Machu Picchu was one of our main targets when we were planning our trip to South America in the fall of 2017. We landed in Lima and had just over a week to make it to Cusco. We planned our trip around the 5-Day Salkantay Trek which had to be booked in advance. Cusco was the heart of the old Inca Empire and still has many reminders of the Inca’s dominance, despite the Spanish Influence that has taken over the city. It is the gateway to the Sacred Valley and any trip to Machu Picchu begins here.
The ruins of Machu Picchu lay “undiscovered” until 1911. Hiram Bingham was the first outsider to visit the ruins – it was still covered in the overgrown jungle – and the photographs he took were shared around the world, first appearing in National Geographic the next year. It has inspired the imagination ever since and was recently named as one of the 7 Wonders of the Modern World.
No matter how you get here – bus, train or by foot – the ruins are impressive, and worth any amount of effort to see with your own eyes.
There are several ways to get to Machu Picchu. We chose to take the 5-day Salkantay Trek, an 80 km hike through the Andes, with the final destination being the ruins.
What makes Machu Picchu so amazing?
We walked here, much like the Inca people would have done hundreds of years before us. It was a humbling experience walking along some of the same “roads” that the Inca would have traveled. Being surrounded by nature while pushing your body to the extreme is rewarding in ways you can’t explain unless you’ve experienced it yourself.
So for us, the inspiration was the journey to get there. Machu Picchu became just one of the 5 incredible days we experienced in the Andes.The first three days of our trek was filled with mountains, glaciers and eventually jungles. We had been up as high as the Salkantay Pass (4600 meters) and were now following the powerful rivers which had carved their paths through the mountains.
We enjoyed watching as the trickles of water melting off the glacier join together to become creeks, and eventually rivers, which over thousands of years have carved out the valley you are walking into. These rivers join other rivers and meander their way downwards, eventually into the Amazon River. The appreciation of nature on this hike is unparalleled.
Lost City in the Clouds
On the 4th day of our trek, we entered the valley of Machu Picchu. We began walking early in the morning and approached the city from the south, winding through the valley below. Throughout the day we were teased with unparalleled views of the mountains and a few peeks of the ruins from this lower point of view.
On the fifth day of our trek – while being foggy and eventually torrential downpour – was such an amazing moment after 4 difficult days of walking, to finally arrive at our final destination.
The last hurdle is the staircase, essentially a 1-hour walk from the bottom of the valley to the entrance of the ruins at the top of the hill. We made it up on willpower alone – our legs were hurting from the 4 days of hiking that preceded this hike. But wow! To see Machu Picchu – the city in the clouds – is one of the most rewarding things you can experience.
The day that we visited was cloudy and sprinkled with rain, which left the ruins covered in clouds at times. It made the place feel mystical. We spent a few hours walking around what remains of the city; which is very well-preserved considering it was left to the elements for hundreds of years.
Where is Machu Picchu and how do you get there?
Machu Picchu is one of the most famous destinations in South America and has become known around the world. Thousands of people visit here every day, and there are now limits on how many people can visit every day.
To travel here you must first visit Cusco. This is the gateway to the Inca. They have an international airport (and daily connections to Lima) and most of the bus lines in the country are set up to take you here. From Cuzco you can take a train, a bus or you can walk. We recommend walking.
While you have to share the experience of Machu Picchu with a few hundred other tourists, nothing can take away the beauty of Machu Picchu.
Machu Picchu is located at the top of a mountain in a far away valley in the Andes. The city remained undiscovered until 1911 and since then it has become unforgettable. It is highly recommended that you book your Machu Picchu admission well in advance. For us, it was worth planning our entire trip to South America around.
It is something that everyone should experience with their own eyes. To help inspire you, here are some of our favourite pictures from our Machu Picchu adventure.