It seems like Machu Picchu is one of those places that everyone has on their bucket list. The Inca site located in the Cusco Region of Peru, is an architectural wonder lying in Peru’s Urubamba Valley. It was built around 1450 and has been declared as a UNESCO World Heritage site in order to continue its preservation amid the flocks of tourists that venture to see it.
I spent a few days exploring Lima, prior to flying to Cuzco to begin the Inca trail trek. Cuzco is South America’s oldest inhabited city, and a mecca for travellers who come to explore a unique cultural destination. There is plenty to see amid the cobblestone streets, stone walls, museums, and local markets that provide unique insight into the way of life and history in this town.
Spending a few days in Cuzco will help you acclimatize to the altitude prior to departing for the Sacred Valley of the Incas and Ollantaytambo. The Sacred Valley is an agricultural corridor that still provides for Cuzco, and the town of Ollantaytambo is the remains of an old fortress on the Urubamba River Valley. The stone walls and steep terraces are stunning, where both sides of the valley can be explored.
The 4-day Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is a 44-km (27 mile) hike, crossing over 3 high passes, with steep up and downhill sections, and unpredictable weather (It absolutely downpoured for the entirety of my trek during the dry season!). The trail passes through plateaus, cloud forests, and numerous other small ruins including Llactapata and Phuyupatamarca, also know as the ‘Town above the Clouds’.
The final day of the hike involves climbing the steep steps (affectionately called the Gringo killer!) to the Sun Gate overlooking the peaks that surround Machu Picchu. Four days of fain and fog was well worth standing alone at the Sun Gate and overlooking the mountain ranges surrounding Machu Picchu, and walking down to the ancient ruins as the sun peaked over the mountains, igniting this architectural beauty in perfect radiance.