Set in the Peruvian Andes and surrounded by lush mountain forest, the historic sanctuary of Machu Picchu stands 2430m above sea-level. Translated as the 'old peak' and known as the 'Lost City of the Incas', this 15th century Incan citadel was abandoned during the Spanish conquest and uncovered in 1911 from amid a tangle of vines. Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983 and a New Wonder of the World in 2007, the enchanting Machu Picchu features on the bucket list of many a traveller.
In terms of tourist numbers, no other South American archaeological site comes close. Why? Machu Picchu is an incredibly well-preserved and impressive city built by the last pre-Columbian society in Peru. The ancient site retains an aura of mystery as the exact purpose of its dry-stone walls and crisscrossing terraces remains unknown. Eager to discover its secrets, throngs of visitors travel to the citadel each year and wonder at the role it may have played in the Inca's understanding of astronomy, agriculture and religion.
Whether arriving after a spectacular trek along the Inca or Salkantay Trail, or having taken the train from the Sacred Valley to Machu Picchu's heights, the striking view over Urubamba River is breath-taking, especially at sunrise. (However, if you go in peak season you will have to be quick of the mark to bag yourself a tourist-free photo).
The much photographed Huayna Picchu Mountain -'Young Peak' in native Quecha -towers behind Machu Picchu and those adventurers who dare to brave its rocky paths can climb to the summit and view Machu Picchu from a striking perspective. From these heights you can admire panoramic views of the entire Machu Picchu complex and the surrounding forested Andean peaks.
The most outstanding urban creation of the Inca Empire, Machu Picchu blends harmoniously with the surrounding natural environment and is an area of rich biodiversity. One question only remains: Why wouldn't you visit the magnificent site of Machu Picchu?