Peru is celebrating the 100th anniversary of the discovery of Machu Picchu this year. It seems strange to celebrate the 100th anniversary of pre-Columbian ruins but we have to keep in mind it is the rediscovery by Yale University’s Hiram Bingham. The ruins of the city stand at just under 8000 feet above sea level in a tropical mountain forest. I visited the majestic city of the Incas two years ago.
The ruins are impressive. They are breathtaking. Overwhelming. Words really do not describe the feelings the structure evoke in a person.
Experts debate what purpose the buildings served. Many claim they served as a retreat and sanctuary away from the capital city of Cusco. You can read Bingham’s work “Explorations in the Highlands of Peru” as a free download from Project Gutenberg (www.gutenberg.org).
Most people daytrip from Cusco (as opposed to the nearby Aguas Calientes or the extremely, extremely expensive hotel on the sanctuary). It is a three hour trip each way from Cusco on the train and later a short bus ride. Some people hike the 43 kilometer Inca trail from the Sacred Valley to Machu Picchu. I did not. The train is an incredible experience. You are descending from the nauseatingly (in my opinion) high altitude of Cusco.
I believe that Machu Picchu is a once in a lifetime experience. It is something you will never forget. It is expensive. From Lima you should plan on spending $500 per person for transportation and hotel. This does not include food, additional tours in the valley or additional excursions.
An interesting note: The Spanish conquerors never found Machu Picchu; so Spanish writing never mention the site. You will never forget a visit to the overwhelming and breathtaking ruins of the Incas. It almost sounds trite to say this, but it is true: This is one of the most mystical and intriguing places on the planet.