PRINT PREVIEW
send to printer

Concierge.com

Machu Picchu, Machu Picchu

Peru, Central + South America: Incan Ruins, Machu Picchu
Machu Picchu
Peru
Concierge.com's insider take:

Remote and high enough to elude the ravaging conquistadors, this vast Incan complex was most famously rediscovered in 1911 by Hiram Bingham. Locals had long since known about it, however—not least Melchor Arteaga, who led the Yale archaeologist to the ruins. Having made UNESCO's World Heritage list in 1983, followed by the New Seven Wonders of the World list in 2007, Machu Picchu has seen epic tourism growth over the last few decades—and the centennial of the rediscovery promises more throughout 2011. While authorities contemplate how best to avoid damage to the palaces, temples, fountains, and residences, visitors generally contemplate how best to avoid each other. The most strenuous—and arguably the most rewarding—way to sidestep the crowds is the two- or four-day trek along the fabled Inca Trail. On the last morning, you start walking before dawn in order to reach Machu Picchu's Sun Gate (Inti Punku) by sunrise, after which you can expect a crowd-free couple of hours before the buses start to roll in. Good Inca Trail operators include Gap and Myths and Mountains, or Intrepid Travel; book as far in advance as possible, as trail permits are limited. Alternatively, you can stay at the Machu Picchu Sanctuary Lodge, where you'll be among the first nonhikers to enter the gate at 5:40 am, if you so choose. Or stay in Machu Picchu Pueblo (a.k.a. Aguas Calientes) and catch one of the first buses to Machu Picchu: Buses start leaving at around 5:20 am and take you on a 20-minute, zigzagging ride up a thickly forested mountain. Even if you see Machu Picchu on a day trip from Cuzco or the Sacred Valley—and even if the ruins are at capacity—rest assured that you will still be humbled and amazed. A final note: The tallest peak you see in the backdrop of every Machu Picchu shot is Huayna Picchu, and you can hike to the top for some of the most amazing views of the complex. But you'll need to get to the entrance early and pick up the free Huayna Picchu trail ticket (limited to 400 people daily).—Updated by Abbie Kozolchyk

Information may have changed since the date of publication. Please confirm details with individual establishments before planning your trip.