10 of the best - Man-made icons - 6. Machu Picchu, Cusco Region, Peru
The ‘WOW’ factor: Is there a more memorable place in the entire world? Made famous by US historian and traveller, Hiram Bingham, ‘The Lost City of the Incas’, originally built around 1450AD, was only discovered in 1911. Since then, a lot of its buildings have been re-estabnlished and reconstruction work continues today. Sitting 7,970 feet above sea level, the mountain-top retreat is said to inspire and instil tranquillity in equal measure and there is an aura of great spirituality that resides around the estate. Its location, high in the Peruvian mountains, just fifty miles from Cuzco, the Inca capital, is not easy to reach but it is worthwhile, when you arrive.
Did you know?: Machu Picchu was never actually ‘lost’, as locals knew all about its existence. However, there is a romantic notion attached to recovery of anything perceived as ‘lost’ and Hiram Bingham was quick to latch onto the relevance of it. Although most Inca buildings and holy sites were sacked by the invading Spaniards, those at Machu Picchu remained unsullied, because they could not locate it. Despite a court order and government protests to reduce tourism in the area, the nearby town of Aguas Calientes provided a tram-terminus by which to reach the ruins and all manner of lodgings for travellers. Due to degradation caused primarily by tourists, daily visitors are
now restricted to 2,500, with only 400 granted access to the Huayna Picchu (within the inner citadel).
Experience: Amazing Peru is the leading company in Latin America that combines exclusivity, luxury and authenticity for Peruvian holidays. It will tailor a 15- days tour for you that takes in Lake Titicaca, the Sacred Valley, Machu Picchu, Lima, Cuzco, Colca Canyon and the Amazon rainforest. Contact the company directly for more details (www.amazingperu.com). Cox & Kings organises tailor-made private travel and escorted
group tours to Peru, including the 15-day/12-night Train to Machu Picchu tour, which is priced from £2,895pp for 2013. All international and internal flights are included. Tel: 0207 873 5000 or www.coxandkings.co.uk.
However, a Legacy of the Incas tour with Tropical Sky, will fly you from Heathrow to Lima, taking in the aforementioned sights, including most meals, all accommodation and some celebratory dining, from around £3,299pp for an 11-nights vacation. (www.tropicalsky.co.uk) www.wandotravel.com, www.kuoni.co.uk