Tucked away in the rocky countryside northwest of Cuzco, Peru, Machu Picchu is believed to have been a royal estate or sacred religious site for Inca leaders, whose civilization was virtually wiped out by Spanish invaders in the 16th century. For hundreds of years, until the American archaeologist Hiram Bingham stumbled upon it in 1911, the abandoned citadel’s existence was a secret known only to peasants living in the region. The site stretches over an impressive 5-mile distance, featuring more than 3,000 stone steps that link its many different levels. Today, hundreds of thousands of people tramp through Machu Picchu every year, braving crowds and landslides to see the sun set over its towering stone monuments and marvel at the mysterious splendor of one of the world’s most famous manmade wonders.
MACHU PICCHU’S INCA PAST
Historians believe Machu Picchu was built at the height of the Inca Empire, which dominated western South America in the 15th and 16th centuries. It was abandoned an estimated 100 years after its construction, probably around the time the Spanish began their conquest of the mighty pre-Columbian civilization in the 1530s. There is no evidence that the conquistadors ever attacked or even reached the mountaintop citadel, however; for this reason, some have suggested that the residents’ desertion occurred because of a smallpox epidemic.
Machu Picchu is a truly special place. Unique, in fact. People have visited in increasing numbers in recent years. Over the last quarter century, it has been recognized that visitor numbers have a significant stress on ancient sites such as Machu Picchu. As a result, a permit system has been introduced. Only 500 people per day, including all guides and support staff, are allowed on the trails. Only licenced operators are allowed to go there, and every visitor has to buy a permit well in advance. Your name has to appear on the permit list when the permits are released
Ten day trip
Four days trekking the trail itself
Four nights hotel accommodation
Three nights' tented accommodation on the trip
High altitude trekking in the Andes mountains: between 2800m and 4200m