Photos of Machu Picchu. Machu Picchu, also known as the "The Lost City of the Incas", is a spectacular pre-Columbian Incan site located about 50 miles northwest of Cusco. It sits atop a mountain ridge overlooking the Urubamba river at an altitude of about 7,800 feet. Archaeologists believe that Machu Picchu was built during the 15th century at the peak of the Incan Empire, but the city was abandoned only a century later during the time of the Spanish Conquest. However, because of Machu Picchu's remote location, the Spanish never discovered the city and hence it remained largely undisturbed and is one of the best preserved archaeological sites in South America. Machu Picchu was rediscovered by Hiram Bingham, an American historian, in 1911.