Incredible Must See Sacred Places
Image courtesy of Deposit Photos
An enchanting four-day walk through orchids, low-sung clouds and mountain passes high in the Andes is a mystical, ancient place unheard of in western nations until 1911 and now one of the top tourist destinations in the world. Historians, archaeologists and theorists still do not know why Machu Picchu was erected or what its function was, but layperson, expert and traveler alike agree: it’s magic.
Tours to Machu Picchu may vary in style, luxury and cost, but all are designed to maximize the theatrical impact of viewing this awe-inspiring site as the mists rise off the Andes in the fragility of early morning.
Embarking on a Machu Picchu Excursion
Tours originate in Lima, and are gained by a one-hour flight inland (east) to the venerable city of Cuzco, an ancient historical site in its own right. Time in Cuzco is well spent acclimatizing to the high elevation and beginning an immersion into Incan culture; there is a range of excellent and affordable accommodation in the walled city. There are museums and ruins galore to enhance a stopover in Cuzco, the launch point for virtually all tours to Machu Picchu.
A Place Shrouded in Mist, Clouds and Mystery
No one knows the purpose or function of the place that takes one’s breath away on first sight. Machu Picchu was not even mentioned in any journals that chronicled the invasion of the Spanish conquistadors in the 1600s, leading historians to believe it might not have been a place of significance. Anyone who has been there would beg to differ. Machu Picchu was “discovered” in 1911 and prior to that was unknown in the western world. Covered in overgrowth, it was finally cleared by 1915 and its significance in ancient Incan culture studied.
Getting from Cuzco to the ancient site can be done in three basic modes: a four-day hike with camping en route; by motorized vehicle, commonly in a van; and by train, followed by a quick bus ride from Aguas Calientes, where travelers may enjoy the thermal baths. The aim is always to arrive at Machu Picchu in time to stand at the renowned Sun Gate and witness sunrise as the mountain mists lift like a curtain and reveal the stunning view that is a recent addition to the wonders of the world. It is nearly as incredible at sunset.
Experienced Machu Picchu tourists recommend staying at the lodge at the foot of the mountain, although it is costly. The facilities are average and the restaurant adequate, but luxury is not the reason people go to Machu Picchu; it is a pilgrimage of different proportions, a glimpse of the distant past and a spiritual experience like few others. And there is not a monetary element to that.
Be ready for extreme weather changes, and don’t forget binoculars and a camera. Sturdy shoes are required whether the hike is taken or the train. US dollars are accepted everywhere.
Even accouterments like horseback riding among the ruins, the Inca Museum and local whitewater rafting cannot match the magic of seeing Machu Picchu, still a mystery, the seat of a civilization, emerge from the mists like an ancient memory not forgotten.