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Machu Picchu

Best time to go: You can expect heavy rain in the mountains from December to April. Rarely if ever rains in Lima or along the coast

The ruins of this dramatic mountain top Incan citadel is set against the lush scenic backdrop of the densely forested Peruvian mountains. It has to be the most beguiling and enchanting of citadels, surrounded by mystery and legend. For years, the site of Machu Picchu lay largely forgotten until Yale University professor Hiram Bingham “discovered” it in 1911.

It is thought that Machu Picchu was built in the 15th or 16th centuries, and was possibly used as a fortress. It is located about 50 miles (80 kilometres) north of Cusco in Peru in the Cordillera de Vilcambaba section of the Andes mountains, in between two peaks, Machu Picchu and Huayna Picchu.

It is believed that the Incas studied the astronomy and geography of the site, and concluded that this was an auspicious location for a city, and it is thought that Machu Picchu was one of a series of fortified sites.

Here the Incas carved terraces in to the mountain side and built white granite dwellings, temples and storehouses. There are more than a hundred flights of steps linking all the various buildings, many of which now lay in ruins, but are nevertheless fascinating.

The entire area is now fiercely protected, and guards are there to ensure that visitors do not deviate from the allotted pathways, but this does not detract from the beauty and majesty of this breathtaking city.

Did you know?

  • this city was built at an elevation of 7,720 feet (2,350 metres)
  • Machu Picchu was designated a World Heritage Site by Unesco in 1983
  • it has been reported that there are more than 36,000 known archaeological sites in the Cusco region

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