These photos will make you want to go to Machu Picchu immediately

These photos will make you want to go to Machu Picchu immediately

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The historic site of Machu Picchu is one of the holy grails of travel. Backpackers dream of hiking the trail — or if they don’t want to hike, of at least hopping the train from Cusco. History buffs come to see first-hand the place that was a pilgrimage for the Inca. New-agey folk come for the summer and winter solstices, when it’s said the site holds special powers as the sunlight hits at just the right angle. And photographers come to capture the magic of the ruins atop a rainforest-shrouded mountain, draped in mist.

If you haven’t been to Machu Picchu yet, these photos might inspire you to finally book your ticket. Plus, we’ve added in a few facts you might not have known about the site, as well as some tips to help you make the most of that dream trip.

looking down the stairs in a Cusco neighbourhood

The barrio of San Blas in Cusco, Peru, is one of the most colourful and picturesque areas of the city. It’s a steep uphill walk from Plaza de Armas, but the little artist studios along the way and the panoramic view from the top make the breathlessness worthwhile. | Photo by Shari Tucker

 

fountain in a Cusco plaza, lit up at night

Plazas are the heartbeat of most cities in Peru, and Cusco is no different. Plaza de Armas is a central meeting point for locals and is surrounded by shops for locals and tourists alike. Of course, most importantly it is the gathering place for church-goers. On the left of the fountain you will see the ancient Cusco Cathedral, a designated UNESCO world heritage site. On the right you will see the Templo de la Compania de Jesus. No matter what time of day or night you visit, you’ll always have company in the plaza. | Photo by Shari Tucker

 

view looking down over the road to Machu Picchu

The road to the lost city is an adventure in itself. It zigzags up the side of the mountain, through dense forest, to an altitude of 7,970 feet. The view is obscured by tall trees, except for a couple of places where you can see straight down over the edge. The 20 to 30-minute drive is worth it once you enter through the gates on foot and get your first glimpse of Machu Picchu. | Photo by Shari Tucker

 

mist over one of the mountains in the Andes

As you arrive at the entrance of Machu Picchu after your exhilarating bus ride to the top, you won’t be able to see the city, but you will see the mighty Urubamba River, which snakes its way around the base of the mountains. You’ll need to cross through the main gate and walk for five minutes or so before you’ll have your first breathtaking glimpse of the lost city. | Photo by Shari Tucker

 

ruins at Machu Picchue

Looking to the right of the ancient city and over the edge, you’ll see the terracing that the Inca did for food production and to secure their land from erosion. The thick forest and dense cloud helped hide Machu Picchu from invaders, as they didn’t expect a city to be built high above on a mountain. | Photo by Shari Tucker

 

looking out over the lawns and stone walls at Machu Picchu

From eye level, surrounded by the city, you get a feel for how many rocks were used to build the terraces, structures, walls, and stairs. It is suggested that it took over 5,000 people to build this great city; however, it was only able to house approximately 750 to 1,000. | Photo by Shari Tucker

 

looking up at a blue sky and stone wall at Machu Picchu

From inside one of the residences, you can touch and feel the perfectly fitted rocks forming the structures. The rocks are cut, smoothed, and tightly pieced together. The structures were designed specifically to withstand earthquakes, which were frequent at the time that Incas inhabited Machu Picchu. | Photo by Shari Tucker

 

overlooking Machu Picchu with a mist over the mountain

This is an iconic view from above the city of Machu Picchu, with Huayna Picchu towering in the background. You can see the clouds have mostly dissipated, but don’t be fooled as they will return again soon enough and cover the city like a blanket. From here, you can see terraced land in the back left-hand side, residential buildings in the front, and the steep drop-off on the right hand side. The Inca truly made use of every piece of land available, right to the edge of the mountain. | Photo by Shari Tucker

 

stone wall at the guard house at Machu Picchu

One of the most important structures of the ancient city of Machu Picchu is the Guardhouse. Built high on the mountain above the residential areas and terraces, its function was to watch over the city and the valleys below to warn of dangers nearby. | Photo by Shari Tucker

 

mist over the ruins of Machu Picchu

As Machu Picchu is located in a cloud forest, it is to be expected that clouds and fog will roll in and around the city. It is quite a magical sight to see as the clouds cover the entire city and then with a slight shift of wind, dance away, uncovering the ruins piece by piece and allowing the sun to beam through. | Photo by Shari Tucker

 

stone walls at Machu Picchu

Sitting on two fault lines, Machu Picchu is prone to earthquakes. The Inca built their homes with this rectangular shape to help withstand the shaking from the quakes. During an earthquake the rocks are said to ‘dance’ as they move to and fro, but rarely break out of their structure. | Photo by Shari Tucker

 

mist over the mountains in the Andes

Many theories surround the exact use of the Temple of the Sun at Machu Picchu, but all seem to agree that it was a temple of the highest importance. It was used for religious ceremonies and sacrifices, an observatory for astronomy, and for creating the Inca calendar supported by the sundial housed inside. | Photo by Shari Tucker

 

large boulder at Machu Picchu

This large rock sits within the city to show the size and consistency of the enormous rocks that the Inca used from the quarry to build their empire. It is suggested that they drilled into the rock, placed wet wood in the crevices, waited for it to freeze (which would make the wood larger), and then they pried the granite apart. They would then move the more manageable chunks and expertly piece them together into homes or temples within the city. | Photo by Shari Tucker

 

stone walls of the sun gate at Machu Picchu

The Sun Gate was once the main entrance to Machu Picchu. Hidden high above the citadel, its strategic location was monitored by Imperial Guards to ensure unwanted guests did not enter. From here, should the clouds permit, you can see the sunrise over the city. This is where Inca Trail hikers enter Machu Picchu, but those who bus to the site have the opportunity to walk up to the Sun Gate as well. | Photo by Shari Tucker

Machu Picchu Full Day Tour

Perform a major lifehack on your Peru travel plans by fitting a scenic train ride, a soak in hot springs, and a visit to Machu Picchu all into one day.

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Shari Tucker

Photographer, adventurer, storyteller, travelling travel agent.

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