25 years ago my parents went to South America and brought back slides of Machu Picchu. From that moment on, I have wanted to see that mysterious city high in the Andes. All the sights that we had already seen on this trip would have made our visit to Peru worthwhile enough. However, Machu Picchu was the icing on the cake - the crown jewel that had prompted the trip in the first place. There it was, perched between two picturesque mountain peaks. We were not disappointed.
Be sure to spend the night in Aqua Calientas (Machu Picchu Town) if you travel to this site. That way, you can rise early and take the bus up the very winding road to the ruins and see the site before most of the tourists arrive. If you're lucky, you will see the sun rise over the mountain tops. It was too overcast for us to see the sun clearly, but to feel alone in such a huge place was reward enough for rising so early. Besides, Aqua Calientas is a joy to explore. There is a huge market offering all kinds of handcrafts at bargaining prices and a myriad of charming restaurants and coffee shops to explore. The railroad from Cusco runs right through the middle of the town (literally!) as does the mountain stream we had seen from the train windows. The altitude is only about 8,000 ft. so we all felt totally normal after coming down from 12,500.
The tour of Machu Pichu was very interesting, with much too much information to relay here. You really have to see it. Looking back at the road that we came up on, you can see all the switch-backs we had traveled.
Hiram Bingham discovered this lost city in 1911, over 500 years after it was inhabited by about 1,000 people. By looking at the foliage on the surrounding mountains, one can imagine how overgrowth had hidden it for eons. The thatched roofing is gone, but the walls are surprisingly intact. Some reconstruction has undoubtedly been done, but the sight is admirably noncommercial. Admirably, no concessions - not even bathrooms - are on the site. Outside the entrance, there is a restaurant but it is even difficult to find a map to buy, let alone anything else. We listened attentively to our guide and followed him to the various key sights. Then we sat down for a few moments on one of the broad terraces before roaming at will for several hours.
As the day gets later, more and more people arrive on the site.
When the hoards of tourists appear, we tend to leave, taking our memories with us.