It is almost mandatory to visit the Lost City of Machu Picchu while in Cusco. There is a very good reason why the Spanish did not find Machu Picchu – it was well hidden in the Peruvian mountains. Cusco is a major tourist hub with many guide and touring companies, all trying to sell you their tour packages. Prices can range from $150 to $300. If you do not mind spending good money you can spend even more. You can go for one or two day tours and you can get to Machu Picchu by hiking, bus, or train. I had a difficult time understanding why the cost was so high, but I figured that I had traveled over 9,500 miles to get here, therefore I should go visit Machu Picchu.
My girlfriend flew into Cusco from Texas to visit for a few days. After a day of adjusting to the high elevation, we started our little adventure to Machu Picchu. We started with a five hour van/bus ride on a one track road that ended in the sacred valley. From this point we hopped on a train for short ride to the town of Agues Caliente where we spent the night. To avoid the crowds, we decided to arrive at the Machu Picchu complex at 6:00 A.M. when they open. This meant that we had to start our hike at 4:30 A.M. in order to hike the three kilometers and the climb of 1063 steps up the mountain to the complex. The hike was tough, however, we managed to arrive in about an hour and a half and in time to take a guided tour.
Like the nest of the condor, Machu Picchu is located high atop a mountain, thus one of the reasons the Spanish never located it. Originally, Machu Picchu was a holy site for the Incas. Only Incas of high status lived or visited there. After the Spanish conquered the Incas, many of the people from the low lands fled to Machu Picchu to hide from the Spanish. At this point, the city was no longer a holy site; rather, it became just a city of refuge. The Incas had developed techniques for growing food on mountainside terraces. They really had no reason to go to the low lands for food.
Why and when the city was abandoned is currently unknown. It was lost for approximately 500 years and not rediscovered until 1911. The locals, on the other hand, tell you that it was never lost. They just want to keep it for themselves.
After I traveled and visited Machu Picchu I realized why it is so expensive to get there. Even with modern travel it is a long and tough journey from Cusco.