Travel Icon: Machu Picchu
Tread lightly on your trail to witness one of Earth’s engineering marvels, the Peruvian sanctuary of Machu Picchu. Photographer Pedro Pulido tells us why its magic should be preserved...
In Peru’s forest-clad Andean peaks, the vast ancient Inca site of Machu Picchu perches amid the clouds. Forgotten for hundreds of years, it was built in the 15th century from dry stone in an incredible feat of engineering, and remains shrouded in mystery – what was its purpose, and why was it deserted?
The Inca Trail
Reaching Machu Picchu’s lofty heights (2,430m!) via the fittingly spectacular Inca Trail is unforgettable. “Walking the same distance that Quechua people did centuries ago, to arrive through the Sun Gate after four days, gives you an enormous sense of achievement,” says Pedro Pulido. “The challenge is made easier by the beauty of the surroundings – the Sacred Valley, dramatic mountain passes, crumbling fortresses and cloud forest. It’s magical.”
“The Incas were ahead of their time in engineering, architecture, astrology and agriculture. This incredible sight never fails to leave me awestruck”
Permits to follow the route are limited, and it’s essential to travel with companies who advocate sustainable tourism. To help preserve the traditional way of life here, look for trips with added cultural experiences, such as a visit to the Ccaccaccollo weaving co-operative. See local women spin, dry and dye wool by hand, then buy a brightly coloured textile or two as a unique memento.
Cuzco and the Sacred Valley
Back in the Andean city of Cuzco, gateway to the Sacred Valley, a small women's enterprise makes biodegradable soaps for use on the trail, incorporating natural essential oils and pure cocoa paste. It provides income, but also helps to prevent damage to the Andean landscape. Here, tourism has a chance to leave a lighter footprint and to help communities thrive.