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A little over a century ago, an American archealogist named Hiram Bingham and a team explorers unearthed an ancient series of cities that we now know as Machu Piccu. We won't say "discovered" since there was an entire civilization traveling to and from the city in its prime who were most certainly aware of its existence. Aside from the late-inhabitants, the only people that knew of these lost cities before Bingham and his crew were peasants living in the area.

To celebrate the day one of the world's most popular landmarks was opened to the public, here's a bit of history: On the way to find the lost Incan cities in 1911, Bingham's group encountered a local farmer who mentioned a set of ruins he referenced as Machu Piccu—or "Old Peak" in the local Quechua dialect. The travelers got their first glimpse at the secret location the next day after an 11-year-old guide led them up the mountain and into the sacred space. (It is thought that Machu Piccu was a summer escape for Inca leaders.) Soon after the discovery, Bingham shared the site in a book that sent a steady stream of tourists to the area. According to, more than 300,000 travelers make their way to the landmark every year.

Erika Owen is the Audience Engagement Editor at Travel + Leisure. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram at @erikaraeowen.