This popular historic destination is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Here we are greeted by the ancient remnants of an Inca civilization deep in the mountains of Peru, about 50 miles northwest of Cuzco.
Nestled between two mountains (Machu Picchu and Huayna Picchu) at an altitude of nearly 8,000 feet, it was built around the year 1450. There are numerous speculations as to why it was built, but it is known that after about 100 years the area was abandoned.
Many speculations also exist as to the purpose of it and the people who lived there. It was a lost civilization for many centuries, invisible under jungle overgrowth; so hidden it escaped destruction in the wave of Pizarro’s Spanish Conquest. In 1911 Hiram Bingham re-discovered the site and led an archaeological excavation, which resulted in the unearthing of this ancient world.
You can read more about Machu Picchu here.
There are several ways to get to Machu Picchu, I happened to go by train. It was a wonderful experience which included an animated albeit unusual fashion show. Passing through the Sacred Valley of the Incas and paralleling the beautiful Urubamba River, we arrived in Machu Picchu thoroughly entertained. As it was its own adventure, I will write about it in a future post.
The Inca Trail is also a popular route to the Site, though it is only for the heartiest of hikers and requires strict advanced booking. Tour operators offer alternative routes as well.
Tourism is heavy at this celebrated attraction, but the government has made restrictions which have helped to preserve the area. I tend to avoid touristy places but I was fortunate that our travel group arranged an overnight up there in the mountains. This way we could visit the site toward the end of one day and then again first thing in the morning before tourist buses arrived. That’s why the site photos are relatively peopleless.
I was enlightened and moved by this mystical, sacred place. Fascinating history, remarkable stonework and terracing craftsmanship, and the natural features were breathtaking (literally and figuratively). It is easy to see why ancient Peruvians mastered the weather extremes and lived in peace on this mountaintop…it’s a step closer to heaven.
Photo credit: Athena Alexander