The Inca Citadel
Once buried in jungle growth and only rediscovered in 1911, the incredible 'lost city' of Machu Picchu is South America's premier tourist attraction. The ancient Incan citadel enjoys a spectacular position on a dramatic mountain ridge overlooking the meandering Urubamba River. Standing at 2,430 metres above sea level, the site is often shrouded in early morning mists that slowly disperse to reveal beautiful stone architecture of palaces, temples, storehouses and terraces with hundreds of steep stairways connecting the structures. Remarkable terraces tumble down the precipitous slopes of the forested mountains, some of which have been brought back to life with present-day cultivation. No matter where you stand amongst the ruins you'll be confronted with breathtaking views of a vast open sky punctuated by the glacial peaks of the surrounding mountain range.
Dating back to the 15th century, the citadel of Machu Picchu is the Inca's finest urban creation. Inhabited for over a century, Machu Picchu was abandoned during the time of the Spanish conquest. This incredible site was left unknown to the outside world until 1911 when American historian Hiram Bingham, with the aid of local indigenous farmers, found the relatively intact Machu Picchu on an expedition in search of lost Inca cities. Since then acclaim for Machu Picchu has skyrocketed - it was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983 and voted one of the New Seven Wonders of the World in 2007. Unsurprisingly, it is now Peru's most visited site.
Machu Picchu contains over 200 structures dedicated to religious, ceremonial, astronomical and agricultural functions and over a third of the site has been lovingly restored to help visitors envisage the true brilliance of citadel. The site can be roughly divided into an agricultural sector and urban sector with three primary structures that deserve plenty of exploration - the Temple of the Sun, Intihuatana and the Sacred Plaza, though there's plenty else to hold your attention.