No trip to Peru is complete without a visit to the world renowned Lost City of the Incas, considered by many to be the most unique cultural experience on planet Earth. Stand near the Watchtower as the first rays of an early morning sunrise illuminate this unmistakable Andean mountainscape and see if you disagree. Constructed in the 15th century and later abandoned due in large part to the Spanish conquest of the late 16th century, this surreal mixture of breathtaking scenery and ancient ruins provides visitors with a one-of-a-kind glimpse into the life, history and architecture of the Inca people.
Should you arrive early enough, the first 400 (capable) visitors can challenge themselves to a supplemental climb up Huayna Picchu (Wayna Picchu), which is the peak you see looming in the background in just about every iconic photograph of the Lost City. A wide variety of multiple and single day hikes are available to reach Machu Picchu, as well as buses to the site entrance from Aguas Calientes for those in a hurry. For such a singularly unique destination, however, you'd be doing yourself a severe disservice to rush the experience. Slow down and enjoy one of nature's (and humanity's) truly awesome spectacles.
Location:74 miles (119 km) northwest of Cuzco, Andes Mountains, South Central Peru
Note:Due to its popularity, hikes along the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu are limited by the federal government, so these treks should be booked well in advance. Other treks, including Lares Valley, are available without restriction. Buses from Aguas Calientes cost $12 (33 PES) round trip, and entrance into Machu Picchu is around $40 (110 PES).