Yet again, Machu Picchu has laid claim to the prestigious Best Tourist Attraction Award, as defined by the World Travel Awards. This is the third year in a row that Machu Picchu won the award: Peru was also honored for the eighth year running as the World’s Leading Culinary Destination, and has been named the World’s Leading Cultural Destination for the seventh consecutive time.
How has Machu Picchu withstood the test of time to claim this honor yet again?
Rediscovered in 1911 by explorer Hiram Bingham, and brought to the attention of the larger world in the decades thereafter, Machu Picchu offers a fascinating glimpse into the Inca culture of the 15th century, before the Spanish arrived. Intriguingly, the sense of discovery has endured: coming upon Machu Picchu for the first time is still a breathtaking moment for each individual visitor. Partially due to the symmetrical beauty of its structures, partly to its effortless incorporation into the cloud forest surrounding it, and partly due to an indescribable mysticism about the place, Machu Picchu is still a main attraction on many travelers’ bucket lists.
Those who traverse the Inca Trail also experience the sense of high adventure and challenge with an amazing climax: their first view of Machu Picchu through the Inti Punku, the Sun Gate, after trekking for one to five days on foot to get there. Its setting in the misty cloud forest also lends to the sense of mystery and surprise: it is as if each traveler gains the fresh sense of discovery experienced by its first New World visitors.
Over 1.5 million people visited Machu Picchu in 2018: the 2019 stats are not yet in but are expected to meet or exceed the prior year. In the past decade, Peru has taken steps to protect and preserve this UNESCO Heritage site by changing some of the regulations pertaining to visiting it. Entry tickets are no longer sold at the gate but must be purchased in advance either online or through a travel agent in Cusco. Tickets have also been limited to 2500 per day, so as to control the erosion caused by foot traffic to the site, and entries to the two overlooking peaks of Machu Picchu Mountain and Huayna Picchu Mountain are also limited to 400 per day. Therefore, if you intend to visit Machu Picchu in 2020, it is essential that you arrange your Peru trip far in advance in order to be assured tickets.
The classic Inca Trail has also been limited to 500 travelers per day, over half of which are guides and porters. If you choose to trek the classic Inca Trail, you will be walking along the original pavement laid down by the Incas centuries ago. Again, time is of the essence in booking the Inca Trail, as tickets quickly sell out, so it makes sense to plan several months ahead if you are to get the days you want. Several alternative approaches to Machu Picchu are available to the adventurer who prefers a more off-the-beaten-path trek, each of which offers its own spectacular views and unique beauty. These include the Salkantay Trek, and the Lares Trek, as well as longer options, such as the 9-day trek including Choquequirao, ending in Machu Picchu.
Whether your choice is to visit Machu Picchu as the highlight of your Peru tour or to embark on a trekking adventure that culminates at Machu Picchu, we at Kuoda are able to finesse this “experience of a lifetime” down to the smallest detail during your Peru vacation.