Perched high upon a ridge, 300 meters above the Urubamba River, the majestic Inca City of Machu Picchu is one of the most dramatic settings of a ruined city anywhere in the world. Almost as impressive as the ruins themselves is the spectacular backdrop of steep, lush, and often cloud-shrouded mountains.
Standing near the caretaker’s hut, looking out over Machu Picchu, the jungle-covered mountains, and the river far below, you can imagine why the Incas chose this place to build their city.
Hiram Bingham came across Machu Picchu in 1911 and believed until his death that it was the “Lost City of the Incas,” first documented by Spanish soldiers in the 1500s. However, historians believe the real lost city of the Incas was at Espíritu Pampa, a ruin Bingham knew of but discounted as being insignificant.
The journey is also part of the experience of visiting Machu Picchu, whether it’s by hiking the Inca Trail or seeing the route by train. In either case, it’s impossible not to be inspired by the scenery. Trains leave from Cusco, Ollantaytambo, or Urubamba to Aguas Calientes.
From Aguas Calientes, the town below Machu Picchu, a bus takes you up to Machu Picchu, about a 20-minute drive along a harrowing switchback road. It is possible to walk up this road to the site, but this is a long, uphill climb and not recommended.
As of January 2020, new admission rules are in place for Machu Pichu. You must tour with a guide, you must follow a set tour route, and you must enter the park at a designated time.
The high season is June to August, but the two months on either side of this also see decent weather and can be a good time to visit with fewer crowds.