Peru’s Greatest Treasure
The 15th century “Lost City of the Incas” is Peru’s and perhaps South America’s most iconic attraction. Sitting high up in the mountains it has one of the most impressive locations of any archaeological site in the world. Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983, Machu Picchu (meaning “Old Mountain” in Quechuan) is 2,430m above sea level and is the most visited tourist destination in Peru.
June 2nd 2020
The Lost City
By James Cameron
Was Machu Picchu ever truly “lost”?
Re-discovered in 1911 by American archaeologist Hiram Bingham, at the time the explorer was actually looking for Vilcabamba, the last refuge of the Incas in 1572. Over the last century it has become famous as the ‘Lost City of the Incas’, but in recent times there has been some debate as to whether Machu Picchu was ever “lost”. It has been recorded that when Bingham arrived there were a number of peasant farmers living near the site.
Hiram Bingham with guides at Machu Picchu
How was Machu Picchu built?
One of the greatest man-made structures in the world the city is comprised of temples, royal houses and agricultural areas. Built in classic Inca style using polished dry stone the structures were constructed using a technique called ashlar. The stones were expertly cut and fitted together like puzzle pieces without using mortar. It is thought that each individual rock piece, some weighing more than 50 pounds (22.6 kilograms) was transported up the mountain without the assistance of wheels.
Machu Picchu stone work
Huayna Picchu and the Secret Temple
A popular addition to any visit to Machu Picchu is climbing Huayna Picchu, the peak that overlooks the iconic citadel. There are just 400 daily permits available to climb the impressive peak. Built into a cave, the Temple of the Moon is located on the far side of Huayna Picchu. The exact purpose of the temple is unclear, but with exquisite stonework it was thought to have been used as a ceremonial shrine or royal tomb.
View from Huayna Picchu looking down onto Machu Picchu
Where is Machu Picchu?
Machu Picchu is located in Southern Peru in the Peruvian Andes 2,430 metres above sea-level. The citadel is 80 kilometres (50 miles) northwest of Cusco – the ancient capital of the Incan Empire.
Trekking the Inca Trail
How do you get to Machu Picchu?
Most people visiting the famous citadel travel from Cusco the historic capital of the Incan Empire. Cusco is just 80km from mountain stronghold and is a destination in itself. There are three trains that run from Cusco to Machu Picchu Pueblo, the town that sits directly below the mountain stronghold. A 30 minute bus trip takes visitors up a winding road from the town to the ancient ruins.
Machu Picchu can also be reached on foot and is a popular rite of passage amongst trekkers. The Classic Inca Trail is a 4-day trek that takes you through breathtaking mountain scenery to the ancient Incan city. There are only 500 permits issued each day so booking well in advance is important to prevent disappointment.
Belmond Hiram Bingham Train to Machu Picchu
Where can I stay when visiting Machu Picchu?
The only hotel at the top of the mountain, Belmond Sanctuary Lodge is in an unrivalled location just steps from the sanctuary entrance. Guests will have first chance to explore the citadel before the buses arrive in the early morning. Alternatively there are a number of sensational hotel options in Aguas Calientes (Machu Picchu Pueblo) including Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo and El Mapi Hotel by Inkaterra.
Belmond Sanctuary Lodge