Enjoying the breathtaking views from atop the stone structures of the lost city of the Inca, Machu Picchu, is something many travelers endeavor to partake. Certainly one of the most famous of ancient cities in the New World, crowds converge upon the steep stairs and narrow passageways, daily.
The city lies at 7000 feet, between two much higher peaks that add to its scenic grandeur. Unknown to the Spanish, Yale professor, Hiram Bingham, discovered the ruins buried beneath dense undergrowth in 1911—the Spanish conquerors may have passed right beneath it!
Today’s visitors have the choice of following in the footsteps of the once great civilization by traversing the Inca Trail, however, most choose to ride the bus to the top and save their strength for the multitude of stairs required to explore the many rooms, temples and plazas.
Birds and wildlife are not on the minds of typical visitors, however, a keen eye will find many feathered and furry creatures hiding amidst the rock and flora. Llamas and viscachas (a mammal, related to chinchillas) are residents of Machu Picchu. Rare Spectacled Bears have even been seen in the cloud forests below the ruins!
Inca Wren prefer the bamboo patches along the edge of the city while the Green-and-white Hummingbirds feed in the shrubbery near the entrance. Both of these species are endemic to southern Peru and have a very limited range—they are most easily found at Machu Picchu.
Think about it though… the Spanish never found this city, placed high on the mountain, as they plundered Peru looking for gold. It was never ‘easy’ to get there and today, though easier, the logistics still require planes, trains and automobiles. International flights arrive in Lima, Peru, from where another flight must be taken to Cusco. As most flights arrive late day in Lima, spend the night there and enjoy some good food!
In the morning, the flight to Cusco can be followed by a 4-hour bus ride to the mountain town of Ollantaytambo. Here you can enjoy the views of the pre-Inca ruins here in the morning and grab a mid-day train to Aguas Calientes, the gateway city below Machu Picchu. Ruins can be explored at your leisure in the morning.
If you’re hard core and want to scale the steps, lost of steps, almost straight up the mountain, to Machu Picchu, I understand. But for most visitors I recommend visiting the ruins by bus (any hotel will have the information). You must take the bus if you want to spend any considerable amount of time in the ruins. The 20-minute ride winds up and up through the forest on the edge of the mountain, arriving at the final stop where you pay your entrance fee (about US$50) to enter the magical city and take the day to explore every nook and cranny!