I couldn’t agree more.
Though stunning in photographs, Machu Picchu takes your breath away in person. By the end of the day, we all said we felt like a broken record because we couldn’t stop commenting on the majesty of the ruins. They truly are incredible.
Our day at Machu Picchu began before dawn. We ate breakfast at our hotel before catching one of the first buses up to the ruins.
We had a wonderful guide named Victor for our first two and a half hours at the ruins. Though our tour was obviously in English, I loved listening to Victor speak Quecha, the language of the Inca, to other guides.
Victor did a fantastic job guiding us around and sharing information with our small group about the incredible place. He began the tour by explaining four popular theories that exist that seek to explain why the city was built.
I found the story of the discovery of Machu Picchu interesting as well. Hiram Bingham, a Yale architect, cleared the site in 1911 after locals led him to the ruins and he understood its importance. Now it is one of the most phenomenal examples of architecture integrating with landscape in the world.
If a trip to Machu Picchu is on your travel bucket list, I highly recommend arriving first thing in the morning. We were able to watch the sun rise over the mountains and enjoy the quiet, peaceful energy of the place before it started bustling with tourists.
Victor’s tour was extremely informative and, as always, I had a ton of questions. He was able to answer every single one and I loved learning about the history surrounding Machu Picchu.
As we walked around the ruins, Victor pointed out important highlights, including the only door that led into the city.
The door, known as the Main Gate, was sealed at night to keep invaders and large, dangerous animals out of the city.
The Temple of the Sun was one of the most impressive sights at the ruins.
The temple was built with only two windows. One faced sunrise during the December solstice and the other faced sunrise during the June solstice, creating rays of light that entered the temple on these sacred days.
Though Victor told us that the llamas inside of Machu Picchu were there for tourists and not for accuracy purposes, my mom, sister and I still loved seeing them wandering around and made sure to snap a few pictures. They were fearless and came right up to tourists, though there was a rope holding them back from walking all over the ruins.
By mid-morning, our time with Victor came to a close and after thanking him, Ryan, my dad, Leslie, Ross and I headed off to do some hiking. (My mom has a stress fracture in her foot, so she was smart and opted out.)
We set off on the Inti Punku (Sun Gate) trail which took us up to a site with incredible views of the mountains and Machu Picchu.
It took us about 35 minutes to climb to the top.
I was afraid it would be a really intense hike (the altitude really gets to ya!) and, at times, all of the steps left me feeling quite breathless, but it was definitely manageable and we had a great time. Our hike on the Inti Punku trail was my favorite part of the day!
As if the views from the top weren’t enough, the stone structure at the end of the top of the mountain provided a great resting place where other hikers stopped for lunch. It was gorgeous!
Following the Sun Gate trail hike, Ryan, my dad and I decided to do a second, shorter hike to the Inca drawbridge.
The hike was easier than our first hike, but scarier! The trail looked right over the edge of the mountain and if I glanced over the side, I felt a bit dizzy. It’s definitely not the hike to do if you’re scared of heights!
After our hike, we boarded the buses and headed back down the mountain and spent the rest of the day in Aguas Calientes before heading back to Cusco for the night.
Our day at Machu Picchu was absolutely unforgettable. I will treasure the time we spent together at the ruins for the rest of my life. It was incredible!