At one of my first jobs out of grad school, my boss had a picture of Machu Picchu as his background. He described the trip as being one of a lifetime, so I immediately added it to my must get there eventually tab. We went last year hot of the heals of India. We flew into Lima, and then straight to Cusco. As we were driven across the countryside of Peru to Tamba del Inka, a gorgeous hotel nestled into the mountains; I was taken back by just how beautiful the landscape is. Peru topography is hilly and the sun baked golden hills that we drove through took my breath away.
Machu Picchu was also stunning; it is quite literally in the clouds. We arrived in the early morning via a 2hour train ride. I read a staggering amount of advice about the best way to see Machu Picchu, which train to take ect; Most of this advice insisted on early morning arrivals and spending more on vista trains. I regret taking the train all the way, as it is incredibly touristy (as is the site of Machu Picchu). I didn’t know that a day hike was a realistic option. Two New York tourists grilling their guide for useless and rather redundant questions dominated our train ride at 5am. Out train ride home was a sales pitch for Peruvian alpaca wool and it included a ridiculous dance with a man in a rainbow costume.
Machu Picchu was built in the 15th century by the Inca Empire. While the actual use for the ruins is contested most seem to believe that it was a compound built for the Inca Emperor Pachacuti. The site was abandoned about 100 years after its creation due to the arrival and conquest of Peru by the Spanish. The architectural layout focuses on orientation with the sun, and includes the Inca traditional ritualistic stone, which lines up directly with the sun during the winter solstice. Like all Inca architecture carving stones would be fit together without adhesives to create the structures. Almost all the buildings on the site now are reconstructions. Peru has (somewhat) limited daily entrances to the site, but despite this it is still being damaged by the massive number of people visiting. Like all famous architectural monuments it seems that tourism will be both their undoing and hopefully savior.
After Machu Picchu, we just relaxed at our hotel for 2 days, where I discovered the crack that is Coca tea. Derived from the coca plant (same one that cocaine is made from), the leaves are rumored to help with exhaustion and altitude sickness (maybe). It’s delicious, tasting very similar to green tea it was real culinary highlight for me. I tried to bring it home, but apparently the DEA considers is a narcotic.
We then headed to Cusco for a night, which was also incredibly beautiful. We explored more Incan ruins. We were lucky enough to be visiting during Corpus Christi and were able to watch a parade where each neighborhood danced and displayed traditional costumes.
If Peru isn’t on your list of places to go it should be!