Often times, too much knowledge of a travel destination has the potential to attenuate the ‘wow’ factor upon actual visit. Of all the things we were going to visit during our 3 month sojourn, I was most prepared for what awaited us at Machu Picchu – one of the New 7 Wonders of the Ancient World.
“I just hope I’m not disappointed,” I kept telling Marina and Killian the night before the visit.
Luckily, Machu Picchu is one of those places that can never be truly appreciated via photograph or even video.
“This place is absolutely beautiful,” I say faintly to myself, looking down from one of the grass terraces at the Lost City of the Incas, just as the sun begins to rise past the mountains, illuminating the complex stone architecture of the site.
“It really is, isn’t it?” responds Killian after a long pause. All three of us are transfixed by visual feast we are currently dining on.
Due to the invasion by Spanish conquistadors, the entire Inca civilization was wiped out, and almost all of their cities destroyed. For example, in Cusco, many of the buildings constructed by the Spaniards used the original foundations laid down by the Incas. However, rather than being captured, the Incas originally living on what is now Machu Picchu, decided to gather all their most important possessions and flee.
The Spaniards never made it to Machu Picchu, and the site wasn’t officially discovered internationally until 1911 by an American historian, Hiram Bingham. He was led to the site by a child from a local village, when Bingham was exploring the area and inquired the locals about any interesting Inca remains. When Bingham originally saw the site, it was heavily grown over by vegetation.
Since then, Machu Picchu has become the most popular symbol of the highly advanced Inca civilization – not to mention a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the New Wonders of the Ancient World.
In addition to the site itself, the surrounding mountain terrain is absolutely spectacular. As is the bus ride up the mountains from Aguas Calientes, the closest town to the historical site.
After exploring the grounds, climbing up to the sun gate, and enjoying a brunch on one of the cliff-side terraces with a view 400m below to the nearby river, the hot midday sun forced us to seek some shade back at Aguas Calientes before departing via train back to Cusco.
This is one day none of us will soon forget.
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