More than 7,000 feet above sea level in the Andes Mountains, Machu Picchu is the most visited tourist destination in Peru. Recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983, this unique and ancient relic was also named one of the New Seven Wonders of the World in 2007.
Here is everything you need to know – from arriving in style to seeing one of the world’s most magical wonders:
- The name Machu Picchu translates to ‘old peak’ or ‘old mountain’ and is linked by over 100 flights of stairs, carved from stone. It is also made up of more than 150 buildings, ranging from baths and dwellings, to temples and sanctuaries.
- Visiting for the day only? Then take The Belmond Hiram Bingham luxury train, an experience that offers an exclusive journey through the magical Sacred Valley to Machu Picchu. Named after the explorer who rediscovered the Inca citadel, the luxury train can carry up to 84 passengers. Its two plush dining cars, observation car and bar car evoke the style of 1920s Pullman carriages, featuring highly polished woods and brass accompanied by squishy armchairs.
- Machu Picchu wasn’t known locally until Yale Professor Hiram Bingham re-discovered the site in 1911. His book, The Lost City of the Incas, was based on his findings.
- A long-standing dispute between Peru and Yale University has existed over the artefacts collected by Bingham during his exploration of the site. Yale maintains that they own the items while Peru insists they were given on loan.
- Not only does the Hiram Bingham train journey include your entry to the citadel of Machu Picchu, transport, a guided tour plus ample Peruvian food and Piscos, it also ensures you miss all the queuing that comes with a visit to the iconic peak – trust us, you can be waiting hours for a bus back down the mountain – it’s hardly a way to end what should be a memorable day.
- Unfortunately, most cities built by the Inca civilization were destroyed by the Spanish conquest. Machu Picchu was in a hidden location—invisible from below—and not found, making it one of the most well preserved Inca cities and an archaeological gem.
- There is a range of options when it comes to exploring the ancient citadel. A trip to the citadel also includes hiking expeditions to the Inka Bridge and the Sun Gate. As well as the gourmet brunch, dinner and entertainment, The Hiram Bingham includes a private guided tour of Machu Picchu citadel during the day visit to the sacred site.
- If you want to hike Machu Picchu mountain, you need to book slots at least three months in advance, as they only let 400 people on these mountains per day. Whilst the citadel provides the most impressive archaeological elements, the mountain hikes offer unique views of the citadel below plus stunning sights of the surrounding landscape (that being said, equally amazing views can be seen from the Sun Gate, a hike that is included in your citadel entrance ticket).
The Belmond Hiram Bingham train operates every day except for the last Sunday of each month. Departures leave from Poroy (Cusco) and Ollantaytambo (Sacred Valley) stations. Those who wish to stay on the mountain can stay at Belmond Sanctuary Lodge, the only hotel situated right outside the citadel of Machu Picchu.