For many this is the main reason to make the pilgrimage to Peru. Situated on a single mountain high in the Andes (2450m) this archaeological site was never discovered by the Spanish. Situated 120km northwest of Cuzco it is only accessible by train and foot. The archaeologist Hiram Bingham discovered Machu Picchu in 1911, although archaeologists have been visiting it for years its purpose is still unclear.
One of the leading theories is that it was a ceremonial centre due to the high quality of stonework and abundance of ornaments. The entire archaeological site shows a technological advancement far beyond anything this area of the world was thought to have achieved and allows us to glimpse back into the past and a unknown world. The tight rock construction, some containing over 64 different angles, making it impossible to fit even a single sheet of paper between.
The water channels are carved from the rock of the mountain, from where Intihuantana (or hitching post of the sun) serves as an astronomical calendar, and still today shows the winter and summer solstices using the angle of the pillar.
The trip to Machu Picchu can be done several different ways. One of the most popular and spectacular is the Inca Trail. A 5d/4n trip where overnight accommodation is in tents with porters carrying your trek bags. You traverse the Andes, passing archaeological ruins, rivers, terraced valleys, snow-capped peaks, cloud forest, and a wide array of flora (including numerous varieties of orchid) and bird life.
Being one of the best hikes in the world has had its problems, and the Peruvian government have put a limit on the amount of people that can now walk the trail each day in the hope that the trail will be better protected.
THINGS TO SEE AND DO
Here are some of the best ways for seeing Machu Picchu. However we can tailor any tour to suit your requirements.
Cuzco - Machu Picchu – Cuzco.
This a full day trip to the site and back. Depart early on the train from Cuzco passing through the sacred valley, the fortress town of Ollantaytambo and snow-capped peaks of the surrounding mountains. On arrival at Aguas Calientes we board a bus for the 25 minute ride up to the archaeological site of Machu Picchu, where you will be guided through he ruins. We have lunch at the entrance with the famous Huayna Picchu mountain behind, followed by some time to explore the ruins on your own before returning to Aguas Calientes to catch the 3pm train back to Cuzco, arriving in the early evening. The train ride in itself is part of the highlight in a day full of superlatives.
Cuzco – Machu Picchu – Cuzco 2D/1N
Day 1. You take the train to Machu Picchu. An ever-narrowing gorge brings us to the 104 km mark where you begin your guided hike on the last stages of the Inca trail. A 3 hr ascent through highland grasses and small valleys brings you to Winay Wayna, an impressive archaeological ruin close to Machu Picchu. From here the trail traverses across and up through cloud forest to Intipunku, the sun gate, with a spectacular view of the citadel of Machu Picchu below. Overnight accommodation is your choice, either in the town of Aguas Calientes (hot water) where you can bathe in the hot springs, or in the Machu Picchu sanctuary lodge next to the ruins.
Day 2. Today you have the chance to get up early and watch the sun rise over this mystical site and wander around the ruins before the first tourist train arrives, allowing you to photograph the site without many visitors. Your guide will then take you around the site before leaving you to explore more on your own, or, if you still have the energy, hike to the top of Huayna Picchu, the famous mountain that acts as the backdrop to the ruins. You return to Cuzco on the late afternoon train.
N.B. this 2 day/1 night trip can be done omitting the hike from the 104 km mark.
Recommended lodges in this area:
This is the best hotel in the Machu Picchu area offering excellent privacy, tranquil views of the Andean hills. There is a range of accommodation to suit your budget with guest rooms and independent lodges
Machu Picchu Sanctuary Lodge is the only hotel located adjacent to the ancient city of Machu Picchu and one of the best hotels by which one can explore the beautiful surrounding area.