A UNESCO World Heritage site since 1983 and one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, Machu Picchu stands as one of the most significant archaeological sites ever created. When the Inca built the city, either as a ceremonial site, military stronghold or royal estate (no one knows for sure), they cut the stones to fit together without mortar. Rumor has it that even a knife blade won’t penetrate the cracks. The design has survived more than 500 years of earthquakes.
The complex of plazas, temples, homes and more than 700 terraces winds around steep, mountain slopes some 2,000 feet above sea level. Spanish conquerors never discovered the site, which allowed it to remain an indigenous secret for centuries.
History credits American archaeologist and Yale professor Hiram Bingham as the first Western scholar to visit Machu Picchu. In 1911, a Peruvian guide or guides led him to the “lost city.” Bingham’s book, The Lost City of the Incas, brought flocks of tourists to the site—a trend that continues today.
By Trail or by Train
A journey to Machu Picchu is unforgettable, whether it’s your first or twenty-first visit. Because of its magnificence, we spend more than one day exploring this incredible wonder.
For the fit and adventurous, we offer the select opportunity to hike the Inca Trail. (To minimize environmental impact, regulations allow only 500 people per day to hike the trail to Machu Picchu. The hike requires advance reservations, but if you book with us, we’ve got you covered!)
At the trailhead, a guide leads you along a path that rises more than 1,500 feet and takes five to six hours to complete. Take in views of the Vilcabamba mountain range as you move through the cloud forest that surrounds Machu Picchu. From the Sun Gate, which sits above Machu Picchu, you will see with your own eyes what most only see in pictures.
Guests that opt for the train trip also experience majestic views of the mountains, the Urubamba River and Incan ruins. You will also be the first of the group to check into our posh hotel. Lucky you! Spend the afternoon at the spa, view the 372 varieties of orchids and rest up for the guided tour of Machu Picchu tomorrow.
We don’t cram the journey into one day, so we can rise at a respectable hour and still arrive at Machu Picchu before the day-trippers appear. Our savvy guide leads us around the various structures and explains the history of the city, which stretches for five miles. This is why it needs its own day!
We pause at the Temple of the Sun observatory, originally only accessible to the priest and the Inca. The Inca perfectly aligned the stone structure’s windows to capture the sun’s morning rays during the winter and summer solstices.
If you still have some spring in your step after our tour, explore one of the many trails that begin from the hotel. Or, simply sit and reflect on the wonder of Peru’s lost city.
Important note: Kids love Machu Picchu, too. Check out our kid-friendly Peru vacation!