Located on a 2,430-meter mountain ridge in the Eastern Cordillera of southern Peru, Machu Picchu is a 15th-century Inca citadel. Machupicchu District is in Urubamba Province above the Sacred Valley, about 80 kilometers northwest of Cusco. A tropical mountain climate is created by a canyon cut through the Cordillera by the Urubamba River.
As far as is known, the Incas did not have a written language and did not visit the site until the 19th century, unlike the Mayans. The site was not documented while it was in use. A number of the buildings and their supposed uses, as well as their inhabitants, were named by modern archeologists, on the basis of physical evidence including tombs found on the site.
The site was gradually overgrown by the surrounding jungle, and few outside the immediate area knew it existed. In 1867, a German businessman named Augusto Berns may have rediscovered the site and plunder it. According to some evidence, German engineer J M von Hassel may have reached the site earlier. Earlier references to Machu Picchu can be found on maps dating back to 1874. The site was designated Huayna Picchu in a 1904 atlas.