Like no other place in the world, Perú is endowed with archaeological and cultural riches, and complete with natural wonders in every form imaginable: mountain, lake, ocean, river and rainforest.
Built in the mid-15th century, this Inca citadel is one of the most astoundingly beautiful, fascinating and well-preserved ancient civilisation relics on Earth.
Framed by the spectacular peaks of the Andes mountains and in the middle of a cloud forest, Machu Picchu is the crowning glory of the ancient Inca empire. This stone citadel is easily accessed from the delightful old city of Cusco despite its location on a narrow ridgetop at 2,430 metres altitude.
Dating back to the 15th century, Machu Picchu was painstakingly built over 50 years. Believed to have served as the political, religious and administrative centre for the Incas util 1572, the ruins of Machu Picchu today intrigues with well-preserved evidence of ingenious design, ornamental work and elaborate ancient technology, such as its iconic farming terraces and irrigation systems that had enabled its people to survive despite its challenging location.
Strangely, Machu Picchu was not mentioned in any of the chronicles of the Spanish conquistadors. Nobody apart from local Quechua people knew of its existence, and with the fall of the Inca empire the citadel was nearly lost to the sands of time until it was rediscovered in 1911 by American archeologist Hiram Bingham. A UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1983, Machu Picchu and the surrounding ruins and ancient cities are today among the first must-dos for a traveler to Peru along with the Peruvian Amazon.
Machu Picchu is also part of the Inca Trail, arguably the most famous hike in the world. Starting from near Ollantaytambo and passing through numerous peaks and passes before ending at Machu Picchu, this is a 82km trek that takes four days and three nights to traverse.
At 3,400 meters(11,150 feet) above sea level, the one-time southern capital of the Incas is more vibrant than ever.
Cusco is often used by travelers as the gateway to Machu Picchu, but has much more than its own fair share of highlights. Continuously populated since the 14th century, this remarkably-preserved Incan city offers visually stunning native Peruvian traditions in action that intersect with Peru’s Spanish colonial heritage. Festivals live large in Cusco, with the most important being the Inti Raymi ‘Festival of the Sun’ (June 24), when whole city celebrates on the streets with dances and parades.
While in Cusco, stroll charming cobblestone streets and discover art galleries, alpaca sweater vendors, handicraft shops and a stunning food scene thanks to its access to an unbelievable range of native crops. The city’s focal point is its surreal Spanish Baroque cathedral, which stands on the site of an Incan palace and features an altar made of pure silver. Meanwhile, the Museo de Arte Precolombino showcases a world-class collection of pre-Columbian art, and is just one of the many museums in the city that will delight history buffs.
Just outside Cusco, Qorikancha, or the Temple of the Sun, was once home to 4,000 Incan priests, and served both as an observatory and a storage facility for vast quantities of precious metals. Sacsayhuamán, one mile north of Cusco, is a military and religious complex dating to 15th century with sweeping views of Cusco itself.
LATAM airlines operate direct seasonal flights from Cusco to Iquitos, and vice versa.