Machu Picchu

People who have never been to Machu Picchu, and probably even a few who have, don’t really grasp how enormous it is.

Machu Picchu is so much more than the ruins of a few stone buildings on some remote mountaintop.

It was a whole village. In fact, in its day Machu Picchu may well have been among the largest cities in the world!

The park which encompasses the ruins of Machu Picchu covers 32,520 hectares. That’s 80,359 acres or roughly the size of 26,786 football fields!

Amazing that such an immense place went undiscovered and completely unknown to Spanish explorers. In fact, the city’s heyday was in the 1460s and it was only discovered and made known to modern scholars nearly 500 years later in 1911.

More than 60% of tourists who travel to Peru visit Machu Picchu and the Peruvian government goes out of its way to ensure they each have an amazing experience. Figures reported by the Peruvian Bureau of Tourism indicate that 94% of visitors to Peru are very satisfied with their visit.

Having been there myself and toured a bit around the country, I can tell you that those remaining 6% are probably impossible to please and would be unhappy with any vacation.

I found Peru to be beautiful, friendly, welcoming, accommodating and safe. My daughter and I walked around at all hours of the day and night with expensive cameras and never once felt unsafe. Of course the cameras marked us as “wealthy” American tourists and we were descended upon by hoards of Peruvians wanting to sell us all manner of souvenirs.

Peruvian vendors are extremely persistent, but also extremely polite. You may have to tell them “no” 35 times, but they will never get an attitude about it. They will never be belligerent or make you feel physically unsafe. The worst you will ever feel is guilty at turning them away. (Or you can do like we did and buy a lot of stuff. Most of it is extremely inexpensive.)

A 2-hour train ride is just part of the journey to remote Machu Picchu.

To get a sense of just how remote Machu Picchu is we took a 1.5 hour flight from Lima to Cusco, the nearest city of notable size. From Cusco it was another 1.5 hour bus ride to the train station. Then a 2 hour train ride to Aguas Callientes, the nearest town. Finally a 30 minute bus ride to get to the gates of the park encompassing the ruins. So 5.5 hours and three different modes of modern transportation. In the 1400s it must have been a several weeks or even months journey!

Exquisite, intricate stonework that has stood for at least 500 years.

Nowadays Machu Picchu is well tended, clean and beautiful. The stonework is exquisite.

Me, posing in front of a rainbow over Machu Picchu.

On the day we went we got to see a full range of climactic conditions. It rained in the morning (followed by a rainbow over Machu Picchu!) Once the rain cleared we were subjected to subtropical warmth. Later in the afternoon, fog moved in.

Sydney “crushing” Machu Picchu as fog rolls in.

Add in free-roaming alpacas and wild chinchillas, plus very few tourists for the immense area encompassed by the grounds and a visit to this magical place is one that you will long remember.

Free-roaming alpacas wander about the grounds at Machu Picchu eating grass.

Wild chinchillas seen on the grounds at Machu Picchu, Peru.

(Interested in my travel itinerary? I share the whole thing here.)

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