Machu Picchu

One of the most iconic sites in the whole of South America, Machu Picchu stands as a symbol of the Incas and the continent's greatest empire.

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.

Start planning your trip to Peru

Let us know what kind of trip to Peru you are most interested in, and when you are thinking of travelling. Our travel experts know Peru extremely well, and will be delighted to offer some initial ideas and advice, and to develop a more detailed design for your holiday as your ideas evolve. You can order a copy of our special Peru brochure here.

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Holiday designs that visit Machu Picchu

'The Royal Inca Trail'

Peru - Walking and active

The Inca Trail much shortened to reach the ruins in a day walk. So no camping! Cheating? Well, maybe …

1 nights from £645

'The Classic Inca Trail'

Peru - Walking and active

Step in the footsteps of the Incas to their secret citadel of Machu Picchu. This is the classic way to follow the trail, taking 4 days to arrive at the Sun Gate facing Machu Picchu at dawn. You tour the ruins and return to Cusco on that day.

3 nights from £50

'A Quieter Inca Trail'

Peru - Walking and active

By starting the Inca Trail later in the day you avoid others on the path, and camp in quieter places. You arrive at Machu Picchu in the peace of the afternoon (a lovely time) and return the next day for a full visit.

4 nights from £1855

'Salkantay trek'

Peru - Walking and active

The Salkantay Trek is the most established alternative to the Inca Trail. It runs through remote and beautiful scenery skirting the magnificent Mt Salkantay to arrive at Machu Picchu from the other side.

6 nights from £1060

'Lares community trek'

Peru - Walking and active

The Lares Valley lies just beyond the Sacred Valley of the Incas. Over 5 days you reach passes up to 4200 metres, walking among communities living traditional Andean ways of life.

4 nights