High above the clouds in the Andean Mountains of Peru lays the legendary Inca city of Machu Picchu.
No visitor to Peru should ever miss the incredible sight of this mysterious city.
Hiram Bingham has discovered Machu Picchu in 1911 with the help of local farmers. It is the most famous sight in South America. Shrouded in legend, the real purpose of Machu Picchu is still subject of many debates. Many contradictory explanations for its existence and for the fact that it couldn’t be found by the Spaniards have surfaced. One of the more popular explanations states that Machu Picchu was some sort of Vacation retreat for the royalty of Cusco. The Inca themself probably forgot it, so even the Spaniards were not able to find the city anymore. To this day, lost cities are still being found in the area. Choquequirau is another site recently found and many others still continue to elude explorers. Most famous of all is Paititi, the city of gold and last retreat of the Inca.
No matter how much gold any of those places might hold, it is hard to imagine that those cities can rival Machu Picchu in beauty. Perched high up in the Andean mountains, with breathtaking views of the valley and the Urubamba river below and Huayana Picchu above, the beauty of Machu Picchu is hard to grasp. Upon entering the city for the first time, one can hear the many sighs of visitors who are just hit by the unbelievable sight. Photos cannot prepare you for what you are going to experience. No wonder the city attracts crowds of New Age people every day.
Machu Picchu is Peru’s most popular attraction and probably its most visited place too, although it lays in a remote area only reachable by train and busses or by train and foot via the Inca Trail. You will have to take the train from Cusco to Aquas Calientes. You can either travel by tourist train, vistadome train or the outrageously expensive Hiram Bingham train. The ride takes between 3.5 to 4 hours one way. In Aquas Calientes you have several lodging opportunities. It lies at the foot of the mountains on which Machu Picchu is located. The Machu Picchu Sanctuary Lodge at the entrance to the city offers the best evening views of the city for well-off travelers. Shuttle busses will take you from Aquas Calientes to Machu Picchu. The ride takes about 20 minutes.
Travelers get the best overview of the city from the caretakers hut, uphill from the entrance. From here you can plan your attack on the city. Machu Picchu is divided into three sectors, the Royal District, The Industrial District and the Sacred District. The hitching post of the sun (or Intiwatana) is probably the most famous of the archeological treasures found in the Sacred District. It is the best preserved one in all of South America. Others were torn down by Spaniards during the conquest. The Temple of the Sun and the Temple of the three Windows are other important places in the Sacred District.
You can hire a tour guide or take your time to explore the city on your own. Whatever way you choose, there are incredible things to be discovered, like a special stone in the quarry that impressively documents the stone splitting technique used by the Inca.
You should bring plenty of water, a raincoat and something to eat. There is no food inside the site and the only other restaurants besides the one in the Sanctuary Lodge can be found in Aquas Calientes. The train from Cusco arrives around 10am and leaves at around 3pm. There are plenty of eating opportunities in Aquas Calientes. As you may have guessed from the name of the city, you can find hot springs in Aquas Calientes. After a day of hiking in Machu Picchu you can soak in a relaxing bath.
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