The Incan citadel of Machu Picchu lay undiscovered in its mountain fastness for 300 years.
Sacred rocks, temples of the sun, royal palaces and everything needed to sustain them, are collected together on a high saddle ridge that leads to a dramatic peak. Nothing is visible from the valley floor far below, where the Urubamba river tumbles onwards to the Amazon. This is extremely rugged terrain, with peak after peak towering over steep canyons in every direction. Known as the Vilcabamba, this is the area into which the last Inca retreated with his people, away from the Spanish conquistadors.
To see Machu Picchu for yourself is certainly one of the most striking travel experiences in the world. Although familiar from countless photographs, you still find yourself catching a breath when you first set eyes on the citadel. Here and there as you walk among them its stones whisper directly to you from the world they knew that is still veiled from us.
And what a stunning setting! Huayna Picchu, the magnificent peak at the far end of the ridge, is extraordinary enough, but all around are beautiful views of impossibly steep mountains, divided by deep canyons. Mists form and disperse, the sun's rays shift and light up new hillsides - some with sacred sites aligned to Machu Picchu - as peaks cascade into the far distance. We are brought together here like Incas, hidden away in a world that barely encounters man.
In its heyday the only practical access to Machu Picchu was a single path that starts close to Ollyantaytambo: the Inca Trail. Now the world's most famous trek, you'll find the details here.
A railway track winds beside the Urumbamba river to bring other visitors to the village below the citadel. You catch a bus that snakes up the side of the mountain to stop a short respectful distance outside the ruins.