The first rays of sunlight illuminate the scene, and the ruins reveal themselves through the mist. The thick dark green vegetation that surrounds the site, acts as a natural frame to a tableau, which could not be more perfect. From my rocky perch on Huayna Picchu I look down on one of the most celebrated vistas in the world, the ruins of Machu Picchu. This has been on my bucket list for so many years and now I am finally here. “Does it live up to expectation?” James nervously enquires. “Hell YEAH!” is my reply.
So much has been written, so many documentaries made, and yet archeologists and scholars alike are still theorising as to the exact function of the 15th century Inca citadel which we all know as Machu Picchu.
The ruins here are not that dissimilar to others we have already seen in the Sacred Valley. So you may ask why is Machu Picchu so celebrated? Well the simple answer, for me, is it’s the full package. A spectacular, though quite inaccessible location, which kept it safe from the invading Spaniards and looting. Hiram Bingham, the American historian only discovered it in 1911 because the locals guided him there and it wasn’t even the ruin he was looking for!
The site is much more compact than some of the other Sacred Valley ruins we visited, so therefore easier to explore. Add to this the ongoing debate surrounding the purpose of Machu Picchu and how it was built. And of course it does have a the whole mystical atmospheric thing going on in spades.
There are private guides and tours you can take around the ruins, but we prefer to wander in peace, hatching our own theories about the why and the how of Machu Picchu.
Getting to Machu Picchu involves quite a bit of planning as only a certain number of tickets are available each day and an even smaller number if you want to climb Huayna Picchu. Once we had decided on a date we had to go to their website and buy the tickets. In our case we had to wait until they went on sale, we bought them in January to travel in May. The rest of our South American holiday was planned around our trip to Machu Picchu! We had seriously thought about doing the Inca Trail as we are keen walkers but the more we looked into it the less attractive it sounded. In the end we chose to catch the train up to Aguas Calientes, stay overnight in a B&B and then get up before the larks and catch a bus up to Machu Picchu the following morning.
Make sure you visit the facilities and take water in with you because neither are available inside Machu Picchu. Try to visit first thing in the morning to avoid the crowds. It may be chilly first thing but it will warm up later and you will need a hat. Wear good walking shoes, especially if you plan to do any climbing!