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LimaMachu Picchu Map of Peru

Holiday Guides for South America - Peru

Machu Picchu Holiday

The Machu Picchu Inca trail has become a firm favourite with adventurous tourists in recent years and the hike to the ancient temple is well worth the climb.

Renowned as one of the world's most impressive archaeological highlights and situated 43 miles north-west of the city of Cuzco, the name Machu Picchu means 'manly peak' and the city has an altitude of 8,000 feet.

The true reason for building Machu Picchu has died with the ancient Incas and historians are divided on whether its main function was as a military installation, a seat of kings or as a place of worship.

Virtually intact when it was discovered in 1911 by explorer Hiram Bingham, the lost Inca citadel now attracts more than 1,000 people a day during the summer months. Despite all the hype and the crowds, it rarely fails to leave visitors awed, with its incredible location and architecture.

The world-renowned pre-Columbian ruin consists of five square miles (18 sq km) of stone terraces linked by a staggering 3,000 steps. Built between 1460 and 1470 AD by the Inca ruler Pachacuti Inca Yupanqui it comprises around 200 buildings, mostly residential dwellings.

Machu Picchu looks down into the Urabamba gorge and the Urubamba River canyon cloud forest and across the magnificent mountains. The citadel houses an extensive collection of public buildings, homes, temples and storage houses, all dating from the late Inca period set in a breathtaking location.

The structures are constructed from multi-faceted granite blocks fitted neatly together without mortar, with some of the buildings two storeys tall. The staggering quality of the buildings is the subject of much debate about the society that led to their creation and highlights of a visit to the site include the Royal Tomb, the Temple of the Sun, the Temple of the Three Windows and the Sunken Plaza.

There are numerous ways of getting close to Machu Picchu, including train, coach, road, air and gruelling hike. However, the only way to enter the ancient city itself is on foot and the walk up to the citadel is a magical one.

Sunrise or sunset over Machu Picchu will provide a truly unforgettable experience and it worth arranging to visit at one of these times, if at all possible. Climbing the peak of neighbouring Huayna Picchu affords a spectacular view of the lost city.

The rest of Peru also has a great deal to offer travellers, with the spectacular Andes Mountains, some beautiful beaches, Lake Titicaca, the cities of Lima and Cuzco, and acres of tropical rainforest.

Hoards of travel companies and tour operators offer trips to South America, with a journey to Machu Picchu at the centre of the holiday, led by local guides. This is generally the best way to see the site and some companies offer the chance of an overnight stay near to the citadel.

Flights operate from the UK to Lima and facilities in the vicinity of the fortress include luxury hotels and an array of restaurants. The dry season in the Andes runs from April to November and is the best time to visit Machu Picchu.