Location and Values: The Historic Sanctuary of Machu Picchu – Lost City of the Incas – is located on the eastern slopes of the Peruvian Andes, perched on a high mountain ridge overlooking the surrounding jungles. It is South America’s most iconic archaeological site, recognized across the world, and steeped in mystery following its ‘disappearance’ after the fifteenth-century Spanish conquest of Peru, and subsequent ‘re-discovery’ in 1911.
The natural attributes of this mixed site are less widely recognized, but exceptional in their own right. The archaeological ruins are embedded in a much larger protected area (383 km2), spanning a vast range of altitude and natural habitats. These include the snow-capped summit of Salcantay (6,241m) and nearby Andean peaks, descending through alpine tundra and open paramo grasslands to montane cloud forest and sub-tropical humid forests at 1,850m. The vast range of altitude combines with a diverse topography and high rainfall to create an exceptionally dynamic ecosystem in a transition zone between the high Andes and Amazonian rainforests, recognized through the site’s listing under criterion (ix) recognizing ongoing ecological processes.
Conservation Status and Prospects. According to IUCN’s Conservation Outlook Assessment (2017) the conservation status of the Historic Sanctuary of Machu Picchu is ‘of significant concern’. The IUCN report notes that ‘floods, landslides, fires and changes in temperature patterns associated with climatic variability, in addition to the growing demand for visitors, as well as the continued contamination of the Urabamba River and the vision of regional development based on tourism, continue to be serious threats to the site and its global heritage values. Although the measures taken to ensure the effective protection and management of the site have shown important progress, they still need to be strengthened to guarantee protection in the long term, especially in terms of the broader vision of conservation management of the Cusco region and its focus on tourism. ’
UNESCO Official Website
IUCN Conservation Outlook
UNEP-WCMC Site Description