KLM Travel Guide

The sacred valley of the Incas

Hidden between the tops of the Andes mountains are the majestic ruins of the sacred Inca city of Machu Picchu. The palaces, squares and temples of Machu Picchu are situated at an altitude of 2,430 metres and were built around 1440. A visit to this ‘new’ wonder of the world, one of South America’s most popular attractions, is essential when you travel to Peru.

Arts & Culture
The Huayna Picchu mountain

The Huayna Picchu mountain

Sacred city of the Inca emperor

The construction of Machu Picchu started around 1440, as ordered by emperor Pachacuti. Nobody is certain what its function was. It may well have been accommodation for the emperor and his court, while the location seems to have a spiritual significance. The city is completely surrounded by the Urubamba, a river sacred to the Incas, and the many temples underline the religious character. The Incas abandoned the city around 1530. The Spanish colonists never discovered Machu Picchu; it wasn’t until 1911 that the American Hiram Bingham stumbled upon the Inca complex.

The Sun Temple

The Sun Temple

Inca architecture

The temples and palaces of Machu Picchu were built from huge blocks of granite which are typical of Inca architecture. It’s remarkable how meticulously the blocks were carved; it is literally impossible to get a needle in edgewise. A great example is the Temple of the Sun. This ruin is located at the highest point of the city, the Torreón. The Incas worshipped the sun as their most important god, and the higher the tower, the holier the place. This temple is also where most rituals were performed.

The Inca Trail

The Inca Trail

Inca Trail

The Inca Trail is one of the most popular walking routes in Latin America. This is the route that the Incas had to take to reach Machu Picchu. The longest trail is 88 kilometres and will take you through the stunning landscapes of the Andes. Most people reserve four days for the adventure, and hikers can camp along the route. Be prepared: due to the thin air in the mountains, you have to be in good shape. As the number of hikers allowed is limited, booking in advance is required.

Train ride to Machu Picchu

Train ride to Machu Picchu

Train ride to Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu can also be reached in a more comfortable way. The village of Aguas Calientes, also known as Pueblo Machu Picchu, is situated just 2 kilometres from the Inca city and has a rail station. The train ride from Cusco takes some 3.5 hours with wonderful views of the Andes on the way. Book your train tickets in advance; especially in the months between May and September it is extremely busy.

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