Since seeing Gael Garcia Bernal portraying the infamous revolutionary Che when he was still a young and impressionable Ernesto in The Motorcycle Diaries, I’ve been intrigued by Machu Picchu. I’ve watched countless programs on television where they investigate the site deep in the Andes Mountains and speculate about what the remarkable building and its surrounding area was. Fortress? Palace? Summer home? While I love any ancient or historic site, there’s something extremely remarkable and beautiful about Machu Picchu, built into the side of a mountain in the middle of nothing but nature.
For those of you that live under a rock — no pun intended — Machu Picchu is a 15th century Incan site, a series of stone buildings, built 2,430 m above sea-level in the Peruvian Andes. The site lay untouched for centuries until 1911 when American Hiram Bingham “discovered” the site after locals pointed him to it. While it’s not exactly clear what the site served as, UNESCO refers to it as a “sanctuary” and Wikipedia states that scholars seem to agree it was an estate for Incan emperor Pachacuti.
Regardless of what the site actually was, the fact remains that it’s not easily visited. The isolated sanctuary is usually accessed on foot, requiring visitors to hike and take a train for several days. But the high demand of access to the area, in addition to a lack of protection from weather-related issues, has paid a toll on Machu Picchu and the site is deteriorating. Due to this, only a limited number of entrance tickets are available each day. Although, if you’re going to do it, the beautiful Machu Picchu Sanctuary Lodge, the only hotel adjacent to the site (and a luxury one at that), is certainly a more comfortable way for wimps like myself to dream about.
Photo by Thibault Houspic