The Ruins of the Citadel
Photographs of the citadel just don’t do it justice. Only people who take holidays to Machu Picchu will be able to properly understand the height at which the ruins hang in the mountainside. At an altitude of 2430 metres, the city achieves an amazing perspective over the valley below, with breathtaking views in all directions.
You will marvel that the Incas were able to build a citadel in such steep inclines in the mountain, which also takes the name Machu Picchu. Tours here will lead you up the terraced hillside into the buildings constructed without mortar from carved bricks, and using rudimentary tools. The Incas were able to incorporate irrigation channels that still run spring water along its terraces.
After the occupation of Peru by the Spanish Conquistadors, the city was abandoned and forgotten, becoming the “Lost City of the Incas“. Since it was rediscovered in 1911 – centuries later – it has become one of South America’s most important tourist attractions, drawing hundreds of thousands of visitors every year. But now, because of its popularity, Machu Picchu tours are restricted in how many people they are allowed to bring to the site. This is part of a new conservation statute to try to curb the effect the vast volume of tourists has had on this historical wonder, and reduce the impact thousands of footsteps make on the paths and trails of the Lost City.
Getting to Machu Picchu
There are a variety of options for getting to the citadel with a number of Machu Picchu tours. You can get to the area by train or bus, on foot, or a combination of these. The journey up the mountain is a great opportunity to get an impression of the landscape and a feel for the Inca territory.
The views from the train, as it winds and ascends through the mists, can be spectacular, but the most intimate sense of this region of Peru will come from trekking under your own power up an Inca trail. Tours start from several locations, depending on how strenuous you want your walk to be and long you would like to spend in the mountain environment. Some Inca trail tours start and finish in the city of Cuzco fifty miles away, others incorporate other mountains and valleys.
There are a several tailor-made Inca trail tours which combine trekking with the bus and train making holidays to Machu Picchu into complete experiences. Porters, cooks, guides and transportation will be included.
Where to Stay
The Hotel Inkaterra Machu Picchu is a good place from which to start your Machu Picchu tours. It is conveniently positioned among large private gardens at the foot of the mountain, in a village called Aguas Calientes, which is where the train stops. In the luxury hotel’s ‘cloud forest’ garden you could find any of hundreds of species of orchids, birds and butterflies. The ruins are just a fifteen minute bus ride away.
If that’s not close enough for you, there’s the option of spending some time on your Machu Picchu vacations at a small hotel at the ruins themselves. The accommodation, called the Machu Picchu Sanctuary Lodge, is decorated in Peruvian style, but its main appeal is the view, and the opportunity to better imagine the tranquillity and isolation of the lost city by seeing the site without the tourist crowds.
However long you spend at this wonder of the world, your holidays to Machu Picchu are certain to be memorable.
Louise Mumford is a holiday specialist at South American Experience, a company that specialises in tailor-made arrangements for South America Holidays, including holidays to Machu Picchu and Inca trail tours. Our dedicated team has two decades of first-hand experience in the Latin America region.