Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Karen from Petal, MS. Karen Wonders, “How hard is it to get to Machu Picchu? ” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Karen!

Could you use a vacation? How does a beach trip sound? Some people prefer the mountains or a theme park.

People have sought getaways and relaxation for hundreds of years. Even ancient groups went to faraway places for a break. In fact, many experts believe the ancient Incas built a whole city just for that purpose!

The Incas ruled much of western South America for hundreds of years. They are known for their advanced cities and structures. Around the year 1450, the Incas built a city in modern-day Peru. 

Today, we call that city Machu Picchu. It's also called the "city of stone." It earned this nickname for two reasons. First, the Incas cut the city terraces for farming straight from the mountains. Second, the Incas made all of the buildings in Machu Picchu from stone.

An American named Hiram Bingham "found" Machu Picchu in 1911. But locals would tell you the city was never lost. When Bingham came, farmers were still using the ducts the Incas built to grow corn and potatoes. These farmers led Bingham to Machu Picchu.

Over the years, the forest had grown over the city. Bingham brought many people to discover what was left. That's when they found reasons to believe Machu Picchu had been a retreat city for Inca royalty.

First, Machu Picchu housed between 500 and 750 people. This is tiny compared to other Inca cities. Incas built many of their cities to hold thousands. That caused experts to think people did not live there all year.

Second, the city sits deep in the forest of the Andes Mountains. Experts believe this allowed Inca princes and princesses to escape the noise of the larger cities. Its location made Machu Picchu perfect for getting away.

Finally, some buildings in Machu Picchu had private bathrooms and gardens. These would not have existed for common Incas. That made experts believe the Incas staying there must have been royal.

No one knows why the Incas left Machu Picchu, but many think it was because of the Spanish invasion. When Spanish armies arrived in South America, they took Inca lands and spread diseases that killed many people. This caused Incas to leave many places, including Machu Picchu.

Many experts believe the Incas weren't the only people to live in Machu Picchu. They believe this because they found pottery there that came from all over South America. Maybe the city wasn't so hidden after all!

As one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, Machu Picchu is still a popular vacation spot today. Luckily, you don't need to be an Inca prince or princess to visit! The view from the city overlooks the Urubamba River and the Amazon basin. It's no wonder the ancient city is one of Peru's most popular spots for visitors.

Standards: CCRA.L.3, CCRA.L.6, CCRA.R.1, CCRA.R.2, CCRA.R.4, CCRA.R.10, CCRA.SL.1

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