When one imagines a romantic holiday destination, one conjures images of swimming in the crystal blue waters of Tahiti or strolling hand in hand through the streets of Paris … not climbing stairs at altitude amongst Macchu Picchu in Peru.
Macchu Picchu is an ancient Incan citadel built in the 15th century at 2,430 metres above sea level. The Incas abandoned the city during the Spanish Conquest. Interestingly, locals knew about the site, which was slowly being overgrown by mountainous jungle, but the Spanish never found it, leaving the sacred rock formations untouched. An American explorer, Hiram Bingham, arranged a clearing expedition 1912-1915 to expose this awe-inspiring mountain top fortress.
Some adventurous travellers hike the Inca trail, but for me, the best route was a relaxing journey on the Vistadome train along the Urubamba River to Aguas Calientes. My first night here was spent wandering through local markets, resisting the many offers to try an Alpaca Pizza or Guinea Pig for dinner.
The following morning, I travelled 20 minutes on a knuckle whitening bus ride up winding mountainous roads to reach Macchu Picchu. Although physically easier than hiking in altitude, two buses passing one another on a tight hairpin is just as challenging. I am expecting the adventurous Inca trail hikers to disagree with me here!.
When planning my itinerary, I chose to purchase one day ticket entrance, with a second day in this quaint riverside town to relax during a loaded solo 27 day tour of South America, or visit Macchu Picchu again if I wanted more time here.
Early mornings cover Macchu Picchu in clouds and mist, making it difficult to see a few metres in front of you. If you rush through a one day visit, you could lose viewing time by arriving early, but what an amazing sight to see the sunshine clearing the fog to show the enormity of this Incan city.
On entry I saw thousands of stairs, and beautiful green terraces built into the mountain and wondered if I would survive the tour. Our local guide was informative and explained the history of the citadel, and explained the terraced fields were the agricultural sector, separated from the residential areas by a large town square. The remaining structures show the astronomical, agricultural and architectural genius of The Incas.
Thankfully, I did survive the tour, and after lunch, continued to explore during the afternoon and found the higher you climb, the better the view. The more time you have here, the more you can rest between climbs, and take in the ever changing vista.
Relaxing in the sunshine on the terraces and staring at this wonder surrounded by majestic mountains, I considered returning tomorrow by myself to re-visit my new Peruvian friends.
On this occasion, I decided not to return for a second day. Macchu Picchu will remain on my bucket list, to return for two days and enjoy one of the surprisingly, most romantic destinations I have ever visited with my love.