Saturday, June 19, 2010

The Magical Machu Picchu, Peru

In 1911, an innkeeper from the Peruvian town of Aguas Calientes led Hiram Bingham on a scramble up a steep, jungle-tangled embankment to the extensive ruins of an Inca settlement that was named Machu Picchu for the neighboring mountain.

Bingham, a professor from Yale University who was exploring in the region, later wondered in his book, Lost City of the Incas, whether anyone would believe what he had found.

Today, there's no question about the site's significance. More than 300,000 people a year make the trek to Machu Picchu to marvel at the 500-year-old structures built from blocks of granite chiseled from the mountainside.

They come by helicopter, train, and foot. They snap photos, meditate, and lounge in the sun. They come for a variety of reasons—to fulfill a romantic dream, tap into the energy of the Inca soul, or simply tick off a box on the list of the world's must-see sights.

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