The Lost City of the Incas
Machu Picchu is a highlight on almost everyone's vacation in Peru. It is one of the most amazing ruins in the world and is also the goal of our Classic and Royal Inca Trail treks.
Machu Picchu was built around 1450 by the Inca emperor Pachacuti as essentially a getaway vacation estate. It was used for about 120 years, until the Spanish invaders threatened the Incas, who fled deeper into the Amazon jungle. Because of this, the site was left undisturbed for hundreds of years, with only a few locals even knowing it existed. It wasn't until 1911 that explorer Hiram Bingham found the ruins, eventually opening it up to exploration and ultimately tourism.
Machu Picchu is a large set of ruins divided into an Agricultural and Urban sector. Incredible stonework, the remains of a quarry, open fields, several sacred rocks, and many connected buildings are among the highlights of the ruins. Some travelers prefer just to sit and take in the amazing scene while others explore the site either on their own or with a local guide. It is also possible to attempt the somewhat scary climb to the top of Huayna Picchu, a nearby peak.
There are only two ways to reach Machu Picchu. Most tourists take the train running from Cusco and Ollantaytambo along the Urubamba River. The train has three levels of service (backpacker, Vista Dome, and Hiram Bingham) and runs several times per day. The train actually ends in the small town of Aguas Calientes (recently renamed Machu Picchu Pueblo), from which a bus runs frequently up to and down from Machu Picchu, located on a ridge above the town. It is possible to take the train into Machu Picchu in the morning and out again in the afternoon. However, many people prefer to stay overnight in Aguas Calientes.
The other method of reaching Machu Picchu is by foot via the Inca Trail. Both the Classic Inca Trail and the Royal (Alternative) Inca Trail finish at the Sun Gate, an entrance to the Machu Picchu ruins. It is possible to enter via the Sun Gate from the Inca Trail and walk down through the historical site without having or using a ticket to Machu Picchu. Some travelers elect to do this and return the following day (refreshed and showered). However, if one wishes to explore the ruins that day, a ticket is needed. All those who hike in on the Inca Trail return via the train.
Whether you arrive by foot or by train, Machu Picchu will be a highlight of your trip to Peru.