Machu Picchu, Peru, one of the most spectacular sets of ruins in the world

Machu Picchu, Peru, one of the most spectacular sets of ruins in the world

Machu Picchu is the site of the ruins of an ancient Inca city. It is near Cuzco, in Peru, and was discovered in the early 20th century. This is one of the most spectacular sets of ruins in the world; a visit to Peru would not be complete without seeing it.

These remarkable ruins were only rediscovered (by the English-speaking world) in 1911 by the American archaeologist Hiram Bingham. Perched dramatically 1000 ft above the Urubamba river, Machu Picchu is a UNESCO World Heritage site. It is also the end point of the most popular hike in South America, the Inca Trail.

The story of Machu Picchu is quite a remarkable one; it is still unknown exactly what the site was in terms of its place in Inca life. Current researchers tend to believe that Machu Picchu was a country resort for elite Incans. At any given time, there were not more than 750 people living at Machu Picchu, with far less than that during the rainy season. One thing that is clear is that it was a remarkably well hidden place, and well protected. Located far up in the mountains of Peru, visitors had to travel up long valleys littered with Inca check points and watch towers. Remarkably, the Spanish conquistadors missed the site, and Bingham only located the site by chance. On a wet day in 1911, he traveled up the slopes with a few companions from his expedition. On meeting local peasants, they told him about ancient ruins that covered the area. To Bingham's amazement, he had found the lost Inca city of Machu Picchu.

Big backpacks are not allowed, but there is a luggage storage at the entrance for Inca Trailers and small backpacks are allowed. Once inside, parts of the park are only accessible by foot. Some require a great deal of walking.