Never revealed to the conquering Spaniards, Machu Picchu was virtually forgotten until it was discovered in the early 20th century, overgrown and almost lost amongst its heavily forested surroundings.
Since it was revealed to the outside world, restoration work began to restore many of the outlying buildings in order to give tourists an idea of what the city would have originally looked like. One theory is that the city was intended as a summer retreat for the Inca King, complete with religious and ceremonial areas, a residential district and wide sweeping lawns.
Located north-west of Cusco, Peru, the site of Machu Picchu is visited by up to 2500 tourists daily.
My journey to this once-in-a-lifetime destination began on the 1st of November 2013; it was an early start as we left our hotel in Cusco and wound our way by train through the Urubamba Valley (Sacred Valley) to the small, quaint town of Aguas Calientes. The jaw dropping views of the surrounding valley and snow-capped peaks of the Andes were just enough to keep the anticipation of visiting Machu Picchu at bay. Aguas Calientes is the base for anyone visiting the archaeological site, many hotels, restaurants, bars and shops line the small narrow streets of the town and it's filled with tourists of all ages, excited to see what lay only a few hundred metres above. From the town, a series of coaches run every so often, ferrying the thousands of people the short 20 minute journey to the site. Everyone is eagerly looking out the window of the coaches, trying to spot their first glimpse of Huayna Picchu, the largest well-known hill of the Machu Picchu site.
After ensuring my passport was branded with the Machu Picchu stamp and taking a short climb around to the site, my first vision of the ruins and stunning backdrop were simply astonishing. I had seen that 'one' picture of Machu Picchu many times before; in magazines, travel brochures, on TV and during my career within the travel industry, but nothing compares to being there and seeing it for yourself. My camera was constantly being clicked as I tried to capture every angle of the Incan remnants. I waited my turn to have 'that' picture taken with the surreal scenery behind before descending into the labyrinth of stone walls, depicting the rooms that were once inhabited by the ancient civilisation.
Steep stone staircases lead you from one section of the city to another, connecting the zones of the living quarters, religious ceremonial temples and agricultural terraces. Free roaming alpacas graze on the lush grass of the central square, providing a sense of life to this now dormant scene.
I took a moment to find a quiet spot, to reflect, and try and take in my magnificent surroundings before having to make the journey back to the town below. Leaving the site, I held my stare with the imposing Huayna Picchu for as long as I could before it disappeared from view and I knew that I had just experienced the wonder that is, Machu Picchu.
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