The ancient Inca city with the Huayna Picchu mountain in the background. Photo/Getty Images
After a series of closures due to Covid precautions, Peru’s ancient Inca trails are once again open to visitors.
When it comes to bucket list travel spots, Machu Picchu in Peru is a perennial favorite. The crown jewel of the Inca Empire, it is a ruined citadel of more than 100 buildings and a network of gateways and terraces, dating from around 1450. Perched on a dramatic mountain range where the Peruvian Andes meet the Amazon basin, the lack of tourists has made it unusually quiet lately. But recently, the Peruvian government reopened most of the area’s famous trails.
If you’re planning a trip, book with a tour guide to help you navigate the different routes and their opening times, as well as logistics with connecting buses and trains. New rules are in place for 2022, including limits on the number of visitors allowed on the slopes at any one time and time restrictions on some of the most popular attractions.
Whichever route you choose, here are just a few of the many highlights along the way:
temple of the sun
Believed to be the place where the Incas worshiped their sun god, Inti, it is likely that only priests and high-ranking members of the community were allowed inside. As the only round building in Machu Picchu, its windows have been carefully designed to observe the sun at the summer and winter solstices. Visitors are not allowed inside due to the delicate structure of the temple, and it is best viewed from the gazebo above.
A popular backdrop for tourist photos, the sacred mountain features a series of steps carved into the cliff face. Some scholars believe it was used as a watch station against attacks on the citadel below, while another theory is that it served as the seat of the high priest. You need to be in good shape to walk to the top, but walkers are rewarded with unique views of the ancient city and surrounding lush mountains.
Temple of the Condor
Demonstrating the Incas’ incredible skill in working stone, the temple was carved to resemble the open wings of an Andean condor. With an altar inside, it is believed that the temple was used to make sacrifices to the gods, and there is also evidence that it was used as a prison. Find the temple in the Hurin neighborhood of Machu Picchu, near the main town square.
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Travelers to Peru must present an international travel vaccination certificate or Covid-19 RT-PCR report for a negative test taken no later than 24 hours before departure. Check with your travel agent or airline for details.