The jewel of the Inca Civilisation, Machu Picchu is a fascinating and sprawling city in the sky
Sitting at the meeting point of the Peruvian Andes and the Amazon basin a steep and perilous climb is necessary to walk along the ruins of the ‘Lost City of the Incas’. Machu Picchu, which means old peak in Quechua, occupies a lofty perch on a mountain ridge some 2,400m above sea level overlooking the Sacred Valley in the Cusco region of Peru. Its dramatically high and remote location and the fact that it was abandoned from the time of the Spanish invasion until 1911 lends it a mysterious and romanticised air, aided in no small part by the cloak of cloud often shrouding the ruins.
The city comprises around 200 polished dry stone structures over 39,592 hectares, which were built in the 15th century. It is split between an upper and lower section separating residential areas from the farming lands. Opinions divide over the city’s intended purpose, however, it is largely thought that it was a centre for religious, ceremonial, astronomical and agricultural significance for the Inca Civilisation. At one time the city would have housed around 1,200 people, it is thought that the invasion of the Spanish or the smallpox that they brought with them drove the community away from Machu Picchu. In 1911 historian Hiram Bingham brought the world’s attention to the
lost city and it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983.
Today tours and guided treks around the city cater for those in search of some adventure and culture. The Inca Trail trekking route covers around 4km some of which can be slippery and steep. It is best to visit in dry season between April and October, as mudslides in the mountains are not uncommon in the rainy season. There are different trails lasting around 4 days.