Framed by spectacular Andean peaks and surrounded by verdant jungle, Machu Picchu is an eye-tantalizing tribute to man in harmony with nature. Located high above the clouds, the city’s streets, temples and staircases spread across a jungle ridge that eventually plunges more than 300 meters into the treacherous waters of the Río Urubamba below. Everything within this city, from the intricate terraces and delicate gardens to the complex system of aqueducts, was designed to both promote and preserve the sacred relationship between man and nature. Natural phenomena, like the sun, moon, water and earth, were sacred to the Inca and were the inspiration for much of the city’s layout.
Besides its awe-inspiring architecture and spiritual atmosphere, perhaps the most enchanting aspect of Machu Picchu is its relative historical ambiguity. Since it was first introduced to the modern world in 1911 by Yale archeologist Hiram Bingham, this mountain city has yet to reveal the purpose of its origins. A number of theories have circulated throughout intellectual circles, including one suggesting that it was a boarding school where the children of those conquered by the Inca were brainwashed. However most historians and archaeologists believe it served as a religious center and vacation home for Cusco’s Royal Inca.
Despite, or perhaps due to its enigmatic character, Machu Picchu has become one of the single most popular destiniations in South America, drawing up to 2,500 people a day to its ancient grounds, high above the Sacred Valley.
Next to the entrance to the ruins, you will find a left-luggage office, toilets, a shop and a place to hire guides. During the dry season, the ruins are a popular area for sandflies, so take insect repellent and wear long pants and shirt.