GEOGRAPHICAL LOCATION The site is located on the highest part of the eastern Andes, above the Rio Urubamba and northwest of Cusco (Cuzco Department). The park is accessible by road or by rail from the lower valley and then bus or car to the ruins. 13°10’S, 72°33’W
DATE AND HISTORY OF ESTABLISHMENT Created as a historical sanctuary (santuario histórico) on 8 January 1981, under Law (Supreme Resolution) DS 001-81-AA. Inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1983.
LAND TENURE Private ownership (property of four main “predios”: Mandorpampa, Q’ente, Torontoy and Santa Rita de Q’ente).
ALTITUDE Ranges from 1,800m to 3,800m
PHYSICAL FEATURES The site lies in the Selva Alta zone, and includes part of a highly dissected mountain massif of the high Andes plateau, which rises steeply from the Urubamba River valley. The area around the ruins of Machu Picchu consists of many rocky pinnacles with exposures supporting thin soils, although the area also includes sites with complex systems of old Inca terraced land constructed to conserve the soils. The Urubamba alluvial basin is an almost continuous zone of arable and pastoral farming land. Geologically the area is very complex, being a combination of marine sedimentary rocks of the Cretaceous-Tertiary period and intrusive volcanic material, including lavas and granites. The sedimentary deposits include Ordovician schists, slates and quartzite. Streams and rivers feed the major Rio Urubamba valley system as well as a number of smaller valleys in the north such as that of Quillabamba (MAA, 1986).
CLIMATE The annual temperature averages 16°C and annual rainfall is between 1500mm and 3000mm at low altitudes. At 2,500m altitude the average temperature drops to 10.2°C, and annual rainfall is 2170mm. The dry season lasts from May to September and the wet season from October to April.
VEGETATION The site has been influenced by man for many centuries, leading to a combination of man-made habitats, paramo grassland, Polylepis thickets, partially degraded virgin forest and former cultivated land which has reverted back to forest or scrub. At lower altitudes, patches of woodland predominate, their extent being dependant upon past human interference, especially during the Inca period. The vegetation rises from the dry subtropical forest along the river valleys to the very humid low montane forest. Trees represented in the denser woodland include locally endangered mahogany Swietenia macrophylla and species of the following genera; Ceder, Podocarpus (the only conifer in Peru), Lauraceae Ocotea, Cunoniaceae Weinmannia, Nectandra and Cecropia. A number of tree ferns are present, including Cyathea sp. and also palms such as Geromoina sp., Guasca sp. and Riupala sp. (MAA, 1981). Reeds Phragmites sp., willow and alder occur around rivers and streams, whilst open grassland, low shrubs and scattered thickets of Polylepis sp. and bamboo are found close to the ruins (Parker et al, 1982). The high altitude subalpine paramo includes many Graminae, Festuca sp., Stipa sp. and Puya sp. such as P. raimondii (I). The mountain ridges are characterised by bamboo Gaudua sp. (Parker et al., 1982).