What architectural, cultural, geographic, and historical factors make Machu Picchu so uniquely popular amongst tourists? By: Nadine Soria, Ana Belén Jaramillo, Julia Chediak, Joaquín Rivas (photo credit: Allard Schmidt)


This research paper is based on a project done by tenth grade students of Colegio Menor who investigated the extraordinary aspects of the famous Inca citadel, Machu Picchu, in order to learn more about the past Inca society. In order to have a better understanding about the topic, the students went on an academic field trip to Peru on February 2017 where they started the investigation about the previously selected research topics; cultural, historical, geographic, and architectural factors that make Machu Picchu so uniquely popular amongst tourists. The research paper will review the research question, the hypothesis, the research methods, and the conclusions. In order to acquire all the evidence needed to respond the research question students collected evidence during, before, and after the field trip. While visiting Peru students focused on collecting photographic evidence from the constructions and from the environment found in Machu Picchu that supported the claims about architectural and geographic aspects. Furthermore, academic and legitimate websites were carefully searched, chosen, and reviewed by the students to support the other topics from the research question such as the historical and cultural aspects within Machu Picchu. Finally, for the results in the research paper it was discovered that the four aspects mentioned above, are the main reasons of why Machu Picchu, the Inca city, is so uniquely popular amongst tourists.

Research Question

What architectural, cultural, geographic, and historical factors make Machu Picchu so uniquely popular amongst tourists?

Our research question has a clear and insightful connection with Machu Picchu, one of the most important structures built by the Incas, enabling us to analyze the various factors which make this place so uniquely popular. The four elements described in the question were picked to increase the amount of analysis that can be done since there is a large amount of information for each factor that needs a clear and specific explanation. These four factors are important aspects of the Incan daily life that can help people understand and deeply educate themselves in this culture, where they are able to find the meaning of Machu Picchu´s popularity. Therefore, the significant depth of the question enables us to clearly answer by having meaningful analysis and discussion.

The Lost City of the Incas (photo credit: Nadine Soria)


What makes Machu Picchu so uniquely popular amongst tourists is its spectacular construction, harsh geography, mysterious history, and the cultural meaning shown in the citadel.

Machu Picchu, Peru (photo credit: Asnida Riani)

This hypothesis directly and fully answers our research question regarding what about Machu Picchu makes it so uniquely popular amongst tourists. By investigating precisely which architectural, historical, cultural, and geographic factors make the citadel so popular, this hypothesis can be confirmed or rejected. Furthermore, the hypothesis provides relevant subtopics which leads us to a better analysis and once again prove or disprove our prediction.

Research Methods

Reviewing academic and professional websites, along with primary sources observed in the field, enabled a meaningful analysis of what architectural, cultural, geographic, and historical factors make Machu Picchu so uniquely popular amongst tourists.

After carefully reviewing various sources, we chose professional websites, meaning articles written by people with academic or professional expertise in the applicable subject matter. This allowed us to have a reliable foundation for our research, written by people who have studied Machu Picchu. More specifically, the use of these online articles gave us a base of knowledge to develop our ideas about architectural, cultural, historical, and geographic factors that make Machu Picchu so popular.

Field information in Machu Picchu allowed us to collect photographic evidence and firsthand information such as notes taken during the field trip which contributed to the previously mentioned research.

This helps us answer the question because it gives us plentiful and legitimate information relevant to our chosen topics.


The spectacular construction and building techniques, harsh geography, mysterious history, and the religious meaning of Machu Picchu make this site so uniquely popular amongst tourists.

Machu Picchu is one of the most popular Inca sites amongst tourists receiving approximately 1 million people and producing about 33 million dollars annually (Smith, 2014). This makes us realize how popular this place is and encourages us to prove our previously made hypothesis.

Machu Picchu´s surroundings (photo credit: Nadine Soria)

Our hypothesis is confirmed because geographic factors do contribute to the frequent visits of tourists to Machu Picchu. The Incas built the entire city in rocky, steep mountains making tourists wonder how they were able to build in this strange territory (Machu Picchu General, 2007). Machu Picchu is located on the highest part of the eastern Andes, about 2430 meters above sea level. The terrain is an irregular chain of mountains, where the ground is exposed to severe processes of erosion and periodic landslides due to the presence of pronounced slopes. However, the Inca developed techniques, adapting their constructions to the terrain, such as constructing terraces. Since the territory is very complex with extreme hills and narrow valleys, tourists are curious and feel encouraged to visit Machu Picchu and admire the complex construction built in these environments (Machu Picchu General, 2007). Additionally, the areas around the citadel contain rocky pinnacles, rough floors, and unstable land since there are landslides because of the steepness of the mountains and heavy precipitation that shape the ground so harshly (Cartwright, 2014). This causes tourists to wonder why and how did the Incas build Machu Picchu upon this extraordinary terrain. In summary, the geographic conditions in which the Inca managed to build a wonderful citadel are not easy, which is one of the reasons why tourists find this city so unique and visit it frequently.

Furthermore, our hypothesis can be confirmed because the building techniques used by the Incas when constructing Machu Picchu increases popularity amongst tourists. The buildings are made of stones that fit perfectly with one another; the technique used to create this effect is called “Inka Imperial Poligonal” which shapes a stone with various angles and sides. The large rocks weigh more than 50 tons and the Inca used the “ashlar” technique in which stones are cut to fit tightly together without mortar (Salinas, 2016). The transportation of rocks was done with thick ropes, cylindrical logs, and wood leavers, with no use of wheels or iron tools. These methods of construction make Machu Picchu attract tourists from all around the world. It is important to learn about architectural factors since people are intrigued about how the Incas managed to build an amazing citadel without the help of any modern tools and are encouraged to visit this site to discover the techniques used and appreciate Incan construction.

Inca walls (photo credit: Nadine Soria)

Additionally, our hypothesis can be confirmed because of Machu Picchu´s unique and mysterious history that grabs the attention of tourists. One factor that visitors find particularly surprising is how Machu Picchu, although built in the 1400s, was hardly known outside of the region until 1911 (T.B, 2011). One theory is that the Incas did not want the Spanish to find this city due to its religious importance and the temples, therefore, it was built in order to disguise it from outsiders (Jarus, 2012). Machu Picchu remained as a secret, intact piece of history. This citadel was hidden until 1911, when Hiram Bingham found it with the help of Augusto Berns (Smith, 2014). Machu Picchu is an astonishing city where tourists discover about the history of a great empire. By understanding Machu Picchu´s history, this citadel becomes an even more unique place where tourists become connected to Incan history.

Discoverer Hiram Bingham (photo credit: E.C. Erdis)

Finally, our hypothesis can also be confirmed because tourists have a great interest about the Inca culture, specifically their religion and how it is connected to Machu Picchu. One of the most amazing places in Machu Picchu is the Temple of the Sun, located at the highest point of Machu Picchu where the most important and significant Incan events were held, such as sacred rituals and religious sacrifices to venerate their most important God, Inti (Wheeler, n.d.). When tourists visit the Temple of the Sun, they feel intrigued by its cultural meaning and are eager to learn about its religious purposes. What awakens even more interest in tourists, is that they are able to learn that the Inca civilization believed that if they were closer to the sun, they were more connected to their God. Another religious construction in Machu Picchu is the Sun Gate, also meant to honor Inti (Salinas, 2016). The importance of this construction is that the Incas believed that Into entered through that gate and invaded Machu Picchu with its light (Wheeler, n.d.). In short, the religious significance Machu Picchu has, allows the tourists to learn about such an interesting civilization as the Inca and make this place very unique. We care about what makes Machu Picchu popular because we will have a better understanding on what people like about Machu Picchu and their reasons for visiting this place.

Machu Picchu Intihuatana or Temple of the Sun (photo credit: Fabricio Guzmán)

Works Cited

Cartwright, M. (2014). Inca Architecture. Retrieved March 2017, from http://www.ancient.eu/Inca_Architecture/

Cartwright, M. (2014). Machu Picchu. Retrieved March 2017, from http://www.ancient.eu/Machu_Picchu/

E.C. Erdis. (1996). Discoverer Hiram Bingham [Online Photograph]. Retrieved March 27, 2017 from http://www.nationalgeographic.com/inca/machu_picchu_1.html

Guzmán, F. (2006). Machu Picchu Intihuatana [Online Photograph]. Retrieved March 28, 2017 from https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Machupicchu_intihuatana.JPG

Jarus, O. (2012). Machu Picchu: Facts & History. Retrieved January 2017, from http://www.livescience.com/22869-machu-picchu.html

J., S. (2013). Machu Picchu's Stairway of Fountains. Archaeology,66(1), 49.

Machu Picchu general info. (2007). Retrieved January 2017, from Machu Picchu general info: http://www.machu-picchu.info/general_info.htm

Riani, A. (2015). Machu Picchu, Megahnya Peradaban Negeri di Atas Asan [Online Photograph]. Retrieved March 27, 2017 from http://www.bintang.com/lifestyle/read/2266804/machu-picchu-megahnya-peradaban-negeri-di-atas-awan

Salinas, G. (2016). Machu Picchu Facts. Retrieved January 2017, from Machu Picchu Facts: http://www.machupicchu.org/machu_picchu_facts.htm

Schmidt, A. (2005). Peru Machu Picchu Sunrise [Online Photograph]. Retrieved March 27, 2017 from https://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Archivo:Peru_Machu_Picchu_Sunrise_2.jpg

Smith, O. (2014). Machu Picchu in numbers. Retrieved March 2017, from http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/destinations/south-america/peru/articles/Machu-Picchu-in-numbers/

Soria, N. (2017). Inca Walls [Camara Photograph]. Self-published.

Soria, N. (2017). The Lost City of the Incas [Camara Photograph]. Self-published.

T. B. (2011). History of Machu Picchu - Inca Civilization. Retrieved February 23, 2017, from http://www.peru-machu-picchu.com/history.php

Wheeler, T. (n.d.). Indigenous Religious Traditions. Retrieved March 2017, from http://sites.coloradocollege.edu/indigenoustraditions/sacred-lands/machu-picchu/

Created By
Nadine Soria

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