Machu Picchu: City in the Clouds
The sanctuary of Machu Picchu is an engineering marvel—a city in the clouds surrounded by sheer precipices.
The site contains more than 140 known structures, including temples, palaces, ritual baths, and dwellings. Agricultural terraces, aqueducts, and more than 100 flights of stone stairs add to the achievement.
Much of the stonework at Machu Picchu is so fine that it seems to spring organically from the living rock.
Machu Picchu—”Old Mountain” in the Quechua language— straddles a ridge, at approximately 8,000 feet above sea level.
Far below, the Urubamba River Valley carves sharp turns around the mountain’s base.
Huayna Picchu—or the “Young Mountain”—serves as the citadel’s principal backdrop. In the distance and across the river valley, rows of peaks add to the site’s sense of boundlessness.
In 1911, American explorer and historian Hiram Bingham brought the citadel to the world’s attention.
Bingham was searching for the lost city of Vilcabamba when he was led to Machu Picchu by a local farmer surnamed Arteaga.
In his excavations, he found the remains of 173 humans: 150 female and 23 male. Despite the graves bearing evidence of looting, the excavations uncovered numerous copper, ceramic and stone objects.
First light at Machu Picchu is an unforgettable experience. At dawn, the site is often concealed by low clouds.
Sunrise at Machu Picchu
As the sun rises, the river mists slowly dissipate to reveal walls and plazas—first in glimpses, then in majesty.
Machu Picchu can be reached by train—with stops in the Sacred Valley and Cusco—and also by trail. Multi-day hiking trips are available.
Hikes near Machu Picchu include the trail to the summit of Huayna Picchu, the extension to the Temple of the Moon, and the Inca trail site of Wiñay Wayna.
In the past, most visitors would visit as a day trip.
Now, many of our travelers are staying for two or three nights, taking in the site at their own pace and allowing time for reflection and renewal.
Machu Picchu Accommodations
Comfortable accommodations are located at the base of the mountain and outside the park gate.
With enough time, you can visit orchid gardens, enjoy thermal baths, hike lesser known trails, admire the local fauna, or unwind at a spa.
We’ve designed a guide to help you understand the complexities of visiting Machu Picchu.
Free PDF copies are available upon request.
“I hope at no distant future to prepare an exhaustive report of this wonderful city, whose charm can only dimly be realized from these pictures. The beautiful blue of the tropical sky, the varying shades of green that clothe the magnificent mountains, and the mysterious charm of the roaring rapids thousands of feet below cannot be portrayed and can with difficulty be imagined.”
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