It’s my eventual goal to be able to travel to each of the seven continents. I can comfortably say I have North America and Europe under my belt, but the others — South America, Asia, Africa, Australia, and yes, even Antarctica — all still remain on my bucket list. The trouble with these continents is mostly the distance: they’re not as easy to get to, and not nearly as popular as travel destinations. Still, I’m determined and have full intentions to spend time exploring as much as I can (Antarctica is admittedly under the “long-shot” subheading).
If when I visit South America, the ancient Incan city of Machu Picchu in Peru is definitely going to be a priority.
Macchu Picchu is one of the most impressive and mysterious of the ancient civilizations. I’ve been to the ruins of Pompeii, which were absolutely incredible because of the “frozen in time” aspect, which allows you to really picture what life was like in the city. The difference with Macchu Picchu is that there really isn’t that much known about it. To me, this just piques my intrigue more. For starters, it was virtually unknown until 1911 — just over 100 years ago! In historical terms, that’s infantile.
Researchers generally believe Macchu Picchu was an estate built for the Inca emperor Pachacuti. For about a hundred years, elite Incans would have populated the mountaintop city. It’s theorized that the residents of Macchu Picchu either died of illness or abandoned the city, rather than being defeated by the Spanish, since there are no signs of conquest. It’s remarkably difficult to get to, and if its position in the mountaintops managed to conceal it until the early 20th century, it’s unsurprising it slipped through the Spanish radar!
Given its remote location, most travel to Macchu Picchu is on foot. The popular Inca Trail has several different routes, with different lengths and levels of difficulty. Alternatively, it can be accessed via Aguas Calientes, a nearby town. Aguas Calientes cannot be accessed by road (only foot or train), but once there, there are buses that travel to Macchu Picchu (it is also possible to walk). Since there are very few options to get to Macchu Picchu, they’ve all been capitalized on and all the amenities in the area are very overpriced, but hey — you’re getting the chance to see something magnificent. Be prepared to spend a few dollars.
Macchu Picchu is Peru’s most popular tourist destination, but there is also concern about the number of people visiting. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and both scientists and the Peruvian people want to ensure the preservation of the area. For this reason, there are limitations on the number of people allowed on site each day. Book in advance and get there early — it would be a shame to travel all the way to South America without making it to this spot!