We all know that Hiram Bingham rediscovered Machu Picchu and Huayna Picchu. But few know about his childhood, the problems with his parents, his successful marriage, and other discoveries before finding the wonder of the world. 

Hiram Bingham in an expedition | Ultimate Trekking

Biography of Hiram Bingham III

Hiram Bingham II and Clara Brewster had a son named Hiram Bingham III. The first Protestants to arrive in the volcanic archipelago of the Pacific. The boy Hiram was born on November 19, 1875 in Honolulu, Hawaii. The little boy had a sad and deprived childhood. 

When he grew up, he took refuge in reading the Bible and in a library in Honolulu, where he often went. He fell in love with adventure books such as Mark Wain's “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn”. 

In his youth, he attended Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts. He went on to graduate in business administration from Yale University in 1898. 

In the same year he fell in love with Alfreda Mitchell, a wealthy heiress of the Tiffany & Company jewelry store in New York. 

He taught Latin American history and politics at Yale University and later earned his Ph.D. at Harvard University. In the year 1900 an important event happened. 

A marriage that changed his fortune.

Bingham married Alfreda Mitchell, with whom he had 7 children. His wife's life of luxury helped him to fulfill his dream of being an explorer.

Hiram Bingham and his team | Ultimate Trekking

So he ventured on his first expedition. 

In 1906-1907, Bingham and Dr. Hamilton Rice set out on their first expedition.

They traveled from Guayaquil to the Napo River in Ecuador. They wanted to write the biography of Simon Bolivar. 

Something that never happened.

Bingham had a disappointing trip

Bingham participated in the 1st Pan American Scientific Congress held in Santiago de Chile in 1908. When the congress ended, he traveled to Lima and then visited the imperial city of Cusco.

There, the Peruvian authorities received him with full honors.

In 1909, he walked around Cusco including the city itself. Then he arrived in Abancay because he received an invitation from the prefect Juan Jose Nunez and lieutenant Caceres.

Once there, he excavated the archaeological site of Choquequirao because they wanted to know if the site was the ancient Vilcabamba.

They ended up disappointed because they found no treasures. So he decided to return to the United States.

Until a friend showed up.

A friend ignites the idea

In 1910 Edward S. Harkness, a friend of Bingham's, read the draft of the book and was impressed. He suggested to his friend Hiram to make an expedition to Cusco, Peru. In order to find Vilcabamba “The last refuge of the Incas”.

The money to make the trip was not a concern.

His wife financed the expedition, National Geographic Society, Yale University and the National Geographic Society of the United States.

They went to Cusco in 1911. Where the prefect mentioned Huayna Picchu (The name of a mountain). So Bingham believed that it was the place where Vilcabamba was located.  

When he arrived on July 19 of the same year.

July 22nd, they began the expedition from Valley of Urubamba. And the group was formed by:

  • Harry Foote “The naturalist”.
  • Willian Erving “The surgeon”.
  • Fabian Carrasco “The sergeant of the Civil Guard”.
  • Two muleteers and porter

A tragic incident on the road

On the way he met the rest of the group: the engineer Ellwood C, Saiah Bowman “the geographer” and Lanius. Upon meeting with them, they told Bingham about a tragic event that occurred the day before.

Two people who were in charge of mapping, Hendriksen and Tucker sent a boy to cross a river. The boy brought Hendriksen's surveying device to test the depth of the river. But the Urubamba River current swept the boy away.

The next day, July 23, they camped at Mandor Pampa. Later they met in Torondoy with Melchor Arteaga. He warned Bingham of the existence of a citadel in the mountain.

Machu Picchu when it was discovered | Ultimate Trekking

The great rediscovery of Machu Picchu

The next day, Melchor Arteaga led Bingham's team into the thick forest. There they met Richarte and Anacleto Alvarez.

They are peasants who lived and farmed on the terraces of Machu Picchu for 8 years.

Richarte entrusted his son Pablito, 8 to 9 years old, to guide Bingham to the Inca constructions. The perfect architecture of the place impressed Bingham.

He was the first to take a photographic record of the site and to make a general sketch.


Hiram Bingham is the rediscoverer of Machu Picchu because before him, other people had already reached the citadel. Lizarraga arrived in 1902. This can be verified in the signature that Hiram Bingham found on the temple of the three windows written with charcoal “Lizarraga 1902”.