High in the Peruvian Andean mountains, Machu Picchu was built around 1450 as a royal estate with hundreds of servants on site permanently to ensure the ruler was kept in comfort all year round. Although the palace was not far from the Incan capital of Cusco, it was never visited by the Spanish and was overgrown by the jungle rather than ransacked. It was only after American academic Hiram Bingham visited the site in 1911 that its importance became known worldwide.

The famous view of Machu Picchu hits you almost as soon as you walk through the gates. If you are very fit then you can attempt the incredibly steep hike up Wayna Picchu, the peak that towers over the complex, otherwise just enjoy the views from the main area. Highlights include the ceremonial baths, the Royal Tomb, the temples and the sacristy. At the back of the temples you’ll find the “Hitching Post for the Sun”, an intricately carved pillar that was used to predict the solstices and give the ruler and his priests “control” over the sun,

The easiest way to get to Machu Picchu is to take a train or car from Cusco to the nearby town of Agua Calientes. From there shuttle buses take visitors to the ruins, which are around 8km out of town up a steep mountainside. For visitors wishing to experience more of the Sacred Valley that runs from Cusco to Machu Picchu there are several hiking routes including the 26 miles of Inca Trail.

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Read more on Machu Picchu below with flight options, current weather, maps, and activities to try while you are there.

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