Referred to as the 'Lost City of the Incas', Machu Picchu is a breathtaking archaeological and architectural gem located high in the Andean mountains of southeastern Peru. The city of Cusco is the usual launchpad for explorations of Machu Picchu, which is located at the end of South America's most popular trek, the Inca Trail.
Labelled an UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983, only 2,500 people are allowed to visit Machu Picchu each day. You'll need an online reservation to pay the daily adult entrance fee of 128 soles. Tickets can be purchased online or from the ticket office in the nearby town of Aguas Calientes. Access to Machu Picchu is either by trekking or catch the train from Cusco to Aguas Calientes. From there, buses for Machu Picchu leave from a ticket office on the main road to make the 8km uphill trip. It's recommended to nab a seat on the earliest bus to ensure you can spend around four hours at the ruins.
Nothing can prepare you for the sheer beauty of this mystical site at 2,340m above sea level. The remote and hidden location meant Machu Picchu was missed by the Spanish conquistadors, and only rediscovered in 1911. The classic Inca architectural style of Machu Picchu includes polished dry stone walls with the main buildings being the Intihuatana, Temple of the Sun and Temple of Three Windows.
The Temple of the Sun is a round, tapering tower of superb stonework, while the Temple of Three Windows, flanking the Sacred Plaza, is so named for the trapezoid windows. The Intihuatana is a carved stone pillar found at all important Incan sites, and was most likely used to predict the solstices and for agricultural planning. The carved terraces known as Storage Houses etched into the mountainside for crop cultivation near the entrance are another iconic image of Machu Picchu. There's plenty to see and wander around, however there are almost no signs so take advantage of the free map for basic guidance. Local operators also offer guided tours of the site.