Cradled by jungle-covered mountains at an altitude of 7,900 feet, Machu Picchu is a labyrinth of mysterious gray stones; the surrounding rock spires seem to form a kind of gigantic natural cathedral. The fabled “Lost City of the Incas” was unknown to the outside world until Yale professor Hiram Bingham brought it to global attention in 1911. The Incas built this extraordinary sanctuary — its precise function is still in dispute — in the mid-1400s, but abandoned it almost a century later. Untouched by the Spanish conquistadors, Machu Picchu survived intact for centuries, hidden by dense vegetation.
Machu Picchu can be reached in a civilized manner via the Hiram Bingham train owned by Belmond (formerly Orient-Express) and operated by PeruRail. Named in honor of the American explorer and Yale professor, the evocative train consists of two dining cars, a bar car and sumptuously appointed blue-and-gold observation carriages seating up to 84 passengers. The 100-minute ride ends at Aguas Calientes, where passengers board a waiting bus for the final 30-minute leg up a switchback to Machu Picchu.
Belmond Sanctuary Lodge
Ideally situated, this 31-room lodge is the only hotel adjacent to the ruins, a location that grants privileged access.