This Incan citadel was built more than 500 years ago at an elevation of 7,972 feet in the Andes Mountains of central Peru. The site remained unknown to the modern world until 1911 when it was uncovered by American explorer Hiram Bingham. Getting to Machu Picchu requires a scenic train ride or an ambitious hike. Either way, have your cameras ready because this legendary sanctuary and its spectacular setting are stunners. Though not on the Amazon River, many river cruise lines offer trip extensions to see Machu Picchu.
What We Love
The Sun Gate: Once the main entrance to Machu Picchu, this stone structure is the finish line for hikers on the Inca Trail, as well as the spot where most of the panoramic shots of this architectural wonder are snapped. You can hike up here from the ruins in about an hour depending on your fitness level.
Llamas and Alpacas: As they graze about the slopes around Machu Picchu, these adorably shaggy creatures will make wonderful foreground subjects in your photos.
Best Known For
Amazing Architecture: This is a full city with temples, palaces, houses, streets, fountains, and plazas completely constructed of massive pieces of precisely cut stone perfectly fit together like a puzzle.
Huayna Picchu: What is that pyramid-shaped peak that soars another 1,000 feet over the lost city of the Incas? It’s known as Huayna Picchu and it is hikeable. Visits are limited and only fit travelers without a fear of heights should dare try.
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Who It's Best For
Hikers: Being in good shape will help if you really want to explore the ruins on your own. Just remember you are at altitude and it can affect your performance.
Don't Say We Didn't Warn You
It Gets Crowded: Once the trains arrive from Cusco, Machu Picchu can get packed. If you have a chance to stay overnight at a nearby hotel, wander the ruins just after sunrise or just before sunset.
Donna Heiderstadt is a New York-based contributor to ShermansCruise who has also written for Coastal Living and Islands.