We decided to check out what was this big deal regarding Machu Picchu, a proud standing citadel of the Inca culture from the 15th century: The Lost City of the Incas. Its all about its history. The Incans were the largest empire in pre-Columbian America and the largest in early 16th century. In short, these peeps ran the show way back when. The remains of this proud creation perched atop a mountain nearly 8,000 feet high. Glorious. But the physical journey to get here is where the prestige is.
Machu Picchu means "old mountain" (and Huayna Picchu means "young mountain" in contrast). It means it's the bigger mountain and you get a choice to trek up to the city on top either from the mountain's base (1 day) or from the start of the Inca trail (4 days).
The tour we booked didn't have the trek up the mountain (boo) but here's a guide if you plan to do that. Trust us when we say, the trek up to Machu Picchu was already a bit tiring of course due to the high altitude. But before you go, bring:
- Bug spray - lots and lots of it; you'll meet all kinds of aggressive insects out there
- Hiking gear - long-sleeves shirts and pants is recommended again to deal with the bugs; they can bite through yoga pants or similar thin materials
- Comfy shoes - doesn't have to be hiking shoes; rubber shoes are fine
- Water - lots of it; you'll need to keep hydrated
- Coca tea - strongly recommended to help deal with the altitude sickness
- Light jacket with hood (optional) - if you go around October, there is a good chance of rain and it can get a bit chilly with the wind
The bus ride up to the citadel is only 5-10 minutes through a narrow pathway that snakes up whereas hikers can just walk straight up or down (taking this path is optional). Our tour guide, Juan was friendly and was more than happy to take our photos. And most importantly, there are NO WASHROOMS once you enter. So maybe don't drink too much water.
The temperature can get a bit chilly due to the wind chill even under the sun's gaze. You make several stops for prime photo locations. Never have we taken more selfies in under five minutes. Machu Picchu is made up of more than 150 buildings ranging from temples to schools to houses. It has over 100 separate flights of stairs all made in stone. They had to move all these stones and they didn't even have wheels yet.
The Incas used a technique called "ashlar" to cut the stones and fit them together perfectly that not even a blade can fit in between. Once you get to the lookout and get a full view of Machu Picchu, you'll realize why this is an archaeological treasure. The Incas built a city that survived not just the Spanish conquest but hundreds of years to become a tourist attraction today. And we had the fortune to see it now in all its glory, the last great city of the once-proud Incan civilization and the apex city of its time.
And oh, llamas!