Machu Picchu is the crowning achievement for travelers to South America. With its near-mythical status as a lost city, that wasn’t “discovered” until 1913, it has lured in travelers ever since. It should most certainly be at the top of your bucket list and if you’re heading south of the equator, it really is a can’t miss destination. It’s worth planning your whole trip around. Built sometime in the 1400s, it was one of the important cities of the Inca Empire, and it has inspired thousands of visitors over the last 600 years. Even these pictures won’t really do this destination justice, as it really is something you need to see and feel yourself.
It is certainly one of the most impressive things we’ve ever seen with our own eyes. The Inca Empire ruled over the people of the Peruvian Mountains, only to be undone by the arrival of the Spanish. Their superior weaponry and desire to take over ensured the end of the Inca. After the conquest of the Spanish, the city was abandoned and wasn’t rediscovered for 400 years. The city was constructed using intricate stones, and there were 3 distinct styles in use during the construction. Its amazing to think of these stones being carried up the hill, a hike that was hard enough with a nearly empty backpack. It makes the ruins even more impressive when you picture the people who constructed it.
Looking through these pictures again only helps to fuel my wanderlust. While this trip may have happened 15 years ago, the memories from this experience will always be a part of me. Are you convinced yet? Let’s keep going, there is more to see.
What makes Machu Picchu so amazing?
As a backpacker in my early 20’s, this place was so magical and awe inspiring. This was the final stop on a 6 month trip across South America, so as the saying goes, save the best for last. A few days after climbing to the top of the ruins, and looking down at the archaeological site, I was on a plane flying back to Canada. This place was really, truly special, and a lasting memory that I will cherish forever.
I returned here in 2017, when we did the 5-day Salkantay Trek on route to the Ruins of Machu Picchu and it was no less special. I can say with 100% certainty that the next time we visit Peru, I would go back a third time, just in case something was missed or just to experience this place one more time.
One of the highlights from this first trip was climbing up the big staircase, from the lower city of Machu Picchu to the very top. Things have changed since 2005, and now you have to book a time slot to climb to the top, in order to preserve the ruins from the many footsteps that visit here daily. Once at the top, we also climbed down the backside of the ruins, a trip which has apparently been closed to visitors for the last several years, making this first trip even more special.
Where is Machu Picchu and how do you get there?
Step one, decide to go. Step two, go. It’s pretty simple to visit this incredible world wonder once you decide to do it. Flights to Peru are (normally) quite regular and from here you can easily travel to Cusco, which is the gateway to the Inca civilization. Cusco is where the capital city of the Inca was located and a perfect way to acclimatize to the altitude as you prepare to explore the ruins.
There are many ways to visit, and several different options depending on your budget. You can hike for 4 days, take the train from Cusco or combine a few different options (bus, walking and train) to arrive in Aguas Callientes, located just outside of the ruins. From the bottom of the ruins, there is a staircase and a bus. If you want to climb to the top of the ruins in time for sunrise, then walking is the only way to go. We climbed up with several other travelers in the dark, arriving just before sunrise and watching the daylight light up the ruins like a well choreographed event.
Whatever you do, don’t just write this off as just another ancient city. There is magic found here. What would inspire the locals to built a city in the clouds, high above the valley below? Once you come up to the top, and spend a few hours exploring this place, you will begin to understand why this place will last the test of time.