The “Lost City” of Machu Picchu is the most famous and most mysterious monument of the Inca culture in the world, included, of course, in the UNESCO List. It was discovered only 100 years ago by pure chance: one of the local peasants told archaeologists about the ancient high mountain ruins. This is the only Inca monument untouched by the Spaniards: either the conquerors simply did not come here, or the peasants they came across were less talkative. Check localcollegeexplorer for other cities and countries as well as education in South America.
Greedy conquistadors did not reach Machu Picchu immediately. Maybe they were not there at all – history is silent. It is quite difficult for modern travelers to get there, because the city is located among high mountain peaks covered with clouds and bottomless abysses, where it is even scary to look. The last refuge of a great civilization is one of the greatest mysteries of history: while the Inca Empire ceased to exist, Machu Picchu held on for several more decades. Gradually, it fell into decay and was abandoned – it is impossible to survive for a long time in complete isolation from the outside world.
How to get to Machu Picchu
The lost city among the clouds has been attracting travelers from all over the world for over 100 years. The road here used to be long, difficult and dangerous, now it is just long and difficult, or costly. But the way to Machu Picchu is an adventure that you can remember years later with pleasure, fascinating and interesting to tell, and road photos from a trip to Peru are not like banal pictures from a hotel and near a palm tree.
There will be a day on the planes, and then almost a day on the bus. Then – a chic tourist train or a broken-down minibus winding for hours along serpentines, a pedestrian crossing along a scenic railway and a difficult climb to the New Wonder of the World. Here’s a detailed plan for you.
There are several versions regarding the appearance of the city, the most common of which point to 1440. Why did the Incas build Machu Picchu, where did its inhabitants disappear after the invasion of the Spaniards, did the conquerors eventually reach the high mountain refuge of the Indians – all these questions still remain unanswered. Only the fact is known for certain that the streets and houses were not destroyed as a result of the war, they were not spared by merciless time.
For many centuries, no one remembered Machu Picchu. Only a handful of local peasants had any information about the last refuge of the Incas, lost in the mountains. But their stories were perceived as unsupported myths.
Archaeologists discovered the city at the beginning of the 20th century during another expedition to search for the disappeared treasures – the so-called “Inca gold”, which the rulers of the destroyed empire supposedly hid from the invaders. One of the inhabitants of the surrounding villages agreed to show scientists the way to Machu Picchu for money.
The only hotel located in close proximity to the ancient city is the five-star Belmond Sanctuary Lodge, where the cost of a standard double room starts from 3600-3800 PEN per day. Despite this, you need to book your accommodation at least 2-3 months in advance – the hotel is full even in the low season.
More budget options can be found in the nearby town of Aguas Calientes, where the entire infrastructure is focused on visitors to Machu Picchu. A room in a mini-hotel, guest house or hostel will cost 85-145 PEN per night, often breakfast is included in the price. In a three-star establishment, they will ask from 220 PEN.
Hostels offer the cheapest accommodation – a bed in a dormitory room costs about 55-60 PEN, but there are not so many of them in Aguas Calientes. About the same order of prices in Cusco and Ollantaytambo, but from these cities to Machu Picchu – several tens of kilometers, so the budget will also have to include additional transport costs.
What to bring
Peruvian souvenirs are distinctive and original. Elements of the national Indian costume and items made of alpaca and llama wool are especially in demand among tourists – sweaters, T-shirts with the image of Machu Picchu or the Peruvian flag, hats, scarves, gloves. Local craftsmen also make various figurines from fur.
Continuing the theme of textiles, one should pay attention to the colorful Peruvian carpets with tribal insignia embroidered on them, scenes from the life of the gods and floral ornaments. Silver items that imitate traditional Inca jewelry will also interest exotic lovers (wide bracelets and pendants are especially good).
You can’t do without tea from coca leaves – this is perhaps the most famous souvenir that foreigners “hunt” for. Peruvians have long learned to add the plant to chocolate and sweets – such products are also at the peak of popularity.
A special place is occupied by ceramics: bowls, plates, trays, jugs. Just in Cusco there is one of the centers of production, where they make dishes in the style of “kuskenya”. Wooden crafts and paintings by folk artists will attract connoisseurs of national art. Souvenirs are bought in shops and markets located in Aguas Calientes, Ollantaytambo and Cusco.
Cuisine and Restaurants of Machu Picchu
Going on an unforgettable trip to the high mountain plateau and getting ready to unravel the ancient mysteries of Machu Picchu, you should not forget about such a mundane thing as a good lunch or dinner. After all, there are no restaurants in the Inca city itself, and it is forbidden to take food and drinks with you. All establishments are located in the main tourist center – Aguas Calientes. You can choose from: Peruvian, Mexican, Pan-European and even French cuisines.
While in Peru, you should definitely try local dishes: “cuy” (baked guinea pig, poured over “pisco” – a popular alcoholic drink), llama steak, Inca “pachamanca”, which is prepared from several types of meat and vegetables, and “anticuchos” reminiscent of the good old barbecue. Vegetarians will love the avocado-potato causa, as well as the sugar-coated delight.
There are small eateries in Aguas Calientes offering a quick bite for 15 PEN. The price for lunch or dinner in a restaurant with a cocktail or wine starts from 130 PEN, in an institution closer to the central square you will have to pay more than 320 PEN. At some hotels, a buffet with a wide variety of dishes is available to visitors for 100-130 PEN.
Entertainment and attractions
It will take several hours to thoughtfully and carefully examine Machu Picchu. In total, there are about 200 stone buildings in the city, built of blocks using a special technique of polygonal masonry: houses, temples, squares, walls, stairs, wells and burial places. The buildings are, as it were, “strung” on the slopes of a plateau descending in terraces, which breaks into an abyss.
At the highest point of the city, resembling the top of a pyramid, stands the stone of Intihuatana. Presumably, it served as a clock and calendar, and was also used for religious rituals. Mandatory points for inspection: the Temple of the Sun, the Temple of the Three Windows and the Main Temple – the main religious buildings where spiritual ceremonies were performed.
Entering Machu Picchu through the Intipunku Gate of the Sun, you immediately find yourself on its main street. During sunset, the rays of the daylight illuminate the gray boulders, forcing you to stop for a few minutes and admire the bizarre play of colors.
While walking among the stone streets, you can explore the unique water supply system, consisting of tanks, wells and drains – the Incas were good engineers and thought it through to the smallest detail. During the construction, every meter of land was used rationally – on the fortified terraces, the inhabitants grew maize and potatoes, and llamas and alpacas grazed nearby.
After exploring the city, many tourists climb to the top of Huyana Picchu along the path (you need to buy a separate ticket there) to enjoy the magnificent panorama and take spectacular photos. There, too, there are stone ruins that were, apparently, an observation tower.
During a tour of Machu Picchu, you will have to overcome steep stairs and climbs in an attempt to see the most hidden corners, so weary travelers sleeping peacefully near the stone walls of the terraces next to grazing llamas are not such a rare sight.
- Are there guided tours in Machu Picchu in Russian?
The coolest period in Machu Picchu is summer. In July, there are often frosts at night, during the day you can’t do without warm clothes either, otherwise it will be completely uncomfortable high in the mountains. It is better to go during the dry season in November-April, otherwise there is a risk of road closures due to rains, as a result of which the slopes are washed away. Moreover, in May-October it can be not only noticeably cold, but also damp – dense fogs lie on the mountains, and a chilly wind often blows. The temperature difference is quite noticeable: during the day it will be hot in a T-shirt, and at night you will have to wrap yourself in a sweater.