trapezoids of a lifetime: Machu Picchu
This month marks the hundred-year-anniversary of the "re-discovery" of this Inca citadel by Hiram Bingham. Machu Picchu deserves its clichés--'place of a lifetime,' 'bucket-list destination'...'mystical'...'amazing'... Sometimes, it's okay to simply stick with others' adjectives; the thesaurus isn't always a good thing. You're not necessarily an 'unoriginal tourist' just because you agree with scores of published accounts that describe a site the same way. The distinctive trapezoidal windows of Inca construction almost always frame compelling views--the magic of stone. You're in the heart of the Andes; for a moment, stop seeking words. Drink in the view.
By Joseph Cyr, AFAR Local Expert
Machu Picchu & the Galápagos
There are places where “meeting the locals” isn’t limited to the human species—namely, the Galápagos Islands, the stomping grounds of blue-footed boobies and marine iguanas. Ecuador protects this volcanic Pacific archipelago as a national park, and the native species are isolated from predators, so they have little fear of humans. During our Machu Picchu & the Galápagos expedition, we visit these remote islands with a Trip Leader who is certified naturalist. Prepare to encounter a seasonally varied parade of creatures, among them sea lions, sea turtles, and Darwin’s finches—named for Charles Darwin, who did groundbreaking scientific research here.
Sponsored by Overseas Adventure Travel
Fiasco or no fiasco, Machu Picchu
Our visit to the famed Inca citadel was framed by fiasco: a bit of food-poisoning along with some anti-government demonstrations in Cuzco that led to a train strike and non-refundable hotel reservations. With limited time, our visit to Machu Picchu was on the edge of not happening. Fortunately, we ended up making it. From the dizzyingly steep terraces thousands of feet above the Urubamba River, we were grateful to share the thin air with the resident llamas.
By Joseph Cyr, AFAR Local Expert
Bird's-Eye View of Machu Picchu
To celebrate my husband's 40th birthday, I planned a trip to Peru for the two of us, scheduling our itinerary so we would spend the day of his actual birthday at the awe-inspiring Machu Picchu. I wanted him to always be able to remember exactly what he was doing on his 40th birthday. They only allow a limited number of people per day to hike to the top of the Wayna Picchu mountain overlooking the ruins, so we rushed to be the first two in so we could have some time at the summit to take in the view before crowds arrived. We succeeded and reached the summit before anyone else, giving us about 20 minutes alone to enjoy the amazing view of the magical Machu Picchu ruins. The weather started out with heavy rain but, luckily, the rain stopped and the clouds parted as soon as we reached the top of Wayna Picchu, allowing for ideal views. The weather was perfect for the rest of the day. I think my husband and I both will remember for years to come exactly where we were on the morning he turned 40. Machu Picchu from above is not a sight I'll soon forget.
Beautiful Machu Picchu
To celebrate my husband's 40th birthday, I planned a trip to Peru for the two of us, culminating in a visit to the magical Machu Picchu. As I rounded the bend and got my first view of the amazing ruins I could see immediately why it was named one of the Official New 7 Wonders of the World in 2007. The Incan emperor Pachacuti built Machu Picchu in the 15th century halfway up the Andean Plateau 8,000 feet above sea level, and researchers believe the Incas abandoned the city because of a smallpox outbreak. Machu Picchu remained abandoned and hidden for over three centuries until Hiram Bingham discovered it 1911. I can't imagine what he must have thought the first time he laid eyes on the jaw-dropping ruins. A trip to the amazing Machu Picchu is a must on any trip to Peru.
A Triangle Within a Triangle
Wandering around the amazing Machu Picchu, wondering how the Incans in the 15th century could have built something so amazing in such a remote location, I noticed three alpacas below me forming a triangle around a large rock that also looked like a triangle. I loved the triangle within a triangle and had to take a picture. Machu Picchu is a must-see on any trip to Peru, with fascinating history and a postcard-perfect view around every corner.
Step Into Nothing
On a misty morning wandering through Machu Picchu with my husband, a patchwork of fog covered the ruins, adding to the already-dramatic setting and making the ruins even more mystical and enchanting. It had rained hard in the morning but luckily the rain had cleared out, leaving behind a beautiful cloud forest in the valley below Machu Picchu. Although there were stairs leading down at the end of this walkway, it looked as if you would walk right out into nothing but the clouds if you kept walking. Machu Picchu is unlike anything I've ever experienced, and I knew as soon as I saw it why it was named one of the New 7 Wonders of the World in 2007.
One of the most interesting things about the amazing Machu Picchu is the almost 700 terraces that run throughout the ruins. The Incans who built Machu Picchu in the 15th century didn't have a written language, hadn't yet discovered iron or steel, and didn't know about the wheel, but they were sophisticated enough engineers to know that they needed terracing to support their new city. The terracing was porous and allowed water from the region's heavy rains to drain from the city while also providing a place for agriculture so Machu Picchu's residents could sustain themselves. On any trip to Peru the magnificent Machu Picchu is a must.
View from the Sun Gate
When visiting the amazing Machu Picchu, a short walk up to the Sun Gate allows for a spectacular view of the ruins. Machu Picchu looks different from every perspective, so the more vantage points you can view it from the better. Hikers taking the Inca Trail to get to Machu Picchu enter the ruins through the Sun Gate. I can only imagine what they must think when they turn the corner and first lay eyes on the jaw-dropping ruins.
One of the things that surprised me when wandering through the amazing Machu Picchu was the alpacas grazing in the ruins. Naively, for some reason I hadn't expected to find them at 8,000 feet up on the Andean Plateau, much less munching grass at one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. I had to laugh at this proud guy, who seemed to be taking his guard duty very seriously.
One of the things that surprised me about the amazing Machu Picchu was the large number of alpacas roaming through the ruins. They were very used to people and kids enjoyed petting them, despite their rain-soaked coats that didn't smell so great. It was funny to see alpacas casually munching grass at Machu Picchu, completely unaware of the rich history and jaw-dropping scenery around them that people come from all over the world to see.
Misty Machu Picchu
The Incan emperor Pachacuti built the amazing Machu Picchu in the 15th century. The Incans abandoned the city shortly after building it, in all likelihood because of a smallpox outbreak, and it remained hidden and unknown for three centuries until 1911 when Hiram Bingham discovered it. Machu Picchu's architecture is unique and incredibly well-built. The Incan builders hand carved the stones they used for the city's buildings so carefully that even today, 500 years later, not even a thin piece of paper will fit between them. They're still standing not because they're held together with mortar - the Incans didn't use mortar - but because of the superior quality of their stone carving and craftsmanship. On the morning my husband and I visited Machu Picchu to celebrate his 40th birthday, it rained hard in the morning but luckily stopped as quickly as it started, leaving behind a thin mist that shrouded the ruins in drama and mystery.
Wayna Picchu In the Mist
On our visit to the amazing Machu Picchu, it rained hard in the morning but luckily stopped as quickly as it had started, shrouding the ruins and mountains with a thin layer of mist. The effect was dramatic - Wayna Picchu in particular took on a whole new drama as it loomed over the ruins. On any trip to Peru, a trip to the jaw-dropping, one-of-a-kind Machu Picchu is a must. As soon as I laid eyes on the ruins for the first time I immediately could see why they were named one of the New Seven Wonders of the World in 2007.
Bird's-Eye View of Machu Picchu
For my husband's 40th birthday, I planned a trip for the two of us to the beautiful Peru. I wanted his 40th to be memorable, so I arranged for us to be at Machu Picchu on the day of his birthday. While it rained heavily on our way up to Machu Picchu from nearby Aguas Calientes, the rain moved out just in time for us to climb to the top of Wayna Picchu (also referred to as "Huayna Picchu"), the mountain in the background of Machu Picchu's citadel that rises 360 meters above the ruins, to get a bird's-eye view of the ruins from above. And what a view it was! They only allow 400 people to climb Wayna Picchu each day, so if you think it's something you'd like to do, make sure to make that your first stop so you can get in line early for a permit. My husband and I were towards the front of the line and we hike pretty quickly, so we were able to get up Wayna Picchu before everyone else. For about 15 minutes, we had the mountain summit and the breathtaking view of Machu Picchu below all to ourselves. The pools of water from the morning's rain and the moody cloud cover that lingered after the storm just added to the view and made it more dramatic. Climbing Wayna Picchu was the perfect way to start my husband's 40th birthday celebration. If you find yourself visiting Machu Picchu and would like to experience it in a slightly different way, take the short but strenuous hike to the top of Wayna Picchu. You'll feel like you're on top of the world.
Explore Machu Picchu's 700 Terraces
The Incan emperor Pachacuti built the amazing Machu Picchu in the 15th century. The residents abandoned the city shortly after building it, likely because of a smallpox outbreak, and it remained hidden and unknown for three centuries until Hiram Bingham discovered it in 1911. One of the most impressive things about Machu Picchu is its roughly 700 terraces, marvels of engineering in and of themselves. The terraces serve a couple functions: they're highly permeable, safely carrying away water from the often heavy rains that swamp the area and stabilizing the city's buildings and trails. They also provide a natural place to cultivate agriculture, making life at the remote Machu Picchu more sustainable for the people who lived there. It's amazing to think that the 15th century Incans who built Machu Picchu didn't have any formal written language, hadn't yet discovered the wheel, didn't use iron or steel, and yet were savvy enough engineers to develop the complicated drainage systems that have preserved Machu Picchu for some 500 years.
A long windy road to Machu Picchu
The easiest way to get up to the entrance of the citadel at Machu Picchu is to take a bus, but it can be a pretty scary ride with all the hairpin turns. Your heart will race for other reasons if you choose instead to hike up. It won't take more than an hour, and it will get you in shape to undertake another great hike, Wayna Picchu. Wayna Picchu overlooks Machu Picchu. It's an advanced hike but so worth the effort! My recommendation for going to Machu Picchu is to stay in the area for three or four days beforehand. Eat well, sleep well, and acclimate to the altitude a bit with a massage each day. That will ensure that you will enjoy the hikes and the natural beauty so much more.
By John Galante, AFAR Staff
Take the train
Without a doubt, take the Vistadom train when heading to Machu Picchu. It's a fun, scenic ride which really gets you ready for the experience. It ltravels from Ollantaytambo in the Scared Valley to the town that sits below Machu Picchu. It takes about two hours and so enjoyable. Load you ipod with some chill Peruvian tunes, sit back and enjoy the views!
By John Galante, AFAR Staff
The stonework is what gets ya!
We all have seen hundreds of shots of the grand Machu Pichu from above but what is really incredible is getting up close to it. You can only begin to understand the incredible feat to which it was built by walking the three days up the Inca trail to these great Peruvian heights. The artistry and stonework is one of the most impressive thing I have seen, every rock fits perfectly together and it was all carried up there on foot! This touristy attraction was not a let down, just make sure you walk and forget the bus.
By Tara Guertin, AFAR Staff
If you're looking for an alternative to Hiking the Inca trail, consider renting motorcycles and finding your own way there. Armed with a couple of local maps two 400cc bikes, my travel buddies and I drove over 8,000 foot snowy mountain peaks and down into sweltering jungle paths. The way there isn't always a road, and some improvisation will be necessary, but it's not a difficult ride overall. Motorcycles can be rented in town (we had a good experience with http://www.ericadventures.com) and come with jackets, helmets and gloves. Accommodation can be found in towns along the way, and some hiking will be necessary to get into the site.
By Aaron King
The Machu Picchu Duck
Amist all the beauty and lush rainforests of Machu Picchu, I couldn't help but notice that the waters below resembled a duck. You see it, don't you?!
Machu Picchu Mountains
A must see/do in life - climb Machu Picchu early in the morning, in time to see clouds part at noon.
Machu Picchu Ruins
It's said that when Hiram Bingam first discovered Machu Picchu, there was a single, lone man living amidst the ruins and declaring them home. The site is best seen at daybreak, when the clouds are parting over the mountains. Stay until sunset, if you can!
To Be Experienced in Person
The culmination of the 3-night, 4-day Inca Trail trek is the arrival at the famous citadel of Machu Picchu, in Peru. The anticipation of seeing it builds each day, and when the fog lifts early in the morning to reveal all of those terraces and stone blocks, the feeling of accomplishment is overwhelming. I'd highly recommend doing the Trail instead of taking a bus up to see it. There are many other sites that can be seen only if you are on the trail, and the experience is extremely rewarding. We went with Peru Treks, who treated us like royalty and were very friendly. Machu Picchu is a sight to be seen with your own eyes, not on a postcard!
Machu Picchu in the Fog
We were among the first 50 or so people into Machu Picchu in the morning and the fog completely set the scene. It really made you feel like you were in a lost city and helped you understand how it could have been lost for so long.
By Brian Hasday
The early bird gets the worm
This was a dream fulfilled. I caught the first bus up the mountain and then hiked and hiked to get an almost humanless view of the place.
By AFAR Traveler
Wayna Picchu, Machu Picchu
Towering above the Machu Picchu ruins, Wayna Picchu is one of the most thrilling hikes in the area. One a limited number of people are allowed to climb the vertical piece of rock which is surrounded by cliffs on all sides - with no guard rails. Once at the top, the views are out of this world and you can see why the Inca selected this place to build such a palace.
Along the Inca Trail
As I descended the Inca Trail, a heavy rain stopped and the mist lifted to reveal this image of Machu Picchu.
By Udey Johnson
Ruins in the Mist
Misty ruins at Macchu Picchu
By Sarah Belau
Machu Picchu at Dawn
Nothing more glorious than seeing the fog slowly burn off of Machu Picchu.
dead woman's pass, inca trail
hiking the inca trail was incredible...while arrive at machu picchu brought me to tears, trudging to the top of this peak only to stumble upon this surprising panoramic made the trek worthwhile all on its own
These horses carried us up and down practically vertical and very narrow mountain paths towards the Salcantay Pass and then down to the high jungle and Machu Picchu.
Residents of Machu Picchu
A picture tells a thousand words
Sunrise at Machu Picchu
We toured the site late in the afternoon, and our guide showed us the places to stand to watch the sunrise the next morning. It was amazing enough just to be there, but to watch as the sun burned through the mist to reveal the ruins was surreal. It was one of the highlights of my life. Peru is a wonderful country with beautiful people...I look forward to returning to experience more sites, sounds, tastes and smiles.
By Renee H.
Lost City of the Incas
Machu Picchu is amazing one of those life time greatest gifts you would give your self. I can't really explain the beauty of the place without one actually setting foot on the place that is a magnetic center of the universe that has the most peaceful & magical vibes in the Andes. It's incredible to walk along the ruins exploring them. No trip is not complete without a hike up to Huaynapicchu, where only a lucky 200 can score a permit for that day & it's def worth the time & energy to see some spectacular views of Machu Picchu. I even wrote about my experience on my blog: http://canuszewskitravels.blogspot.com/.
We trekked the Inca Trail for 3 days & 4 nights, and when we finally arrived at Machu Picchu, the view, coupled with our exhaustion, made us want to just stop and take it all in. We sat here and listened to our guide talk about the history of Machu Picchu. It was actually very hot sitting here, but for some reason, we just didn't want to go anywhere. Would we ever make it back to this spot again? Maybe years from now we will, but we treated it as if this was the only time we would see this place. On top of the world on Thanksgiving Day 2011.
A different view of Machu Pichu. Out of the many hundreds of panoramic pictures I took of machu pichu, I liked this one because it is a different presentation from what I have always seen in postcards. It really showed how ingenious the Incans were in their building techniques. All the windows here align so that you can stand on one side and see all the way through to the other side many houses away.
This is a view of Machu Pichu town as I was hiking the road. You can almost hear the raging river and juxtaposed with the imposing mountains, there is only one way to feel when you're here- very small. Nature is so present here in the Andes and it is completely astonishingly beautiful.
We were at the butterfly house in Machu Pichu town and got to see how butterflies transformed from a tiny egg to the full winged creature.
Dead Woman's Pass
This is the highest point on the Inca Trail, at around 14,000 feet above seal level. The air is thin, and it seems as if you can never catch your breath, but the view from the top was totally worth it. Are we there yet?
The misty jungle portion of the Inca Trail on Day 2. The stone steps seemed to never end, but it was just amazing scenery everywhere you looked. Are We there yet?
One of the tunnels along the Inca Trail, on the way towards Machu Picchu. This is day 3 of the trail, the longest day, but with many Incan sites. Are we there yet?
Approach To Machu Picchu
After 3 intense days of hiking, we finally made it to the legendary ruins of Machu Picchu. There was an intense feeling of satisfaction of making it to the site by hiking. We could have easily taken a train & bus to get here, but the unbelievable scenery of the trail, along with the numerous ruins you can only see if you hike, were priceless experiences. Are we there yet?
Climbing up to Wayna Picchu is like climbing "on top of the world", where you can look down upon the amazing ruins of Machu Picchu. The view from Wayna Picchu is very dizzying, as is the lack of oxygen at this elevation. The trail starts at a ranger hut at the opposite end of the site from the park entrance. You are required to sign in and sign out at the hut to limit the number of people and ensure visitor don't go missing.
On Top of The Inca Trail
This was day 2 of our Inca Trail hike. All of our research before the trip told us that this would be the toughest day, as it would reach the highest elevation, at over 14,000 feet. Our goal was to reach this spot, Dead Woman's Pass. For awhile we could see the top in the distance, and wondered if we would be able to make it. Each step was tough, as it felt like we had just finished sprinting. You could hardly catch your breath at all. To help out, we made goals for ourselves, like, "go 1 minute and then rest." Well, that dwindled down to, "go 5 steps and then rest." But we did make it to Dead Woman's Pass, and as a reward, we stood at this spot, on top of the world, in the Andes Mountains, on the Inca Trail. The Trail was full of rewarding things, from the food, to the views, and to the people we met along the way. If you are ever thinking of visiting Machu Picchu, I highly recommend taking the Inca Trail. There are several Incan sites that you simply cannot see unless you take the Trail. And, you will miss out on views like this. Sure, it is physically tough, but it is great to step outside your comfort zone a little bit to experience the world.
A little music in the morning
If you go to Machu Picchu, make sure you hike up Wayna Picchu at sunrise. They only issue a limited numbered of passes, so you'll need to get in line well-before they open. It's a strenuous hike up man-made steps. I did see people of various ages and fitness levels making the trip and all of them seemed to make it to the top. It took me about 45 minutes. At the top while watching the sun rise and looking down on Machu Picchu, my guide pulled out a flute and started to play. It was an amazing moment. I truly felt on top of the world.
Brave (or crazy)
Wayna Pichu is the former outpost for Machu Picchu. At dawn people get in line to hike to the top. Since they only issue a set number of passes, get there early. The hike took me about 45 minutes and was pretty strenuous. The peak becomes crowded with people gazing down on Machu Picchu. I noticed this one couple out on the edge of the peak. Actually, you couldn't miss them; few others dared to venture out that far. I was content to have made it to the top. It felt like the top of the world to me.
Whether you make the grueling three day trek to Machu Picchu on foot, or arrive in mere hours via the luxury train from Cusco, the effect is the same. When you climb to the Funerary Rock Hut for a perfect vista of the ancient Inca tombs and plazas, there is no question but that you are on top of the world, physically, culturally, historically and emotionally. Spread before you are some of the most mind-boggling reminders of a bygone culture that express emphatically, in so many ways, its advanced knowledge, keen insights and breathtaking accomplishments. While trying desperately to capture even a suggestion of this magnificence in my lens, the face of a charming little dog popped into my viewfinder and brought me back to earth. Dogs are everywhere in Peru, but forbidden from this sacred site. Where did he come from? I still wonder...
Hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu
I recently did the Inca trail hike to Machu Picchu - which was a 4 day trek passing through the most amazing terrain that changed almost hourly - and was always extraordinary. And as we hiked, we were treated like royalty from our tour guide and porters. We went with Alpaca Expeditions - and our guide Raul woke us every morning with some tea served to our tents, our chef made us the most amazing meals and we were taught about the life of the Incas and how the current Andean people live today. We were only responsible for a small day pack and to enjoy each and every minute of the trail. There are smaller Inca ruins to run around each day - and you have them all to yourself, making them even more fun than Machu Picchu, which is amazing, but extremely crowded. I am sure that taking the train to Machu Picchu is lovely, but there is nothing that will beat this 4 day adventure that is an amazing accomplishment that we all can conquer. And choose the Alpaca team to go with - you will not be treated better.
Beautiful sacred sanctuary of oneness in Perú.
By Ále Om Perú
As the Sun Rises
In the predawn, I rose with my friends to catch the bus to Machu Picchu. We are ready to see the sun magic light hit the ruins of the ancient city. Our guide shows us a wonderful location above the city - away from the crowds. We watched the sky get brighter and the surroundings become more visible. It took the sun much longer to make an appearance - the Andes Mountains were in the way. We enjoy the drifting clouds and morning dew lift away. When the sun final crested over the peak, we were rewarded with glowing views on the sundial and the amphitheater. More stunning views were found at the top of Machu Picchu Mountain. The climb is one long, steep, and tiring staircase. It is amazing to see what community can create and how they do it. The topsoil for their planting was hiked up the mountain from the surrounding area, the rocks were carved with small hand tools to fit snuggly together without mortar, and the culture didn't even have the wheel to help move things around. I recommend traveling with the Lorenzo Tour group. Not only do you get the see Machu Picchu, they take you mountain biking down a near 15,000 ft mtn., hike along a non-crowded Inka Trail, and give you the opportunity to go white water rafting, zip on South America's highest zip-line, and enjoy uncrowded hot springs.
An Incan Emperor's Estate
After a four day hike in almost constant rain, we finally reached the 15th-century, pre-Columbian Inca site located 7,970 ft above sea level. When you hike in along the Inca Trail, you arrive at Machu Picchu before the hordes of tourist in their buses so you have the whole place to yourself for a few hours (and the other thirty or so hikers). It was truly magical to see the sun rise over Incan emperor Pachacuti former estate.
By Van Nguyen
The ruins of Machu Picchu are super cool, and it's unintuitive to climb even higher if you hiked for four days on the Inca Trail to get here, but the technically steep climb up Huayna Picchu is well worth the effort. Its the rhino horn shaped peak over intrepid explorer Morgan Paar's left shoulder (pictured) and it gives you amazing views.
By Van Nguyen
The South American Backpacker's Rite of Passage
Arriving at Machu Picchu, whether having survived the Inca Trail or having arrived by train from Cusco, feels like the great turning point in any South American backpacking adventure. It is one of the sites in South America that every tourist tries to see and is famous the world over, and for a good reason. If you have the time to spend a few days getting there but the Inca Trail is booked or you're more interested in a less travelled route, try hiking Salkantay mountain or participating in an Inca Jungle trek, where you'll spend time biking downhill, ziplining, and rafting in addition to hiking through the gorgeous Andes on your way to the famous Incan ruins. If you still have the energy by the time you're made it to Aguas Calientes, the tourist town at the base of the ruins, try climbing the approximately 2,000 steps up in the early morning to catch that first bit of sunlight and soak in the reward of daybreak amid peaks of the Andes.
The Present Day Residents Machu Picchu
In going to Machu Picchu, everyone talks about the beauty of the Andes, the spectacular trek they may have taken on the way there, and of course the magic in the ruins themselves. What often gets left out is the fact that Machu Picchu is currently the home of a small group of Llamas who wander around the park and are entirely welcoming to the tourist masses. Go ahead and get a little close - these Andean creatures will only make you more certain of the beauty in the ruins themselves and how spectacular it is to walk through an ancient city with local company.
I'm so proud that I am human
Machu Picchu was magnificent place. When I arrived Cusco, I thought nature is enormous in contrast, Human is humble. But you know I have changed my mind. Exactly Human is Humble, but we are wise. Even though we can't dominate nature, we know how we can live with nature. it's a simple idea, when I have realized it in my mind, I couldn't control my rage at that moment. T.T I'm a Human !
By Saemi Youn
Even visitors with scholarly depths of knowledge about Machu Picchu stand in wonder when they enter the historic sanctuary. “How?” each asks silently and aloud. How did a people centuries ago plan and build this city on a mountaintop in a tropical forest? Explore the terraced levels and you only marvel at the size and grandeur.
Inca Empire in the sky
It takes planning and effort to travel to Machu Picchu and it takes effort to explore its grounds. You may justifiably say for any travel experience that words and photos are no substitute for being there. I rarely say that, but for Machu Picchu, it applies.
The hard rock display
Stones large and small stack to build the impressive city of temples, homes, shops, storage buildings and terraced fields for agriculture, play and ceremony.
Peaceful llamas and alpacas
The Machu Picchu sanctuary is intentionally uncluttered with signs, re-creations of daily life and dressed up characters. (Thank you!) The llamas and alpacas on the grassy terraces not only add Inca imagery, but they have a job of grazing the abundant terraces of grass.
Day 3 of the Incan Trail hike
On day 3 we watched the most amazing sunrise! The guides woke us at 5am and served coffee on the top of the mountain... it was the most incredible, non forgettable morning in my life.
The purpose of Macchu Picchu will always remain a mystery. It is probably a religious and spiritual site. It is the work of man echoing the work of nature. The Inca trail leading up to Machu Picchu ( it takes four days of camping out in the Andes if you want to do it) was built to always face the snow capped mountains because that is what they worshipped. The architectural style is sacred geography. For me, if God isn’t at Machu Picchu, he isn’t anywhere. for more info read Things I Learned From the Incas In Peru http://havefunflysafe.wordpress.com/
While I was taking photos at Machu Picchu, this llama stepped right in my pathway, briefly glanced at me, then nearly pushed me out of its way as it continued up the path in my direction. Fortunately I was able to get a few shots off before it went on its merry way.
3rd day of Inca trail, one of many breath taking moments.
Inca trail is not easy but these breath taking moments make it worth the hike.
After four days on the Inka Trail our reward was Machu Picchu at sunrise through the sungate. Took this shot a bit later as clouds rolled in. The hike and the breathtaking experience of seeing Machu Picchu at dawn were well worth it. The trip of a lifetime indeed!
By Julia Duthie
What an unbelievable place.....how did they build it, why did they choose this place, how did someone find it so many years later!?!?!
Hiking The Inca Trail with 5 Great Friends
Last month, I had the opportunity to travel to Peru and embark on a 6 day journey through the mountains with 5 of my best friends. We landed in Cusco, the original capital city of the Inca Empire After spending a few days in Cusco acclimating to the extreme altitude adjustment, our group traveled north by foot, along the original Inca Trail. This was the same trail messengers would use to carry messages from the capital city to the secret city of Machu Picchu, a small city curiously placed on top of a mountain. After a 4 day journey through the mountains, rivers, and rain forests of Peru, we arrived at our destination—Machu Picchu. This journey was special for all of us, as we were exposed to sights and sounds we never knew existed. The plush greens and vivid sounds along the way felt otherworldly. At points along the way, we actually hiked above the clouds, as though we were entering a city in the sky. The food, culture, people, and rich history of Peru made the trip monumental for me, and I would ask that if offered the opportunity, each person should try to visit this very special place.
By Dan Brenner
No Inca Trail but No Crowds
Although we wanted to hike the Inca Trail we didn't have the time. At first we were disappointed, but when we were able to get to Machu Picchu before all of the hikers arrived we felt a little better about our decision not to do it. If you are unable to hike, for whatever reason, take advantage of getting to the site as early as possible. It was great to have the place basically to ourselves for a little while.
Cloud Forest on the Camino Inka Inka Trail
The clouds come to play over the rolling hills along the Camino Inka Inka Trail to Machu Picchu. It was a breath taking experience with amazing views that only the imagination could attempt to recreate.
Machu Picchu, again
What do you do when you want to photograph an iconic site that has been photographed millions of times? You either take the same shot millions of people had already taken already or try doing something different. For the latter option, you need the help from any photographer’s best friend: Patience. One morning, a few years ago, I brought my friend along as I sat patiently in front of the Inca site for several hours taking pictures (adding a few dozen of them to the million plus inventory of photographs of the site!) as the fog was lifting and the sun was coming out. I tried shooting the same scene from different angles—framing it with other elements included— until the universe paid me back for being patient and not giving up, and sent this beautiful bird my way to pose in front of the Lost City of the Incas. At that moment, I took my “perfect” picture of Machu Picchu, turned my camera off, stretched my achingly stiff legs, and smiled….
As a child, my grandfather loved to teach my sister and me to say challenging words. One of his favorites was Machu picchu. When a friend asked me to join a trek through Peru, I jumped at the chance. I'd finally get to see the words my grandfather taught me come to life. If you aren't hiking into Machu Picchu through the Sun Gate, the next best option is to make your way up the mountain before sunrise. We did so to beat the crowds. But imagine my surprise as I was hiking up the steps as the morning mist lifted when I came face to face with a llama enjoying the morning sun. My morning friend was about 5 feet away. Wayna Picchu looms in the background. Words fail to describe the peace and beauty of that moment. And I have my grandfather to thank for teaching me the words that got me here.
After hiking to the top of Macchu Pichhu (mountain, not monument), I added my own cairn, or stone trail marker, to this pile. It's a tradition the Incan messengers used while making deliveries, and native Quechuan people still use them today for devotional purposes.
I decided to celebrate my 58th birthday week by hiking the Inca Trail, a three day trek that started at Ollantaytambo and ended at the famed Machu Picchu ruins. I started out with a tour group but they were about speed; I like to take photos and enjoy the journey. I spent a significant portion of the hike on my own with my ipod playing an album by a group called Mumford and Sons, released the week before. Probably the maiden voyage of the album "Babel" along the ancient trail and my own personal soundtrack.
By Dee Cantlon
The Magic of Machu Picchu
Machu Picchu, one of the Seven Wonders of the World, is a place that needs no introduction. What is it about Machu Picchu that makes it so wondrous? Well, I’m not sure there is a concrete answer; the magic of this place cannot be put into words. Rounding the corner and taking the first step into Machu Picchu is almost fairytale like. You take that step with both excitement and anxiety to finally see one of the most amazing places on earth. Once that step is taken, you feel as though you are dreaming. You stop, stare, and try to take in the massive and exquisite surroundings. Questions fly through your mind; who built this place? Who lived here? How did they build it? Why? When? You yearn for the answers. You want to know anything and everything. It’s amazing how travel can trigger the desire to learn. Machu Picchu is a perfect example of this, and seeing and experiencing a place firsthand is the best way to learn. Machu Picchu is just one of the many places in the world that is rich in both history and culture.
Beautiful afternoon at Macchu Picchu
Couldn't have asked for a better day. Mostly sunny with puffy white clouds and temp in the low 70s. Visiting Macchu Picchu is a breathless experience, since at 8000 feet breathing can be a bit difficult after climbing up to the top. I have now been able to visit six of the new seven wonders of the world. Only the Roman Colosseum left to see.
Machu Picchu one of the new 7 world wonders. A must see in Peru, some take the Inca Trail which is the most popular route. For budget travelers there are tour companies in Cuzco that will offer the most cost-efficient but not as glamorous conditions to get there. Prepare yourself with proper hiking attire and lots of water.
Getting Over Your Fear of Heights, Step 1
They say you have to face your fears to get over them. If you have a fear of heights, Peru's a good place to stare that phobia right in the eyes. Just a day before this was taken, I'd been unable to climb Putucusi, a mountain just on the edges of Aguas Calientes that affords a panoramic view of Machu Picchu from across the Urubamba river gorge. Getting to the top required climbing a long, straight-up-and-down ladder that I just couldn't cope with. But this day, in the ecstasy of being at the actual Machu Picchu site, I was talked into climbing Huchuy Picchu, one of the two peaks just beyond the main ruins. It's supposed to be the smaller, less extreme choice, as compared to the towering Huayna Picchu, so I figured it'd be the better option, given my fears. Let's just say it was more than I bargained for. To get to the top and then back down, I had to shimmy along a crumbling path of loose stones, gripping what I could of the rock face and various tufts of vegetation that would have had no way of holding me if I slipped. It was a sweaty, stressful experience, but it also gave us mind-bending views of the surrounding mountains and the roaring river so very, very far below us. Climbing Huchuy Picchu showed me just what I'd be missing if I let that fear hold me back for the rest of my life, and since then, I've been conquering it bit by bit.
By Gina Czupka
Navigating Machu Picchu
Upon entering, your inclination may be to walk to the right towards the heart of the Incan City. Instead, head up steps and to the left of the Hut of the Caretaker of the Funerary Rock for a panoramic view of the ruins and to orientate yourself. Watch in awe as Machu Picchu dramatically materializes through the dissipating clouds. The Inca Trail lies beyond the hut, away from the center of the heart of the Incan City. It is relatively lightweight-friendly from this direction so go ahead and walk it for a mile or so (it leads all the way to the Sun Gate, but you don’t have enough time for that) to get a long-distance, wide-angle view of Machu Picchu. Return on the path the way you came (you have no choice), and proceed down to Central Machu Picchu. Walking in a clockwise direction, Wayan Picchu (Huayan Picchu) will rise up before you. Book tickets in advance to spend an additional day climbing to the top. Moving on, reach the maze of walls and structures that you gazed down upon when you first arrived at Machu Picchu. Look up to see where you’ve been. Incredible Trip to Peru: http://bit.ly/11IZdBX
By esme travels
A one way ticket from San Francisco to Bogota, and this was the peak. After gringoing through Colombia and Ecuador, my travel buddy and I found ourselves socked in a bundle of thick clouds at the entrance of Machu Picchu. We had taken a bus from Lima that was a pricey $20 compared to most bus fares but it was a luxurious Cruz del Sur ride. Once in Cuzco we compared some Inca trail tour companies and said we were students, that got us a four day room, board, hike and bike tour all the way to the lost city and back for $165. We were underwhelmed to arrive on a day with heavy fog when the views were so hyped, but Hiram Bingham's find prevailed and the sun shined through for 5 hot hours. Since it's one of the most photographed tourist destinations in the world, it was my mission to take a picture at Machu Picchu that nobody had seen before. I had to crop the bottom by a quarter inch, but we got the point across, we were above the clouds. Although the destination of Machu Picchu was the prize, everything leading up to the top was what made the trip. I compared notes with my brother who took the train straight in from Cuzco to Aguas Calientes and he was nonplussed by the whole experience. My advice, take as little transportation as possible from Cuzco, it doesn't have to be pure hiking, but the Sacred Valley wasn't named by accident. Every step is worth pausing to take it in.
By Mac Hansen
Double Rainbow over Machu Picchu
After spending the day with our wonderful local guide learning about the history and spirituality of this scared Inca ruin, we decided to hike up to the Sun Gate to see how the ancient Incas arrived. On our way up, it started to drizzle, then pour, but we put on our rain gear and kept going. At the Sun Gate, it was raining so hard we could barely see the ruins. On the way back down, soaked but content, we saw the clouds break up, the rain slow, and we were treated to a double rainbow and clear, nearly tourist-free views of the surrounding Andes Mountains and Machu Picchu below. Never let a little rain dampen a great adventure.
By Kim Korinko
Trek Like an Inca
The Inca Trail. One of the world's greatest hikes with one of world's greatest wonders at the end of it. Of course you can take the train to Machu Picchu, but there really is nothing like earning it with a multi-day trek through the majestic Andes. It's a tough hike...and worth every step.
Get Off the Beaten Inca Path
And add some adventure to your journey to Machu Picchu with the Inca Jungle Trek. An alternative route to the classic Inca Trail, this trek provides variety for those who want to do more than just hike for four straight days. Although there are a variety of tours available, most Inca Jungle Treks include the options to bike, hike, raft, and zipline. Be warned: The biking is not for beginners. You'll zoom down the winding Abra Malaga mountain pass, having to dodge oncoming traffic. It definitely has the potential to be the most exhilarating bike ride of your life.
By Megan Jicha
Breathtaking Machu Picchu
Like many, I had seen dozens of pictures of Machu Picchu in the past. Everyone had mentioned what a great experience it was and that the feeling of being there was like none other. In all honesty, part of me was a bit fearful that we’d arrive and it would be a bit anticlimactic; so built up and it would be just like every picture I’d seen (I had felt like that in other acclaimed places before). Machu Picchu was entirely different. It was magical. The landscape was breathtaking just driving from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu’s gates, but the view upon entering is absolutely stunning. The mountains, the skies, the citadel — standing amidst everything made me feel… small. Not in an insignificant way; in a sort of wonderful, I’m-part-of-something-so-much-greater way. We stayed at the Sanctuary Lodge, right outside of Machu Picchu's gates, and got in early enough to see the sun rise behind the mountains. Spectacular doesn't even scratch the surface.
Sunrise over Macchu Piccu
Having hiked the Inca Trail, we finally approached Macchu Piccu just after sunrise. I was rather surprised to see we were looking down at the well known site, and literally stopped in my tracks to admire it. It was worthy of all the accolades, and remains implanted in my brain forever.
Grazing at Machu Picchu
As an early morning fog lifts off the Inca ruins, a wandering llama looks on.
Huayna Picchu Summit
Huayna Picchu is the mountain towering behind the Machu Picchu ruins. The strenuous hike to the summit takes about an hour, with steel cables assisting hikers on the more treacherous parts of the climb. To avoid overcrowding, only 400 visitors are allowed to climb the mountain a day. The summit towers 1,180 feet above Machu Picchu.
The lost city of the Andes - very touristy now
Hike the Camino Peatonal to Machu Picchu
Sure, you could pay the $19 US to take the 25 minute bus ride up to Machu Picchu, but consider instead the hike up the Camino Peatonal (Pedestrian Trail) to the ruins. It is a heart pounding and legs screaming walk of just over a hour up (only about 45 minutes down). This hike will warm you up for the harder ones above on Huayna Picchu or Montaña Machu Picchu. This hike through the rainforest will give you the opportunity to see many of the birds that bird watchers come to Peru for. Many hikers begin at 5:00 am, when it is still dark, to make it to the ruins when they open at 6:00 am. It is an exhilarating trip that will allow you to be the first of the day to experience Machu Picchu while it is peaceful. To get to the Camino Peatonal follow the road from Aguas Calientes to the checkpoint and the bridge across the Urubamba River. Cross the bridge and follow the well marked trail to the Machu Picchu entrance.
Hike to Puente Inka
Undoubtedly the easiest hike in the Sanctuario Historico Machu Picchu, the thirty minute level walk to the Incan Bridge is the most traveled. The cliff hugging trail takes you to a former suspension bridge built by the Incas, which is now been replaced by some logs. You can marvel at the ingenuity of the Incan people to build a suspension bridge in such conditions. In addition, the magnificent geology of the massive rocks above the bridge is worth viewing. I heard some tourists say they were underwhelmed by Puente Inka, but if you allow yourself to try to be in the mind of the people who built it 500 years ago, it is truly impressive.
Catch the first bus up at 5:30, and wait for the sun to bathe the mountain than the ruins as the fingers of fog mystically glide thru. Magical!
The Llamas of Machu Picchu
When I booked my trip to Machu Picchu with AdventureSmith Explorations, I hoped I’d get a glimpse of the legendary llamas that reside high up on the Inca citadel. As I stood on a flat plateau at the summit mesmerized by the iconic postcard view beneath me, I heard a rustling behind me. As I turned, a llama was cautiously approaching me. I rustled the plastic bag in my hand, drawing it a little closer. It stopped around three feet away, and we studied each other for what seemed like an eternity, then it turned and disappeared into the hills. I never dreamed I’d have such a personal encounter, and it was one of the highlights of my visit to Peru.
By Patti Morrow
Spend three nights along the Inca Trail on the way to Machu Picchu. Porters teach kids about Incan history and carry them when they get tired.
Peru's Main Event
With all the hype, our trekking group had unanimous worry that this grand UNESCO World Heritage site might not live up to its reputation. Fear not! It was every bit as magical, mysterious and wonderful as we were hoping. Along the way we saw the primitive ladders and paths used in days gone by. Those intrepid travelers that want to trek to the top on foot still use them today. New regulations are limiting the crowds and the time period visitors are allowed to stay. Hopefully this will alleviate over tourism and keep the area sustainable. In the future, it will be a benefit to travelers as long as they make sure to plan ahead with a reliable tour operator such as AdventureSmith Explorations or make sure to obtain the necessary permits on your own. Machu Picchu is one bucket list worthy destination.
By Alison Abbott, AFAR Local Expert
Taking in the tourists on the town square
Aquas Calientes, Peru, has a revolving population of a couple of thousand toursts on most any day. It's the town where you land before heading up the mountain to Machu Picchu. Locals watch the tourists come and go. Tourists change. The locals don't.
Goats of Machu Pichu.
Spend your day finding the goats that live in the ruins of Machu Pichu.
Hiking Montaña Machu Picchu
The longest and hardest hike in the Sanctuario Historico Machu Picchu is up Montaña Machu Picchu, also called Cerro Machu Picchu. This towering mountain that is rarely in photographs is behind the ruins and the photogenic Huayna Picchu. Like its smaller sister, the mountain now requires and extra ticket that must be bought in advance. Most visitors to Machu Picchu only do this hike if Huayna Picchu is full, but the big mountain of the area deserves respect. Although it lacks interesting summit ruins, the hike goes through some nice cloud forest and reaches an altitude of 3080 meters, the highest in the area and, therefore, the most expansive view. The hike takes approximately four hours, but should not be missed.
Climbing Machu Picchu Mountain: the most difficult hike I've ever done
Machu Picchu Mountain is situated in front of the citadel, towering 3,061 m (10,042 ft) height, 631 meters (2070 feet) higher than Machu Picchu, and provides unparalleled and breathtaking views of the Inca sanctuary and the mountains surrounding it. Only 400 people daily can do the Machu Picchu Mountain hike, divided into two different groups: from 7:00 – 8:00 AM, and 9:00 to 10:00 AM. The tickets have to be purchased at the Machu Picchu entrance. Hiking Machu Picchu Mountain takes at least 3h, and the trail is well-marked, easy to follow and made up of stones with terrain in some parts. If the trail isn’t difficult, the high altitude makes everything arduous. The ascent is constant in this hike and there isn’t any flat part. The problem was that I had very limited time, so I had to everything in a hurry and without resting. To complete it was very hard, and I didn't have too much water. But after around 1h I saw the summit and got excited. Few more ascents and I reached the top of Machu Picchu Mountain and felt exhilarated. The panoramic vista is from another world. The inca ruins, Huayna Picchu and Putucusi Mountains looked so small behind the giant row of mountains that it made me wonder if it was true what I was seeing. I was astonished! The awe-inspiring view was still composed by a bright blue sky, clouds and the Urubamba River snaking around colossal mountains covered with lush vegetation. What a gift from our mother nature!
Belmond Andean Explorer
Traveling one of the world’s highest rail routes will get a lot cushier with the May launch of the Belmond Andean Explorer, South America’s first luxury sleeper train. The 34 cabins were designed to be cozy respites, outfitted with handwoven local fabrics and alpaca-wool blankets. On guided one- or two-night itineraries that stop in Cuzco, Lake Titicaca, and Arequipa, guests will feast on Peruvian-inspired meals in one of two dining cars and sip pisco sours on the open-air deck while watching the Andes go by. From $460 per person. This was written by Jennifer Flowers and appeared in the January/February 2017 issue.
By Nicole Antonio, AFAR Staff