Continue along this picturesque, patchwork valley to the fortress/temple of Ollantaytambo. The snow-frosted Andean cordillera forms a stunning backdrop. Ollantaytambo, sitting strategically at the gateway to the Amazon basin, was never captured by the Spanish conquistadores. The fortress, the colonial grid plan and the Inca foundations are still intact and there are wonderful views down over the sloping hillsides and into the valley.
Here you pick up the train to Machu Picchu. As the river Urubamba enters its narrow gorge between thickly-forested granite hills, there is room only for a single track, which hugs the right bank and passes through hamlets that are no more than a collection of shacks beside the railway.
Close to the foot of the mountain on a saddle of which the citadel was built is the village of Machu Picchu, which welcomes visitors with artisan markets, bars and restaurants.
The ruined citadel, reclaimed from tropical cloud forest, sits on a terraced ridge spur amid forested peaks and above a roaring river canyon. It is reached by a zigzag road, or on foot up a near vertical rocky path. The American explorer Hiram Bingham discovered it in 1911, by which time it was completely buried beneath vegetation.
You will have a guided tour of the ruins and there’s time later to take one of the many trails within the site itself, such as the hike to the vertiginous Inca Bridge, carved into a cliff edge; or wander amongst the stone buildings and llama-dotted grassy ledges, soaking up the atmosphere. Overnight at Sumaq, a riverside hotel in the village.