For centuries Machu Picchu had laid hidden, buried beneath the undergrowth thus escaping the looting and pillage that all other major Inca sites suffered. It was in July 1911 that Hiram Bingham stumbled across this ancient citadel straddling a mountain pass and with steep terraced slopes falling away to the Urubamba River far below.
- Wander around the ancient terraced buildings of the stunning Inca citadel
- Explore the Cloud forest in search of over 200 species of birds
- Get a bird’s eye view of the twisting valley from the top of Wayna Picchu
- Enjoy the snaking train journey along the valley to Aguas Calientes
- Watch the sun slowly rise over the famed Sun Gate of Intipunku
With the help of a Yale University archaeological team, Bingham thought he had discovered the lost city of Vilcabamba, but this has since been disproved. Built by Inca Pachacuti, the founding father of the Inca empire, the real purpose for its existence is still not totally clear…a fortress, a place of worship? A further mystery is why it was deliberately abandoned and when…possibly as a result of the Spanish invasions, the Inca Civil wars, drought or disease?
What is clear is that this was an important discovery as many of the buildings were in good condition and today you can still see the ceremonial baths, Temple of the Sun, fountains, Royal Palace, Funerary Rock, Temple of the Windows and a wide variety of other impressive structures and buildings. The torreon was an observatory for the solstice sunrise and the Intihuatana is the centre point between cardinal alignments of nearby sacred peaks. The Incas worshipped anything to do with nature and its spiritual power and this high altitude location allowed them to indulge these beliefs.
Overlooking Machu Picchu is the tall, craggy mountain of Huayna Picchu which also has terraces carved into its vertical slopes, which is a truly remarkable achievement and it is possible to climb to the top of this and enjoy some stunning views over the whole site.
Machu Picchu is approached either by the daily train along the Urubamba Valley from Cusco (3 ½ hours journey) or you can do the 4 day hike along the Inca Trail, which is another fabulous way to arrive at this incredible mountain citadel.