Built in the 15th century and later abandoned, Machu Picchu was rediscovered in 1911 by Hiram Bingham. In honour of the centenary of the ancient citadel’s discovery, the Peruvian government made the decision to halve the number of entrance tickets available to 2,500 a day to ease erosion to the site. While it’s now more important than ever to arrange your travel in advance through a knowledgeable Destination Expert, the reduced numbers make for a more comfortable and immersive travel experience. Demand for tickets is high, but it’s well worth booking with our team: as the most famous archaeological site in Latin America and one of the Seven Wonders of the New World, Machu Picchu lives up to its reputation.
Part of Machu Picchu’s allure lies in its remoteness; the Incan estate sits proudly in a lofty position high in the Andes, hundreds of feet above the twisting Urubamba River. The militant lines of approximately 200 preserved stone buildings cling to the steep grassy hillside, surrounded by towering peaks.
Machu Picchu tours
There are few sights in South America more intoxicating than the approach to the ruins, whether you walk up on foot or take the train and bus, and an early morning visit is recommended for the chance to see the hills wreathed in swirling mist. Avoid the crowds by heading straight up to the Sun Gate – Inti Punku – and work backwards, enjoying the panoramic views before you explore in detail. Those with a good level of fitness can join the smaller crowd ascending Machu Picchu’s 8,923-foot-high neighbour, Huayna Picchu, to look down on the site from above.
Machu Picchu Tours by Train
One of the easiest ways visit is on a Machu Picchu train tour, as it can only be reached by locomotive or on foot. Most train tours start in the ancient Inca capital of Cuzco, giving the opportunity to maximise time at Machu Picchu as well as exploring the city itself.
The train journey is gorgeously scenic, winding through the Sacred Valley before heading up the mountain by bus. To arrive in style, choose Belmond’s Hiram Bingham train, which includes a leisurely brunch service on the way up the mountain and cocktails, live entertainment and dinner on your return journey. A more frequent train service is operated by Vistadome, offering more flexible timings. If you’re feeling energetic and would prefer to arrive as the Incas did on foot, ask a Destination Expert about treks incorporating Machu Picchu, such as the classic Inca Trail or the alternative Salkantay, Lares or Choquequirao routes.
The Spanish colonial city of Cuzco was constructed upon Inca foundations and is known as the ‘navel of the world’ – the Quechua translation. Visitors will discover a vibrant city inhabited by the hospitable descendants of the Incas who speak the ancient language and dress in colourful traditional attire. Spend at least two nights in fascinating Cuzco before exploring Machu Picchu.