The legend of the lost city of the Incas has been steeped in mystery for hundreds of years. When explorer Hiram Bingham first saw Machu Picchu in 1911, he was sure he had found Vilcabamba, the legendary lost city and last Incan stronghold against the Spanish. Bingham’s explorations in Peru identified several extensive ruins, including Vilcabamba. The ruins, called Espiritu Pampa, were so covered by jungle that Bingham failed to recognize the extent of the site and continued his search.
The identity of the lost city remained unknown until 1964, when adventurer Gene Savoy suggested that Espiritu Pampa and Vilcabamba were the same. Subsequent archeological studies confirmed that the site is Vilcabamba, the last holdout of the Incas against the Spanish.
The Incan Empire extended over an area that encompassed parts of what are now Peru, Bolivia, Columbia, Ecuador and Chile. The civilization was governed by a supreme ruler with both royal and divine attributes called the “Inca.” The name became associated with the entire culture.
What the Spanish encountered in the early 1500s was a vast territory with extensive agriculture, roads, water delivery systems and cities. The Spanish advanced and conquered Incan territory. The capital city of Cuzco fell in 1533. The Incan people regrouped under an emperor appointed by the Spanish, Manco II. Manco led his people in revolt against the Spanish from a stronghold called Vilcabamba, located in a mountainous area northwest of Cuzco.
For 36 years, from 1536 until 1572, the Inca fought against the Spanish from Vilcabamba. After Manco’s death in 1544, subsequent rulers continued the rebellion. In 1572, the Spanish attacked. The Inca fled into the jungle, pursued by the Spanish. Emperor Tupac Amaru and his military captains were captured, brought to Cuzco and executed. The city was burned and reclaimed by jungle, forgotten until its rediscovery 400 years later.
The heritage of the Inca continues today through the language, food and festivals. La Costanera Restaurant near San Francisco offers Peruvian food steeped in the culinary traditions of the Inca. Savor the past in a modern setting at La Costanera, a Peruvian restaurant serving food fresh from the sea, the mountains and the jungle.