Machu Picchu also known as the “Lost City of the Incas” is a very popular touristic site which has been recently declared to be ”one of the seven wonders of the world” and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Several archaeologists believe that the site was built by the Incas around AD 1400 as an estate for the emperor ”Pachacuti”. Today, Machu Picchu attracts about 3,000 visitors a day especially during peak season which typically runs between June to August.
Machu Picchu was discovered by the American anthropologist Hiram Bingham in 1911. The ruins are on the top of Machu Picchu and at the foot of the Huayan Picchu (young peak) mountain, surrounded by the rivers Vilcanota and Urubamba.
In the ancient language of the Incas, Machu Picchu means “old peak” which merely gives a rough definition of the main tourist attraction of Peru. Above the forest and surrounded by a thin drizzle, the ruins of this former place of worship and royal retreat stretch across the landscape, boasting a magnificent spectacle of stairs, carved tombs and sacred temples. Natural beauty ultimately abounds in the tropical forest of the eastern Andes.
Located about 7,000 feet above sea level, the mysterious ruins of Machu Picchu are nestled on a hilltop soaring above the Urabamba Valley thousands of feet below. It is estimated that about 1200 people could have lived here in ancient times but there are also theories that the site was mainly a retreat for the Incan rulers. The religious areas in particular appear to inspire several hikers and tourists which report to be transported into ancient times allowing an almost ”magical” experience”.
Of special interest is the Inca Trail one of the most famous trails of the region. The 45 mile trail starts at the Sacred Valley of the Urubamba River and ends at the breathtaking ruins of Machu Picchu, winding through the scenic high Andes mountain ranges and the dense subtropical forest. This four-day hike requires some prior acclimatization so to get accustomed to the decreased oxygen levels experienced at 12,000 feet.
The cost of hiking the Inca Trail varies depending on several options. With about $500 you can cover the private bus, fees to the trail, the guide and assistant guide, food and camping accessories, the trail entrance fees and other miscellaneous costs.
For those not up to the hike, there are alternatives. Peru Rail offers the option to hop on a luxury train on a scenic route to Machu Picchu. All inclusive rides encompass train ride, snacks, bus ride and entrance tickets to the ruins. The Vistadome train offers panoramic windows, on – board entertainment, and lunch at the Machu Picchu Sanctuary Lodge for approximately $105.
A bus ride may also be an option for those wishing to travel from Aguas Calientes up to Machu Picchu. The trip takes about 20 minutes and costs $6 each way. The ride is very scenic and is not for the faint of heart since there are almost vertical drops plunging down below the Vilcanota Valley!
The best time of the year to visit the ruins is generally from May to October, when the temperatures are mild and there is little rain. Rainy season is from December to April with warmer temperatures and abundant rain showers.
If you are looking for a great place to eat and spend the night, the Machu Picchu Sanctuary Lodge is the right pick. This five star luxury hotel and restaurant is strategically located at the entrance of the lost city and is the only hotel in the area. This hotel restaurant boasts spectacular views, comfortable rooms, excellent service and great food. This hotel is very expensive, but if you can afford it, it will be an unforgettable experience. Just make sure to reserve it at least three months in advance if you are planning your vacation between May to October.
Machu Picchu Sanctuary Lodge
Address: Machu Picchu Ruins
Rating: “deluxe lodge”
Phone number: (+51 84) 241 777 (Reservations at Monasterio Hotel Cusco)
The real beauty of Machu Picchu, declared a World Heritage Site, lies in its squares, its aqueducts and watchtowers, its observatories and the sun clock, all evidence of the wisdom and technology of the ancient Andean builders.