicenter of celebratory cultural events and activities, including school competitions and music performances by big-name stars.
How do I visit Machu Picchu?
One excellent way to maximize your travels is through combining a Galapagos Cruise with a trip to Machu Picchu: Galapagos Cruise & Machu Picchu - 17 Days. The wildlife and nature of the Galapagos Islands blends well with the rich culture and history of Peru to create one seamless adventure.
However, if you've already visited the Galapagos Islands, or your travel time is limited, a trip to Peru can certainly be enjoyed on its own. Sacred Valley to Machu Picchu - 7 Days is a private, semi-escorted tour, with flexible departure days and superior accommodations, which has also been designed to ease the effects of altitude. Experience charming colonial Cusco, the beautiful Sacred Valley, and mystical Machu Picchu on this seven-day adventure through Peru.
You may also combine Machu Picchu with a stay at one of Peru's premier ecolodges deep in the Amazon jungle. Machu Picchu & Posada Amazonas - 10 Days begins in the beautiful Sacred Valley, explores Machu Picchu, and concludes in the Amazon with a stay at the Posada Amazonas. Likewise, Machu Picchu & Tambopata - 13 Days offers a similar itinerary but includes more in-depth exploration of the Amazon featuring Tambopata Research Center, home to the world’s largest known macaw clay lick.
Photo: Hanne Zak