Machu Picchu is undoubtedly one of the world’s most awe-inspiring sights. Packed with mystery, architectural wonder and ancient history, this iconic UNESCO World Heritage Site is the most important archaeological site on the continent and a real highlight of any trip to South America!
The magical lost city of Machu Picchu needs little introduction, it is one of South America’s major lures and a once in a lifetime experience for many. Set in a dramatic location, this ancient Inca capital is nestled between the jungle-clad mountains of Machu Picchu and Huayna Picchu and overlooks the Urubamba River; it is an area of magnificent beauty.
Totally lost in history until the American explorer Hiram Bingham discovered it 1911, its sole purpose still remains a mystery today. Thought to be a ceremonial site, a military stronghold or royal kingdom, its complex of palaces, plazas, temples and homes are well-preserved and largely intact. Created entirely from cut stone fitted together without the use of mortar or the creation of wheels, it’s an ancient architecture masterpiece, and exploring the grounds is a remarkable experience.
Taking a train ride from Cusco or the Sacred Valley is a popular way to reach Machu Picchu, winding through the mountains and following the Urubamba River takes you through scenery of outstanding beauty. For those with a lust for luxury then the Belmond Hiram Bingham train is a must. With its elegantly designed 1920’s blue and gold Pullman carriages and its three-course dining, it offers a journey not to be forgotten.
Hiking the legendary Inca trail to Machu Picchu is rated as one of South America’s most spectacular treks and perfect for those who love the great outdoors. Following the path of the royal Incas through an array of stunning landscapes is a magical experience, but with limited permits, availability sells out months in advance and so forward planning is recommended. Alternatively, when the Inca trail is full there are a number of treks to Machu Picchu such as the Lares trek to the Salkantay trek that offer an equally rewarding experience.
After exploring Machu Picchu, we strongly recommend an overnight stay, so you can maximise your time exploring the ruins. Aguas Calientes is the nearest town to Machu Picchu and caters perfectly to the needs of tourists visiting this must-see sight. It is 6km away, or about 1.5 hours walk (which contains a lot of steps), and regular buses run to the ancient Inca site making it accessible to nearly everyone. There are many hotels and restaurants here, with numbers growing all the time, and you can often find great deals on food and drink as restaurants compete with each other for business.
Please click here to see Sonia's top 3 ways to experience Machu Picchu.