Rising above the community of the same name the walled terraces and fortress of this Inca sanctuary provide some of the finest examples of Inca architecture, with the six monoliths of the Temple of the Sun an outstanding feature. The colonial village was built on top of an existing Inca settlement and the original Inca town blocks - known as canchas - can still be seen. It’s a rustic, atmospheric place where you can really get a sense of how life was lived in both the Inca and Spanish eras.
It is here where you join the train for your thrilling ride through the Urubamba canyon to Machu Picchu. The route passes through some of Peru's most exquisite and dramatic scenery. From the fertile valley floor, rimmed by rugged brooding mountains, the track enters an ever-narrowing gorge: the river froths over water-smoothed boulders and vertical cliffs, increasingly draped in dripping tropical vegetation, tower skywards.
Machu Picchu, the world-famous terraced Inca citadel, sprawling across a mountain saddle where the Andes fall towards the Amazon basin, is the most magical of South America's pre-Columbian archaeological sites. The city was founded in the 14th century as an important ceremonial centre. Undiscovered by the Spanish conquistadores and untouched by looters for 400 years, the site was very well preserved when the archaeologist, Hiram Bingham, stumbled upon it in 1911. The lush slopes of the forested mountains, swirling clouds rising up from the Urubamba valley, and the distant snow-capped peaks of the Andes all provide a stunning backdrop.
It’s a spectacular bus journey up a zig-zag road to the ruins. The site is well preserved and is now fiercely protected by the Peruvian authorities. You'll be allocated a ticket either for this afternoon or tomorrow morning. Upon entry, you will be taken on a guided tour around the ruins: staircases, terraces, temples, palaces, towers, fountains and the famous sundial, after which you may continue to explore the ruins independently.
Overnight in the village below the ruins.