The Journey to Machu Picchu
When the American explorer Hiram Bingham first visited Peru in 1908, he wrote of its snow-capped mountains: “They tempted me to go and see what lay beyond. In the ever-famous words of Rudyard Kipling there was ‘Something hidden! Something lost behind the ranges. Lost and waiting for you. Go!’”
WHEN HE RETURNED in 1911, Bingham famously re-discovered the legendary Inca citadel of Machu Picchu. It is precisely the explorer’s sense of curiosity and adventure that draws people from all over the world to Peru. The country’s most iconic site, Machu Picchu, now receives close to a million visitors each year. They each long to witness with their own eyes something that can only be seen to be believed.
It makes sense that the high altitude of the region requires travellers to take some time to acclimatize before visiting the ancient ruins. Getting a sense of Cusco and the surrounding areas gives you a rich insight into the local culture. It also prepares you for the awesome magnitude of Machu Picchu.
Cusco itself is an oasis of a city. Its elegant, centuries-old Spanish colonial buildings are beautiful against a backdrop of wild mountains. It was built on Inca foundations.A sense of dual history is woven through the local culture and architecture. Stay at its heart and soak up the history at Belmond Hotel Monasterio or Belmond Palacio Nazarenas. From here, fall in love with the cobbled artists’ quarter, San Blas. It’s home to many galleries and friendly coffee houses. Take in the splendor of the city’s beautiful baroque Cathedral, or soak up the sounds and sights of bustling San Pedro market.
To take the luxurious Belmond Hiram Bingham train to Machu Picchu, you’ll go to Poroy, just northwest of Cusco. The story goes that its name comes from the early Spanish who, en route to Cusco, would stop over, saying “For today (por hoy in Spanish), we rest here.”
For many visitors, their experience of Machu Picchu is a profound one. Staying a night or more at Belmond Sanctuary Lodge is a blissful way to remain in the region and absorb its magical atmosphere. A walk around the orchid gardens is a particular pleasure. This uniquely located hotel offers unrivalled access to Machu Picchu. Those compelled by Hiram Bingham’s sense of urgency and excitement can enter the citadel privately at 6am. Just like in Rudyard Kipling’s poem, you’ll find Machu Picchu waiting for you, in the swirling mists.